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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 755


Mr PEACOCK —I draw the attention of the Minister for Trade to comments made earlier this week by the Foreign Minister on the need to take a more enlightened view of trade and protection policy. Does the Minister agree with the Foreign Minister's interpretation of Australia's trade and protection policies or does he agree with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who said yesterday that the Foreign Minister's views were 'coloured by the Minister's frequent visits to South East Asia'? If he does agree with the Foreign Minister, what has been the reaction of our regional partners to this important change in trade policies?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —In matters of trade I am responsible; in matters of foreign policy the Minister for Foreign Affairs is responsible; and matters of economics belong to the Treasurer. Last evening I had the opportunity to talk to an Association of South East Asian Nations group.


Mr Peacock —So Bill was irresponsible.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I make the point very clearly that if we followed the policies of the honourable member for Kooyong on protection we would wind up where he is now-and he is one of the best free traders in the business. He has been asking questions in this House on why we want to be so protective. Formaldehyde preserves only the dead. He ought to remember that. However, we agree to disagree on a few minor matters-not matters such as this though.

This matter is very important from the point of view of our ASEAN friends. Last evening I was able to enlighten them to the fact that, when one looks at Australia's protection policies and then at all the non-tariff mechanisms that are used by other countries, one finds that Australia is one of the least protective countries. For example, a recent report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which the honourable member might not have had a chance to read, clearly indicated that there were at least 21,000 instances, across some 2,000 non-tariff mechanisms being used in respect of 42 countries that were analysed. My own Department has also identified some 2,000 instances of non-tariff mechanisms being used by other countries. So it is time we all got up to date, forgot about the tariff and looked at the question of non -tariff mechanisms.

If honourable members do that they will find that in respect of our trade with ASEAN countries-I am speaking from memory-Australia imports $26 worth of manufactures per head. That is well in excess of Japan, at $11, and the United States of America, at $23, and far in excess of the European Economic Community, at $12. In other words, Australia gets the gold medal in regard to import penetration.

It is about time everybody in this House had a look at what the manufacturing industry has been able to do for Australia. I recognise, of course, that it needs to be restructured. But it should also be remembered that Australia is one of the few countries which take migrants. When migrants come into a country their only chance of employment is in the manufacturing base. That ought to be recognised. It is about time we told all those well meaning economic rationalists to have a look at some of the opportunities that can be provided for migrants and other people when there is a strong manufacturing base. I agree that there has to be a restructuring of manufacturing industry but it ought to be done on an intelligent basis. Of course it is much more important for us to be helping industry to restructure than to be paying unemployment benefit to the unemployed.