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Tuesday, 18 October 1949

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) . - by leave - I wish to advise the House of a further step that is about to be taken in the development of the motor vehicle manufacturing industry in Australia and the consequential effect thi9 will have on dollar expenditures. The expansion to which I refer has been made possible as a result of the Government having approved of certain proposals submitted by the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited. These new proposals will result in a substantial expansion of the company's activities in Australia and, when completed, Ford, cars and trucks will be largely the product of Australian manufacture.

The carrying out of this plan will, in the short term, involve some dollar expenditure, and in this connexion I should explain to the House that to provide for the importation of automobile components from North America two distinct dollar allocations are made by the Government. One of these allocations is available for the importation of motor vehicle chassis or components which have been customarily imported from North America. The other allocation is available only for the importation of components that are to be used in motor vehicles, the production of which involves the use of a high proportion of Australian-made parts. The Ford company already has access to the first allocation. It will now have access to the second.

The Ford company has been following a policy of steadily increasing the locally manufactured content of its vehicles. At the end of the war in 1945, less than 60 per cent, of the content of Ford vehicles was produced in Australia, and the greater part of this percentage was accounted for by the bodies which had been almost wholly manufactured in this country over a long period. By the end of 1949, nearly 75 per cent, of the total content of Ford vehicles will be produced in Australia. Many of those components are manufactured by the company at its works in Geelong but, in addition, approximately 250 other Australian manufacturers supply parts for Ford vehicles. The planned objective of the programme now approved by the Government is that by the middle of 1952, Ford cars and trucks produced in Australia will have approximately an 85 per cent. locally manufactured content expressed in terms of factory cost.

This important plan of development in the Australian automobile industry has significance in a number of directions. With regard to the Government's central policy of full employment, developments such as this one are contributing to stable full employment. In 1939 the Ford company employed approximately 2,400 people. To-day, ten years later, it employs approximately 4,300. The company operates two manufacturing plants at Geelong and Ballarat in Victoria. There is also an assembly plant at Geelong and four other assembly plants in various parts of the Commonwealth. This represents a contribution to the effective decentralization of this country's industry.

As Minister for Defence, I am also interested in the defence potential of industrial expansion of this kind. This company made a magnificent contribution to production during the war when the magnitude and efficiency of its plant permitted the production of a vast quantity of fighting material ranging from tank landing ships, steel lighters and marine mines to ammunition boxes. The greater the extent and variety of the productive capacity of the company, the greater will be therole it will be able to play in the future defence of this country should the need arise. This project not only means a great expansion by the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited itself but also involves the industrial and employment expansion of all those related industries which produce components for the automobile industry.

That the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited and its suppliers have decided to undertake this development is a matter for considerable satisfaction. This will be one of the most important and significant of the many expansion projects which Australian industry has undertaken. It shows that not only local industry but also great over seas industrial organizations have the fullest confidence in the economic stability of this country, and in its future progress.

I may add that this company has already planned yet a further stage of development, though the Government has not been informed of a time-table for putting this further stage into effect. It has for its object the production in Australia of most of the components still remaining to be imported when the present plan has been consummated. In the long term, the achievement of this objective will result in a considerable saving of dollars. The Government appreciates this expression of faith of the Ford organization and its parent organization in Canada in Australian technical and productive capacity.

I also pay tribute to Mr. H. C. French, the retiring managing director of this great Australian company. Mr. French, a Canadian by birth, has given a quarter of a century of unremitting service to the industrial development of Australia. It is due in a large measure to his vision and energy that this latest plan of development by his company has been made possible.

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