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Tuesday, 24 June 1997
Page: 5058

Senator TAMBLING (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Security)(10.58 p.m.) —I would like to take this opportunity to describe an event that will be taking place in Darwin this weekend. The same event last year had 32,000 people visit it, and over the three days that it was held it generated business conservatively valued at approximately $15 million.

The annual Northern Territory Expo is an outstanding success story that demonstrates the continuing and growing links with the South-East Asian region that the people and the government of the Northern Territory are rapidly cultivating. The expo is also an important forum and opportunity for the Territory to aggressively market and make itself an essential economic partner to Asia. The key focus is to develop trade, business and investment links between the Northern Territory and South-East Asia.

From its beginning 22 years ago as a local trade fair, the Northern Territory Expo has expanded to become the largest fair of its kind in Australia. At the 1995 expo there were 170 exhibits and 28,000 visitors. Last year the number of exhibits had almost doubled to 316, with visitor numbers, as I said earlier, up to 32,000.

This phenomenal growth reflects the importance that the Northern Territory government and business community place on this opportunity to reach new markets and showcase their products and services within both Australia and to their northern neighbours. The 1997 Northern Territory Expo is expected to be the biggest and best ever, with 35,000 visitors anticipated and the number of exhibitors exceeding last year's record number, with that number increasing to 320.

The success of Northern Territory Expo is a tribute to the vision and confidence of the Northern Territory government and the Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry took control of the expo in 1990 and formed NT Expo Pty Ltd in 1996, a wholly owned subsidiary of the chamber, to manage and organise the event each year. The event has progressed substantially since the chamber began managing it, and its growth is highlighted by the substantial increase in the number of stallholders and visitors, as described earlier. This also indicates the support that the business community and the wider Darwin community have given to the event.

The expo's manager, Elizabeth Hutchinson, who experienced a baptism of fire when she took over the organisation of the 1996 event a mere 10 weeks before the launch, has stressed the importance of community involvement in the event and the growing sense of pride and ownership felt by the people of Darwin towards the expo.

It is no coincidence that the success of the expo in recent years coincides with the stewardship of the chamber and the significant support they receive from the Northern Territory government, particularly the Hon. Eric Poole, the minister, and his Department of Asian Relations, Trade and Industry. Carole Frost, General Manager of the Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce and Industry, describes the expo as the jewel in the crown of the chamber. And I believe that the chamber's 1,000 members in the Territory would agree  wholeheartedly with her.

The national significance placed on the Northern Territory Expo is best illustrated by the fact that this year's event will be the venue for a meeting of the state and territory trade ministers and that it will also receive a number of political and trade dignitaries from Asia.

The Federal Minister for Trade and Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, will again attend the expo, his second since opening the 1996 expo. This year the minister will be presenting the award for the best international exhibit. Mr Fischer's presence at the expo indicates the importance the federal government attaches to the event and the opportunities it offers for expanding trade and markets to the Asian region. Mr Fischer has previously commented:

The strong support that Expo continues to attract is another demonstration of the Northern Territory's `can do' approach to business and trade.

He believes:

It is the Territory's go ahead attitude which has underpinned its strong economic growth.

This is a ringing endorsement of the actions and policies of the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party government with regard to trade and the efforts made to facilitate increased access to Asian markets by Territory business.

The Northern Territory government has worked extremely hard to develop and foster trade and business links with its Northern neighbours. The Northern Territory government's Department of Asian Relations, Trade and Industry provides support to business and industry in the Territory to encourage development. The department works with business, industry and government to achieve many objectives, including: the development of business and international trade; the provision of a network of relationships for clients; the identification of trends and emerging technologies; and the transfer of skills and technology.

The rapid growth in trade between the Northern Territory and particularly the members of the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines group—or what is called generally the East ASEAN Growth Area—can in large part be attributed to the Department of Asian Relations, Trade and Industry in the Territory and the successful strategies they have implemented.

The latest annual growth figures for trade between the Northern Territory and the East ASEAN Growth Area, as published in Territory Business, demonstrate the extent of growth in trade and the effectiveness of strategies being pursued by the department. Trade with the Philippines has increased by 15 per cent, with Brunei by 40 per cent, with Indonesia by 58 per cent, and trade with Malaysia is up by an incredible 90 per cent.

Apart from the activities of the Northern Territory department and the success of the Northern Territory Expo in increasing trade with countries in the Asian region, another organisation having a significant effect on trade is the International Business Council. The International Business Council has organised a conference which is one of the four major business and industry conferences and seminars held in the week leading up to the expo that more than l,000 interstate and international delegates attending expo will participate in.

An interesting facet of the International Business Conference is that participants will be matched on a region by region basis. Each participating state, region or province will host their own seminar and participants will be matched at these seminars.

Other conferences and seminars being held include the Australian Dairy Corporation's, the annual Dairy Classics Night, the Offshore Supply and Service Seminar and the European Commission's `Australia-Europe-Asia: a guide to business opportunities.' The European Union is also featured in the International Pavilion, and they obviously see the NT Expo as an ideal opportunity to enhance their trade with Asia through Australia. This is something of a coup for the expo, as the European Union has a consumer base of 370 million and is now the world's largest trading block.

The recognition of the growing importance of Australia and the Northern Territory in this trade to the region has come about through the implementation of long-term planning and strategies of the Northern Territory and the issues they have undertaken to stimulate trade, investment and other business. They have participated in memorandums of understanding with various countries and provinces in the region. We are well aware that these include: Indonesia in 1992, China in 1993, the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam in 1995, and Bali and Labuan in 1996. These memorandums of understanding are yet another example of the Territory's desire to pursue stronger and more beneficial relationships with our closest neighbours.

It is not only expo and the Northern Territory government wishing to achieve these changes. The Northern Territory University is making a strong push into Asia. A number of courses have focused on South-East Asian trade, culture and language, and the university is also actively recruiting students from Asia. There are also a number of reciprocal academic and research projects in Indonesia and other countries of our near neighbours. These portents of what expo is all about and long-term planning underpin and guarantee the special link between the Northern Territory and Asia.

Expo is an initiative of the Northern Territory government, and its Chief Minister, the Hon. Shayne Stone, opened the expo earlier today. The expo will no doubt be an outstanding success, with many businesses and trade deals resulting. The expo, though, is not all business.

An added incentive to attend Northern Territory Expo is that there is the opportunity to make extensive and useful business contacts from both overseas and interstate. Participants can also enjoy an active round of social engagements and sporting activities in the absolutely perfect weather of Darwin's dry season.

There is an 18-hole single stableford golf tournament which is to be held at the Darwin Golf Club's international championship course. That is an extremely popular event with visiting Asian business people. There is the gala event, the Northern Territory Expo dinner. This event gives the chance to continue networking on a more informal manner; it is to be held at the MGM Grand Casino. For those who are more musically inclined, there will be two concerts held during the week, a special preview of the International Guitar Festival and the Northern Territory Expo concert featuring several of Australia's finest entertainers.

When culture and trade combine, an important synergy develops, and the citizens of the Northern Territory are clearly confident leaders of Australia's important thrust and links with Asia. (Time expired)