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Tuesday, 2 May 1989
Page: 1608

Senator McKIERNAN(8.36) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The report of the Automotive Industry Authority on the state of the automotive industry in 1988 in many respects is a report looking to the future. It is a compliment to some of the achievements that have taken place during the past 12 months, some of which I shall detail. For example, there has been a 13 per cent increase in domestic sales of passenger motor vehicles to 410,473 vehicles. There has been an increase in domestic production of 4 per cent. There has been a stabilising of employment in the industry at around 58,000 people, and an aggregation of profits to a figure of $174m for passenger motor vehicle operations in the plan producer sector. Furthermore, there has been an increase in aggregate profits of the specialist component producer sector during 1987-88.

The Senate and indeed the community will be aware that in recent years the Australian motor vehicle industry has been through some hard and stringent times. In these few remarks I wish to pay compliment to the industry on its achievements to date. I also wish to sound a warning note relating to threats which are on the horizon and which may affect the good operations of the industry in the years to come.

I refer specifically to a problem that has arisen in my home State of Western Australia in recent months relating to the importation of allegedly cheap second-hand Japanese vehicles. This matter must be addressed not only by the Federal Government but also by the Government of Western Australia. Since December last year, a total of 4,170 used cars was imported. I take that information from an advertisement which appeared in the West Australian newspaper on Thursday last week. I also have before me an article in the Daily News, another Western Australian newspaper, which appeared on Friday of last week and which contains the information that a further 2,000 second-hand vehicles will be on their way to Perth in the coming month. That is over 6,000 vehicles in a six-month period which, aggregated over a 12-month period, would be 12,000 vehicles. That is but the tip of the iceberg, as the Chamber of Automotive Industries and the Australian Automobile Dealers Association, which represent the Australian car industry, have stated. Dealers are obviously suffering because of increased competition from a sector of an industry that does not have to comply with all the rules that govern the importation of new vehicles into Australia. There are two separate standards: one which governs the importation of new vehicles and another which governs the importation of second-hand vehicles. It would appear that only one State is allowing the latter to come in.

In the article in the West Australian which I mentioned previously, it was stated that all States except Western Australia had imported only 52 cars so far this year and that the figure for Western Australia was 4,170. As I said before, it is something to which we at a national level and those at the State level have to give real attention because it could be a real threat to the Australian automobile industry and the possible successful completion of this very innovative plan for that industry.

Threats and counter-threats have been waved around among the different operators involved in the sale of motor vehicles in Western Australia. It has been reported to me that one of the manufacturers of vehicles in Australia has said that if something is not done very soon it will start importing cheap second-hand Japanese vehicles. When the manufacturers start that in a big way they will show the present importers what competition is really like. We all have to be aware of the importance of this sector to the economy. I think that together we can address the problem and impose equal standards on new car importers and to second-hand importers. Let nobody miss out on what other sectors are able to take advantage of.