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Wednesday, 14 October 1970

Mr BENNETT (Swan) - I rise to support the Bill, particularly where it applies to Chamberlain Industries Pty Ltd at Welshpool in Western Australia. This company which, in the main, is an efficient one with modern thinking in personnel and administration training in management methods and production techniques is indeed severely affected by the current market prices in the agricultural tractor field caused mainly by the recession in the agricultural industry, and, of course, the lower priced imports now available to the farmer from overseas, including tractors manufactured in mainland China or, as it is better known, Communist China, Czechoslovakia and other European and Asiatic countries such as Japan. The overall result has been to make the tractor industry a disaster area. For example, let us look at the effect on the work force of Chamberlains, which had on its staff at the commencement of last year some 1,650 persons. Reluctantly it has had to reduce this number to 800 employees or below half and it is still in trouble, having incurred a loss of some $ 10m in sales to the farming community in the last year. In effect $10m worth of farming equipment did not enter the agricultural industry last year in Western Australia and Australia generally.

Chamberlain has not been idle in trying to avoid the disaster. It has attempted to diversify into the industrial equipment field for both the local and export market but these industrial sales were only able to reach some $2m for last year. In reality, even though this sales field is slowly growing it is only minute and cannot keep up with the falling sales in the farming sector as the farming community falls under economic pressure. Unless improvement can be effected in the buoyancy of the market in the agricultural field the manufacture of agricultural implements and machinery in Western Australia will collapse, for what company can continue in the face of a loss in the vicinity of $700,000 in one year? This is the loss which was suffered last year by Chamberlains, a company which has done all that is possible to be modern in production and management techniques and to diversify its products to meet demands and to participate in overseas exports. The loss of this company to Western Australia would be a disaster, not to mention the skilled workers who have been thrown out of employment and the trained personnel in the tractor industry who have been forced to find employment elsewhere. This is a personal disaster to the persons affected and to the company itself. This industry is fighting for its very survival

Whilst commending the Bill one wonders if this is a sufficient answer to the problems, taking into consideration the situation facing its primary market, the farming community. The industry itself appreciates the problems and believes that this bounty is as much as it can expect in the circumstances.

However, the real answer to its problems is an improvement in its market prospects which will only be- brought about by a recovery in the farming community. Whilst admitting that there is a serious price disparity between the imported tractor and the Australian product, they are both fighting for a diminishing market to the serious disadvantage of the Australian industry.' It is only logical that with the diminution of their volume of production they lose the economies associated with volume production. Thus with all this facing it it is not hard to understand why Chamberlains has had to surrender its wholly Australian identity and allow a 49 per cent takeover of shares of this pioneer Australian company by yet another American firm which to do this has surrendered its own individual assembly in Australia. One wonders whether we will continue to see the production of a purely Australian product or -some form df hybrid imported product which will have all the associated problems of profits going overseas - with the overseas exchange bill being yet further burdened with this situation of paying for what was in the main a purely Australian product. So in effect a major section of this industry has been lost to Australia.

One cannot blame the management of the firm for it has done a tremendous job in an effort to bring about the survival of the industry. Whilst the Bill brings help it brings help too late to avoid the laying off of half the staff of Chamberlains, too late to avoid a $10m sales loss, too late to avoid a $700,000 loss to Chamberlains, too late to avoid the loss of Australian identity with a proud pioneer Australian tractor firm. We note the Government will review the situation before the 1971-72 Budget to determine the effect of this assistance and, if necessary, adjust the rate of payment. We must ask that this matter does not take the course of some Budget promises and be forgotten or procrastinated so that a complete overseas takeover of this firm takes place.

It can be seen that by operating at premises registered for the purposes of this Bill to attract the bouncy from 1st July 1970, which is based on sales only and not now on .production, it could be an attraction to the American company to take steps to utilise this venue as a sales outlet of an assembled-only unit. No doubt the Minister will take steps to ensure that in future reviews of bounty and tariff every encouragement will be given to ensure Australian content of the units so that the subsidiary contracting supply companies in the secondary industry field will have their markets protected,, because in the main these are wholly Australian firms which have grown with this industry and their survival is as important as the survival of the total agricultural implement industry.

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