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Thursday, 19 September 1974
Page: 1233

Senator MARRIOTT (TASMANIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Is it a fact, as reported in the 'Canberra Times' on Tuesday, 17 September, that about 400 workers at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Melbourne will lose their jobs in the next 2 years? Is it also a fact that Australia was conspicious by its absence from this year's international air show at Farnborough and as a result has lost an opportunity to gain a $15m order from a Pacific country wanting an aircraft with the capabilities of the Australian designed Nomad? Is the Government not interested in maintaining our defence factories in production now that less money is being spent on defence hardware?

Senator WRIEDT (TASMANIA) (Minister for Agriculture) -It is true that it is anticipated that there will be a rundown in employment at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation works in Melbourne over the next 18 months. This will be due to the fact that there will be an expiring order list over that period. It is anticipated that the number of employees will fall by possibly a total of 400 or 500, taking into account the normal wastage which would occur. It is true that there has been declining activity at that establishment, especially in the airframe manufacturing sector. But it is anticipated that under the rationalisation program that is taking place generally within the aircraft manufacturing industry there will be a greater emphasis on the production of engines at that establishment. The Government Aircraft Factories hope to take up some of that employment, but to a large degree this will be dependent on whether the type of employee who will become redundant at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation will be suitable for work at the Government Aircraft Factories.

As to the second part of the honourable senator's question, it is true that no aircraft of the Nomad type was on display at Farnborough this year. This was mainly due to the fact that the prototype aircraft was displayed at Farnborough 2 years ago and no further production model was available to send to Farnborough this year. There seemed to be little point in sending the same prototype aircraft as had already been displayed 2 years earlier. However, HawkerSiddeley Dynamics, the agents for the Corporation in the United Kingdom, did in fact display equipment manufactured by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation at Farnborough. I think it is fair to say that the products of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation were displayed adequately at Farnborough this year.

In respect of the alleged loss of sales to a particular country, I point out that the Government authorised the manufacture of 70 Nomad aircraft. There have been 37 sales made, with 7 other options on the aircraft. Several of those sales- in fact 12 of them- have been made to the Philippines, the country to which I think the honourable senator was referring in his question. The fact that the aircraft has competitors is to be expected in the general aviation field, but there has been no loss of sales to that country. Certainly we are competing with other manufacturers from other countries. But the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation by no means has lost further orders. We are still in that market. The agents are active to ensure that if there are further sales that can be made they will be made. This is a very difficult area.

The last part of the honourable senator's question concerned the Government's interest in defence expenditure. The fact remains that this Government still spends more of the gross national product on defence than do the great majority of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I think that is a fairly good indication of this Government's genuine concern for the defence capability of this country.

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