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Wednesday, 27 May 1998
Page: 3151

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) (9:46 AM) —I have to say that this debate is ranging very far and wide. Last night we got into trust losses and franking credit trading. Now we are into the multilateral agreement on investment. I want to make a general plea that we try to keep this debate as tight and as succinct as possible.

Senator Murray —You should have done that last night.

Senator Margetts —Yes, terrific!

Senator KEMP —What I was seeking to do was to respond to a very wide range of questions which I received last night, Senator Murray.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Patterson) —Minister, please address your remarks through the chair.

Senator KEMP —I am making a general point. I am not trying to score a political point. All I am saying is that this debate is ranging very far and wide.

Senator Margetts has raised the multilateral agreement on investment. There are huge divisions between countries in relation to the multilateral agreement on investment, and it is unlikely that they will be resolved in the foreseeable future. The second point I would make on the multilateral agreement on investment is that Australia has some particular problems with it. We will not be signing any treaty which is not in line with our national interest. I know there is a desperate desire amongst some groups to belt this up. The truth is that there is no imminent signing of any multilateral agreement on investment. There are a lot of issues which remain to be resolved.

Australia will always protect its national interest, as it does in relation to all treaties—environment treaties, trade treaties and multilateral agreements on investment. Australia's position will always be protected. I can assure you that Australia, above all, will retain the right to make sure its laws can be appropriately and fairly applied.