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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2295

Mr ANTHONY —I direct my question to the Treasurer. Will he inform the House when he expects to be able to announce the Government's decision on future foreign investment policy? In particular will he say what progress has been made on achieving what I believe is a bipartisan and trans-Tasman objective, that overtime, under the umbrella of the closer economic relations agreement, the governments of Australia and New Zealand be able to treat domestic and trans- Tasman investment on an equal basis?

Mr KEATING —The Leader of the National Party of Australia used the word bipartisan in his question. I think it is fair to say that there has been a bipartisan attitude-indeed a bipartisan agreement-on the part of the two major parties in this Parliament to the overall policy approach to foreign investment. I also think it is fair to say that there has been a significant contribution in economic terms by foreign capital to the development of Australia under a policy which at the same time has allowed significant opportunities for Australians to participate in their development. In the course of the question the honourable gentleman asked me about the review of foreign investment policy that the Government announced that it was undertaking. I simply add that that review is virtually complete and ready for submission to Cabinet. I expect to be able to make an announcement in respect of that matter in the next few weeks. Investors should not be expecting any major changes in foreign investment policy. My experience in implementing the existing guidelines indicates that that policy is generally working well and in a satisfactory way. Perhaps any differences in the review which will be undertaken will be in emphasis rather than in substance.

I refer now to the second part of the question which relates to New Zealand. I recognise the honourable gentleman's prime role in the development of the closer economic relations agreement with New Zealand and also his obvious continuing interest in it. The honourable member will recall that the CER agreement does not address the issues of separate foreign investment policies operating between the two countries. However, there was an understanding that where proposals for trans-Tasman investment had favourable implications for the two countries they would be taken into account as an economic benefit when applying the economic benefits test. I have been implementing that approach in respect of New Zealand proposals.

Since the CER agreement was signed, apparently there has been some dissatisfaction with the current arrangements in New Zealand and there is a desire to advance this aspect of the review proposed for 1988. Under the original arrangements a review of the foreign investment aspects was proposed for 1988. As honourable members know, the Prime Minister of New Zealand effectively placed an embargo on Australian investments in New Zealand pending progress on this issue. I had discussions with Mr Muldoon in Washington on the occasion of the International Monetary Fund meetings. We agreed that both countries needed to take action to prevent tension to ease the situation and to develop some progress on the issue. I understand that today the New Zealand Prime Minister will be making an address in Perth indicating further progress on this issue.

I have undertaken that the Foreign Investment Review Board and I will look again at certain New Zealand investment proposals which have been unable to proceed. I will consider future proposals sympathetically on a case by case basis having regard to the objectives of the closer economic relations agreement in a corporate sense. On the broader issue of the review scheduled for 1988, Australia is constrained by its non-discrimination treaty with Japan. However, I am currently examining whether some aspects of the proposed review can be advanced to the immediate future. I know that the honourable gentleman plans to go to New Zealand next week and no doubt he will be asked about this question. It is welcome that the New Zealand Prime Minister is now approving proposals which were held up in accordance with their procedures. As I have said, we are going back over some proposals which were held up here and we will examine how and in which way we can at this time advance some of the considerations involved in the 1988 review.