PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 9205


Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 02/05/1994

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 9205

Well, thank you very much, Peter ( Thomas), Tom McDaniel and Bill Hamel,
Your Excellencies, the Consul General of Britain, and the Federal Republic of
Germany and other distinguished guests, and my Parliamentary colleagues,
the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, and ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to be here on this occasion, and the point is not lost on
me that in a week when the Government will deliver a White Paper on
employment in this country, the first in over 45 years, was the -s-am e time
years ago when the then Chiefly Labor Government, the Government that
produced the first White Paper on employment and post war reconstruction,
was the Government which was negotiating with the General Motors
Corporation to see the development of the General Motors Holden Company
in this country.
And now, just on half a century later, we have this amazing coincidence of the
Governments, Australia's, second White Paper on employment coinciding
with the export of these hi gh technology products, the tiv-rnillionth Holden
engine. I
On the occasion when the General Motors Holden Company unveiled its first
car, my predecessor, Ben Chiefly, doffed his hat to the car. Well, I don't
happen to have a hat to doff,* but if I did I would doff it to those high
technology engines on that clamp. Because what we are seeing here is the
face that the General Motors Company has displayed in this country from the
days of the old Holden Motor Body Company and the engines which General
Motors Corporation of the United States used to sell to the collaborative
program, the acquisition and then the building of GMH in Australia.

And it was to many Australians recognition of the fact that we have come of
age as an industrial country, when we can produce our own motor vehicles.
And we saw the fledgling Australian motor vehicle industry emerge from that
time. We also saw Holdens being sold all over the world, but I am sure we
would have thought in market terms, in those days, of markets like New
Zealand and like South Africa and the developed countries of the Southern
Hemisphere, we wouldn't have been thinking in term of mainstream products
in the mainstream international markets of the Asia-Pacific, of your largest
customer for engines in Korea, or indeed supplying General Motors engines
to other parts of the General Motors Corporation Companies throughout the
world. So, the Holden's Engine Company has now a very great and distinguished
performance since its inception, and the tradition of the belief and faith that
the General Motors Company has had in this country and its working is borne
out of the successes the company is having today. And it gives me very great
pleasure to acknowledge and to salute that success.
We have been through, all of us, an amazing transformation in the last
decade. We turned our back on tariff protection, we've said we want to
engage with the world, we want to be part of the story of the Asia-Pacific. We
want to be part of the story of a confident, outward looking, dynamic
economy. And the changes which we have made, and we have all made
them together, all of us, have produced a now confident, externally oriented
country which can do things which we wouldn't have dreamt of ten years ago.
And so we are now seeing at this point that the country that lived its life on
wheat and wool, and then more latterly iron ore and coal, now finds that its
fastest growing exports are its Elaborately Transformed Manufactures.
We don't want to be a low wage, low productivity society. We want to be a
high wage, high productivity, high innovation society. We want to do the
clever things which can be done by research and development, product
innovation, education and training, commitment, employer to employee,
unions to management so that we advance as a country doing the skilful
things which millions of countries in this region won't, or will not be able to do
for many years into the future.
Fundamental to our view of Australia has been the belief that our great
comparative advantage is not our paddocks of wheat or the great harvest of
the bales of wool or the natural endowments of our minerals, but our great
comparative advantage has been our education system.
Australia is at a point now where this year eight kids in ten will complete
secondary school. That was three in ten, ten years ago. We are streaming
now 40 per cent of those through tertiary institutions and we are now
rebuilding vocational education along side the universities to carry the rest
into training and skills and to reskill them for life's work. The statement which
I'll introduce this week will say a lot more about education and training and

particularly the importance we give on the school to work transition regarding
the period 15-19 years of age as a period of vocational preparation for work
and where we see the skills path start to open up already in secondary
This is the rock upon which all of our innqvaticons in the future will be built.
But perhaps beyond that the great structural dhantie of the last ten years has
been the collaborative and co-operative attitude of Australian employees at
work. And the attitude of Australia's employees and our unions and the
corroboration that has been engendered between them and management
across the country have given us now an inflation rate under 2 per cent; an
inflation rate for the last quarter of .4 per cent; the lowest interest rates in
thirty years; the highest profit share in our history and now coupled with a
company tax rate competitive with most any rate in the Asia-Pacific
massively competitive when compared to other industrial developed nations
these are the ingredients of a productive culture which Australia has not
really known in the past.
So, we're seeing this transformation across the economy, but I was glad that
Peter Thomas ( Managing Director, Holden's Engine Company) mentioned the
suppliers here today. Let me pay tribute to you too. Because I'm sure many
suppliers don't regard themselves primarily as exporters, but in fact they have
become exporters because the product which they produce, the efficiency
with which it is produced, the quality control and the delivery schedules, all of
these things that make up a good on-going commercial relationship have
come to pass and now we've got this great team spirit between suppliers and
particularly in the motor vehicle industry this has become very apparent.
It wasn't so many years ago, not so many, when motor companies in this
country would say to the Government we find it very difficult to survive without
a tariff wall of great size because we can't get the competitiveness into a
vehicle components parts industry; we can't get the commitment of
component parts suppliers. Well, that has happily all changed. I think one of
the things which changed it is the fact that we decided that we would be
competitive and throw off the protection of high tariffs and as we've seen
tariffs decline over. the period, this has put competitive disciplines on
companies, on motor vehicle manufacturing management, but it has also
brought the suppliers to the party so that now, together, we are all able to
produce cars of greater quality and lower price so that Australians can enjoy
owning a car of comparable international standards, but at prices which are
far more competitive than would have been the case a couple of years ago.
This has been a great endeavour and a great outcome by the motor vehicle
industry in this country and in this respect the commitment of General Motors
Corporation of GMH to that its national undertaking, has been central to the
change in the quality and price of their cars, to their export potential and, of
course, the spin-off in manufacturing of engines as we see in this plant here

So, this is a considerable success story and it can't be there simply because
of an enlightened management; it can't be there with enlightened and
competent plant managers, it can only be there with the commitment of the
workers, the employees to a partnership with the management that makes
these things possible and a commitment by the company to product
innovation and to playing a role in Australia's exports.
So, it is with a considerable degree of pride and genuine pleasure that I come
to this place, to Fishermens Bend, where Ben Chifley came nearly half a
century ago to take his hat off to the first Australian made car. And, as I have
the pleasure as leader of the Labor party and Prime Minister to introduce a
White Paper on employment in this country, on the development of regions in
this country; of industry policy; of training and re-training and a commitment
to the young, on this occasion, in this week nearly half a century later I have
the historic opportunity to visit Fishermens Bend and to not doff my hat, but to
pay a well earned round of tribute and praise to everyone involved in the
production of the engines of the Holden's Engine Company.
So, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, one and all it is with very
great pleasure that I am here in the company of the Chief Executive Officers
of the Corporation and to be here on this the occasion of the building and
packing of the two millionth Holden engine.
Thank you very much indeed.

Transcript 9205