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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 7215

Mr HAWKER (3:03 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. I ask the minister: will he inform the House of the outlook for Australia's resource industries; what action is the government taking to encourage direct investment in this sector; and is the minister aware of alternative policies?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) —I thank the member for Wannon for his question. Not only is he a great supporter of regional Australia but he also takes a great interest in the development of resources in regional Australia and has a very significant mineral sands province currently under exploration in the northern part of his electorate.

ABARE predicts that exports of resources and petroleum will rise by four per cent in the next financial year. In terms of dollars, increasing to some $60 billion worth of exports, accounting—as I am sure the Minister for Trade would agree—for about 40 per cent of our exports. This government is keen to ensure that those exports continue to grow, and we are currently investigating a number of ways in which we can improve and increase the amount of exploration done in Australia. I am pleased to announce today that we have in fact released six new exploration permits for the resource industry, which will result in an extra $100 million in exploration being done in Australia over the period ahead.

Mr Kerr —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. This is a gross abuse. To rise to announce a government policy is an abuse of the standing orders, and there are other occasions for doing that.

The SPEAKER —I will listen closely to what the minister says. If he is announcing government policy, I will intervene. The minister is aware of the standing orders. He may elaborate on a specific government program but not announce government policy.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —Mr Speaker, if I am going too quickly for the member opposite, I will slow down.

The SPEAKER —The minister will respond to the question.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —We have announced today the approval of six exploration permits. That is not policy; that is action. That is worth $100 million to Australia's economy in terms of spending on exploration. Am I going too quickly?

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER —Minister!

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —Yes, Mr Speaker. We do have an action agenda, and I know that those opposite would aspire to have even half as much policy as we have on the resources sector. They would aspire just to have action, let alone an action agenda. Whilst they sit there looking for anything that would make up a policy—

Mr Fitzgibbon —Where are they?

The SPEAKER —The member for Hunter.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —Go and read the press release, Member for Hunter.

Mr Martin Ferguson —Action man.

Mr Fitzgibbon —Where are the leases?

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will resume his seat. The member for Batman! The member for Hunter! The minister has the call.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —I thank the member for Hunter for drawing my and the media's attention to my press release today. I am sure, in view of the fact that it will create $100 million worth of exploration in Australia, that it will now get an excellent run in tonight's media and, on that basis, merely highlight what the Howard government is doing to ensure that Australia's mineral and resources sector moves forward.