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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 199

Senator DEVEREUX —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. Last year the government put in place a package of decisions in response to the Garnaut wool review committee report. One of the key recommendations was that the government establish an Australian Trade and Investment Council to encourage the expansion and development of the wool and textiles industry. Can the minister advise the Senate of the progress that has been made in establishing the Australian Trade and Investment Council?

Senator COLLINS —Yesterday my colleague the Minister for Trade, Senator McMullan, and I chaired the first meeting of the Australian trade and investment packages ministerial council. As has just been stated, the ministerial council was established as a result of recommendations of the Garnaut report. The objectives of the council—I am sure Senator McMullan would agree that it was very successful in meeting those objectives—is to ensure a coordinated and focused approach to the future development of our important wool markets from Australia in terms of the numerous representations and activity overseas by a number of government agencies and, of course, the private sector. The council provides a mechanism to ensure the resources that are applied by government are being targeted to effectively support the overall development of this vitally important Australian industry.

  Yesterday's meeting was attended by representatives from all sectors of the industry and all government agencies that are involved in promoting and developing the sale of Australian wool and wool textiles. The meeting, as I said, was successful. Agreement was reached on the priority markets that are to be targeted by the various agencies and a work program was agreed for those markets. The key elements of the work program focus on improving the coordination of industry development and market access activities by both the government and private sectors. The council agreed that China and India were to be the prime targets in the development of markets for Australian wool. In the last financial year, for example, China purchased about $675 million worth of Australian wool, making China now our most important single customer.

  I was certainly pleased with the recent approval by my colleague the Minister for Development Cooperation and Pacific Island Affairs, Gordon Bilney, of a $4 million package to boost assistance provided to the Chinese wool processing and textile industry. This is a very tangible demonstration of the government's commitment to ensuring its programs are effectively working together and is a significant contribution to the wool industry in Australia.

  The package was developed jointly by the Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation and the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau. They recognise, as does the government, that China is of vital importance to the future of the Australian wool industry. On top of the $675 million I have just talked about, there is enormous potential for increased sales to China. We will discuss with key leaders in China how best to implement the programs based on the package with the aim of maximising mutual benefits in further developing the wool industry in China. In fact, an important meeting in order to do this will be taking place in about two weeks time.

  The importance of linking market development strategies to the funding activities of international financial institutions such as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was also clearly identified at yesterday's meeting. The council has requested that a detailed analysis of that issue be prepared for the next meeting, which is scheduled to take place in October. At that time we will be able to examine in detail the progress that has been made on the work program we agreed to yesterday and also how new opportunities have been identified in the meantime.