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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 699


Mr RUDDOCK(5.19) —It is not often that I have to say that I have been enticed to speak in debate by the advertising that has just taken place in that debate. I was interested in the way in which the honourable member for Streeton (Mr Lamb) made mention, at every opportunity, of a firm by the name of Kenworth Trucks Pty Ltd. He made some observations about the operations of the bounty in relation to heavy vehicles and the report of the Industries Assistance Commission. He said that he failed to understand the criticism of the bounty arrangements as advanced by the IAC in that they were particularly advantageous to assemblers. I wish to pick up that comment in particular because in my work as a member of parliament I have had brought to my attention problems relating to the way in which the bounty was paid which impacted quite unfairly upon other manufacturers in Australia. It is my understanding that the bounty was paid particularly for components which were sourced in this country, so that an assembler could go out and buy a series of components that were manufactured in Australia and the bounty would be paid and that bounty would comprise a portion of the cost of manufacturing the motor vehicle and would be a significant factor in the price at which the assembler sold. However, in the case of a person who manufactures in-house most of the parts that are used in the manufacturing of a vehicle, except perhaps for the engine, the transmission or whatever, the bounty was not paid.

The manufacturer I have in mind is the RFW Truck Manufacturing Co. of Chester Hill which, I must say, is not in my electorate. I am in no way seeking to advance the quality of that company's vehicles, nor do I have any interest, pecuniary or otherwise, to declare other than that I have been aware over time of the issues that have been raised by a rather colourful gentleman by the name of Bob Whitehead. I think anybody in the truck manufacturing area would be very much aware of him. Anybody who wants to hear from time to time a damning criticism of work habits in the Australian workplace need only listen to what Bob Whitehead has to say. Indeed, we see Bob Whitehead on television commenting on these matters from time to time. He, in his rather small business, builds trucks from the chassis up and does most of his work in-house. He found that the components he brought in were subject to the bounty but the components which were made in-house and for which otherwise bounty might have been paid were not. The manufacturer, as distinct from the assembler, found this arrangement very much more difficult. It seems to be that the proposed arrangements, which envisage a duty across the board, may well overcome some of the problems that manufacturer has identified as being difficult for him vis-a-vis somebody who is purely assembling a vehicle made up of components manufactured by somebody else.

I have to say, from reading the Industries Assistance Commission reports from time to time and the comments prepared by the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce and others, that the RFW Truck Manufacturing Co. has been identified as a unique firm, one which has found a niche in an Australian market in which few other manufacturers have been able to succeed. Many Australian businesses that have manufactured in this area have gone out of business over time. The RFW Truck Manufacturing Co., which has a small number of employees, is very much in business. It has been successful in moving from market to market as it has found from time to time that the bounty and protection arrangements have not allowed it to maintain its share of the market in other areas. I think the company deserves great commendation.

I certainly hope that, with the more broadly based arrangements which are proposed, we will see a more secure future for this company than we have seen in the past. I think it would be a shame if one day someone of the character of Bob Whitehead and his team found that they did not have a niche in this area and that they had exhausted all of the possible opportunities. I have seen the sorts of buses and fire trucks that he has built. I have also seen the vehicles that he has built for organisations such as electricity authorities. More recently I have seen the vehicles he has built for the mining of coal and the like. This demonstrates the enormous versatility and great imagination of this company in finding the niches of which the IAC spoke. Bob Whitehead has told me from time to time-I must say that I have not spoken to him at all recently in relation to the report which we are addressing on this occasion-that he sees a great need for more broadly based protection than the more narrow arrangements that the previous bounty provided. I certainly commend to the Government an examination of the way in which these discrepancies in respect of the two types of operations can be addressed. While not commenting on the broad recommendations, I believe that it is important that the result be one that is fair and equitable to Australian manufacturers.