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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4047

Senator MURPHY(6.40 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The treaties committee, of which I am a member, dealt with this matter only just recently in asking: what does this treaty do and what does it mean? During the hearing we had on the matter, I raised some issues with the departmental people, one of which was to inquire what benefits would come from the treaty. I posed this question, given that the government has been very critical of us over time about treaties, asking of what benefit they were and expressing very strong views about a lot of treaties that had been agreed to or signed on to by the government of the day, saying that they were of no use and that, in some cases, they may have been a hindrance.

So, with regard to this treaty, I sought some indication because reference was made in it to facilitating trade fairs. Of course, no-one would like more than me to see our trade expand to more countries overseas. But as concerns the facilitation of trade fairs and that facilitation, in turn, providing opportunities for the benefit of companies and industries in this country, I was interested in how, as a result of Australia signing this treaty and it being in force between the two countries, the information about those opportunities would be fed back into the system to enable our companies and manufacturers, et cetera, to seek out and achieve the benefits. I was informed that that was a matter for Austrade, and that Austrade was essentially the facilitator of that sort of process.

That worried me a little, because I have heard criticism—and not only from within countries. If you look at a most recent criticism in the Yellow Pages Small Business Index, I think only something like 37 per cent of companies or small businesses in particular in this country were aware of the supposed government initiatives to assist small business; and then 22 per cent of that 37 per cent said that the initiatives were of no use. That does raise the question about providing information to our industries and businesses about opportunities that exist and ensuring that, if we are to have facilitation by way of trade fairs in other countries, et cetera, we maximise the opportunity for their utilisation by those businesses and industries.

My concern I suppose also was borne out of a discussion I had with the Austrade commissioner in Paris, Mrs Sallyanne Atkinson, who was a former Lord Mayor of Brisbane. She indicated to me that there was a problem with regard to information getting out to manufacturers and businesses in Aus tralia; that there were so many opportunities that existed with a lot of these trade fairs but that they were not being taken up.

I would urge the government—and hopefully the treaties committee will get to hear from Austrade in the not too distant future—to look at the facilitation and information dissemination processes to ensure that, if we are to have treaties that are of a facilitative nature, we do then ensure that the information filters out to people who might achieve a benefit. That will be of value to the creation of employment—something that the government claims to have near and dear to its heart. In turn, that should not only create investment in our industries here but also, I think, allow for them to explore the opportunities for more export markets overseas. I think this is a good treaty, but I would just like to see a greater flow of information arriving out of it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.