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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 8080

Mrs MOYLAN (12:36 PM) —I am very pleased to support my colleague the member for Cook who chairs the Trade Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade of the parliament. Australia is a country blessed with natural resources. In the past, the bulk of our trade has been selling minerals, wool, wheat and an abundance of other produce for domestic and export markets. In the contemporary trade and investment environment, 80 per cent of our gross domestic product comes from trade in services, and exports of services today account for 20 per cent of the world trade. Australia benefits from a $17.1 billion a year tourism trade, $4 billion a year in education and $200 million in legal services. Environmental services also bring us $300 million, and this figure is growing very dramatically.

Currently the services sector outstrips agriculture, mining and manufacturing, and this trend has been developing since the eighties. The services sector in Australia now accounts for four out of every five jobs and it represents 20 per cent of our exports, or $31.2 billion in export revenue, in 2001. In 1999 the government released the study `Driving forces on the new Silk Road: the use of electronic commerce by Australian businesses'. Electronic trade in itself presents just one of the many challenges for modern exporting nations, and a clearly focused policy is vital to our future economic success. It is the linkages in policy development that are essential, and it is these linkages that this report sought. These linkages are essential to making the most of Australia's natural minerals and produce and to promoting Australian goods, services and products. My home state of Western Australia made a submission to this inquiry, which included the following observation:

... notwithstanding the global nature of the resources sector, there is much that governments can do to enhance Australia's competitive position in the area of trade and investment. The need for co-ordinated and co-operative State and Commonwealth government action to promote investment is a particular overriding requirement.

As this report outlines, we have had a long history of formulating industry plans and action agendas to map out the strategic direction and action plans for specific industries. There have been green papers and white papers. A number of different agencies at Commonwealth level—and, indeed, state level—assist with overseas trade and promote investment. However, in an increasingly competitive environment, a strong focus needs to be achieved if Australia is to maintain a strong export orientation.

In examining some of the overseas models for this inquiry, the committee heard from the former Irish Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Richard O'Brien. In an outstanding presentation to the committee, he explained that the success of the Celtic tiger, now acknowledged world wide, required a consensus approach to government policy. A social partnership was forged between government, trade unions, employers, farmers, universities and other important agencies.

Significant elements of this inquiry have been echoed, as my colleague the member for Cook outlined in his presentation, in the task force established by the Prime Minister to review Australia's investment promotion activity. A copy of this report was released in August 2001. The Australian Financial Review outlined the main recommendations and went on to warn that `Australia would run the risk of falling further behind international competitors unless it reformed its investment program'. The conclusions of the task force were interesting, and Dr Blackburne, who headed up that task force, made some important comments. In summing up Australia's situation, he said that the decline in Australia's comparative effectiveness in winning international investment appears to be at least in part linked to the fact that we have been both outmarketed and insufficiently aggressive in the pursuit of opportunities.

This inquiry was indeed cut short, and that is a pity. But I would like to congratulate the former chair of the Trade Subcommittee, the Hon. Geoff Prosser, and all those involved in contributing to and finalising the report. I commend this report to the House.

The SPEAKER —Order! The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for Cook wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?

Mr BAIRD (Cook) (12.41 p.m.)—I move:

That the House take note of the report.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.

The SPEAKER —In accordance with standing order 102B, the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. Members will have leave to continue speaking when the debate resumes.