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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2628


Mr CREAN —My question is again directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and it follows his response to my earlier question. Minister, you have said that every formal offer for DIFF would be honoured. Are you aware of departmental advice that this secures only seven projects worth $186 million? Doesn't that same advice also indicate that 50 projects worth more than $1 billion are now scuttled, despite having received letters of advice to proceed, the stage before the final offers are made?


Mr McGauran —On a point of order, I refer you, Mr Speaker, to standing order 114, which requires that questions not contain argument and not be debated. Every section of that question contains a debate and puts to the minister an argument. I request that the question be ruled out of order for offending standing order 114.


Mr SPEAKER —There is no point of order, but the honourable member will drive quickly to the question in detail.


Mr CREAN —I am just about to conclude. Apart from the costs associated with the feasibility studies undertaken in good faith by the companies, what sort of lunatic trade policy is it that would torpedo that level of investment and more than 1,500 jobs?


Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member will draw his question to a conclusion.


Mr McGauran —I raise a point of order. That was clearly a question which incorporated argument from beginning to end, and I believe it should be ruled out of order for offending standing order 114.


Mr SPEAKER —There is no point of order.


Mrs Crosio —Read the standing orders.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Prospect!


Mrs Crosio —He misled the House.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I warn the member for Prospect.


Mr DOWNER —I am sure everybody in the House is now aware that the government is abolishing the DIFF scheme. In the process of abolishing the DIFF scheme, naturally enough there are companies that will miss out. The government obviously had to fulfil its legal obligations and we did that. But to accuse the government of somehow running what was described, I thought rather curiously, as a lunatic trade policy when it is an aid program is a bit rich coming from that side of the House when we saw under your term in office Australia's share of Asian markets actually decline under you people. Here you are criticising an aid program which you say is a trade program whilst at the very same time we saw Australia's share of Asian markets decline. Yes, the exports grew, but the fact is that our share of the markets actually declined. For you to criticise other people's trade policies, if I may say so, is a little rich.