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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1267

Mr SMITH(4.04) —It is a pleasure to follow my close friend, the honourable member for Dobell (Mr Lee).

Mr McGauran —Good heavens. Come on. Speak for yourself.

Mr SMITH —At this hour of the day I think we can be generous to each other. The honourable member for Dobell led the second only delegation to China, sponsored by the political exchange program. He did it exceptionally well and I know that all members of the delegation would want to thank him for the generous remarks that he has just made about them. He certainly did a good job. We would all be of the opinion that, provided that political fortune continues to smile upon him, he will have a very bright future in this place.

Mr Tim Fischer —Is it true that there were seven on the delegation?

Mr SMITH —There were seven on the delegation. Before giving a few impressions about China I must join with the honourable member for Dobell in thanking the China Youth Federation and the many people who were involved in putting the program together. It is an exceptionally valuable program. Many honourable members probably do not realise that the program exists. The political exchange program is funded jointly by Parliament, the unions and business. It is a very good, co-operative program which aims to give young parliamentarians such as I the opportunity to consider in depth problems overseas in the hope that we bring back the things we learn, apply them to our everyday political life and hopefully come up with better decisions. That is a commendable aim. The program must be commendable if all major segments of the community fund it.

I commend the group's escort officer, Susan Whisker, whom we all found to be exceptionally helpful and efficient in everything she did. She suffered some rather heated political arguments and exchanges at times but it was all taken in good humour. We all benefited very much from her stability in keeping us up to scratch and making sure that we kept to the schedule.

The pre-eminent impression with which I walked away from China was one of change, both economic and political. China, led by Mr Deng-who I think is about 82, so old politicians do survive-embarked some years ago on the policy of the four modernisations, the theory being that China should seek economic development consistent with sufficient regard to socialist thought. The policy marked an acceptance that Mao's cultural revolution had failed. The new policy sought a massive modernisation of agriculture, industry, science and defence, accepting that the material well-being and advancement of the people is a good thing. This has meant that the previous strict adherence to socialist dogma has taken second place to the new pragmatism holding sway which reflects a vigorous new emphasis on material well-being. So from a rigid, centrally planned economy based on the Soviet model China, when I was there, was changing direction completely. China wants to catch up and learn and it wants to do that now rather than later. The honourable member for Dobell mentioned the responsibility system so I will not go into it, but it was certainly interesting to see how the Chinese agricultural system had benefited dramatically from the new incentive system and how the system is now being applied to urban businesses. The national productivity figures show that there have been dramatic productivity rises.

So, as I said, China is changing. It is moving away from a strict and dogmatic socialist approach, giving way to what China described as a democratic socialist approach, which is certainly interesting. Since we left China there have been student demonstrations. Those who have been following events in China will know that things have changed. One article out of the many I have read recently described this as China `putting on the brakes', the theory being that the reforms which are now taking place are likely to continue and that, provided the reformers can, if you like, survive the winter of discontent which is now being expressed about the reforms which have taken place, China will continue to go down that road. Many lessons for Australia are to be learned. There will also be many opportunities but also long term concerns for Australia because in time we will be competing with China in the Pacific rim markets, which is something we all ought to be aware of. So China is an interesting place to visit. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.