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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 664

Mr MILTON(12.39) —In expressing my support for the Bounty (Commercial Motor Vehicles) Amendment Bill 1985 I wish to thank the Government for recognising the problems which would have resulted for the heavy commercial vehicle industry if the existing bounty assistance scheme had not been extended beyond 31 December 1984. I must say also that I am pleased to have more time to deliver my speech today. On other occasions I have been told that there were only a few minutes to spare. I wanted to get a lot into Hansard and people listening to the debate in the gallery and elsewhere have said that on those occasions I gabbled my speeches. I do not have to do that today.

Mr Barry Jones —Do not forget that we are breaking for lunch.

Mr MILTON —I assure the Minister for Science that I will not forget. As the Minister indicated earlier, the Bill proposes that the current assistance will continue until 30 June 1985 or until a long term industry assistance plan has been announced. There is no doubt that the metal industry as a whole has suffered from a lack of forward planning. Over the past 10 years there has been a severe decline in our metals and engineering industries, resulting in a net loss of 152,000 jobs. This decline has occurred mainly as a result of competition from local east Asian countries, particularly Japan. In this respect, it is interesting to note that Japanese manufacturers are strongly assisted by the Japanese Government.

I have spoken before in debates in this House in support of the industry development plan of the Amalgamated Metals Foundry and Shipwrights Union, and I make no apology for doing so again. Together with the other metal trades unions, the AMFSU has produced a long term industry development plan which will overcome the need for stop-gap, short term measures such as bounty assistance. The plan recognises that development policies are not cost free. However, it also recognises that economic rationality requires resources to be allocated where the greatest gain is to be made from the assistance dollar. In particular, assistance resources should be allocated to specific industries and not spread evenly, and rather thinly, over the whole of the manufactured goods sector.

The plan sets out in great detail the selection criteria which need to be established for the provision of government assistance based on growth potential and on the ability to adopt and diffuse new technologies. In this respect, the findings of a report to the Prime Minister prepared by the Australian Science and Technology Council and entitled 'Computer-related Technologies in the Metal Trades Industry', which was tabled in January, are most relevant. On page 2 the report states:

Our view is that if the manufacturing sector is to retain its valuable role in the Australian economy, it must be both required and assisted to become more productive, more flexible and more innovative and actively to seek markets both home and abroad.

The report continues:

Assistance is required to effect this transformation, for without any form of assistance, the sudden shift to a substantially more competitive environment is likely to result in avoidable social and economic dislocation.

Whilst it is true that the ASTEC report is referring to computer-related technologies in the metal trades industry, the manufacturing companies involved are closely linked to the motor vehicle industry. Thus, their efficiency levels can have significant implications for the level of performance in all sectors of the manufacturing industry. Heavy commercial motor vehicle production in Australia has been assisted since 1978 by tariffs, by-law entry and bounties on locally produced original equipment components. It appears to me that one of the problems with the present bounty is that it is piecemeal in operation. I am sure that the industry as a whole would prefer a long term development plan in the manner proposed by the metal trades unions. It is interesting to note that the metal trades unions have not been content to rest on the production of their industry development plan but have also produced a new publication entitled Australia on the Brink. I ask leave to continue my speech when the debate is resumed.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.