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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1543


Senator MASON —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party , Mr Wran, told businessmen in London recently that it would not be long before the Foreign Investment Review Board was dismantled? Does this statement, when considered with the Government's decision to allow foreign banks into Australia, mean that the Government intends to preside over an increasing degree of selling the Australian farm to foreigners? Will the Government give an absolute undertaking that a continued monitoring of foreign purchase of Australian assets will be maintained?


Senator WALSH —I have seen newspaper reports of comments alleged to have been made by Mr Wran. I have not seen a transcript of what he said but I understand that whatever comments were made were made by way of an off the cuff reply. Although I have not seen the transcript I will proceed to answer the question on the assumption that Mr Wran has been accurately reported. He was, of course, discussing primarily the development of the Australian financial sector. The Premier is strongly supportive of the development of off-shore banking in Australia, a move which the Commonwealth Government has recently facilitated through a new policy.


Senator Mason —Are you going to abolish it or not?


Senator WALSH —No. I am coming to that. I have a note which has been supplied to me by the Treasurer. I want to quote the exact words the Treasurer used in the note he supplied to me. The Government is happy to give Senator Mason an assurance that the FIRB will continue to monitor foreign purchases of Australian assets. We reviewed the policy only last year and decided to maintain the approach pioneered by the previous Australian Labor Party Government in the mid- 1970s which continued virtually unchanged by our predecessors, to their credit.