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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 546


Senator TEAGUE (8.53 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

As I foreshadowed earlier, this is another major report of the East Asia Analytical Unit from within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is essential reading for those of us who want to see Australia take up the opportunities that exist in the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, although this study relates to India, there are some ways in which parallel observations can be made about Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It is essential in Australia that our priority focus on north east Asia—Japan, China and the others—and not be so focused that we ignore our opportunities in South-East Asia, especially in India.

  It can be truly said that 1986 was a year of renaissance in the relationship between Australia and India. Indeed, it was largely driven at first by prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Bob Hawke. They understood each other and moved to ensure that our economies were related and our businessmen increasingly got to know each other. Therefore, in 1986 a start was made in Australia to look towards India, after a gap of some 15 years from 1971 to 1986.

  In due course this led to interest in the parliament, and other senators—including the current Minister for Trade, Senator McMullan—joined with me in suggesting that the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade write a study on Australia's economic relations with India and the opportunities there. This was a major report of the Senate which was taken up by the government of Australia, was much read in India and was a consolidation of where we had moved from 1986 to 1989. Things languished a little after that, however, and this report is a response by the Australian government through the East Asia Analytical Unit to a Garnaut-type report—the kind of report that we saw as so valuable for east Asia—being applied to south Asia.

  The Senate report actually called for this report to be written. Subsequently, when it was not immediately activated, I wrote to the then Minister for Trade, Senator Cook, last year and urged that this report be undertaken. He was very kind to write back to me in June of last year to say that my letter had added to the burden of urgings which was leading him to make the decision that he in fact announced in last year's budget.

  I wish to commend Meredith Borthwick and the other members of the unit and also those from the Australian National University, WD Scott International, Coopers & Lybrand and Curtin University. I also commend a wide range of Australian business people, some members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, my friends Marika Vicziany, Robin Jeffrey and other academics directly involved in south Asia studies and, indeed, some major departments of this government. They are all acknowledged on page xi of the prefatory pages for their contribution to this report.

  This study focuses upon a new `epochal change', as they put it, in 1991 when India fell into a hole with some international debt. The economic answer for this within India was to become internationally competitive and to have economic liberalisation. This built on the perspectives that we had analysed in the Senate report of 1989. I commend chapter five which talks about that change and the concluding chapter, `Seizing the moment: Australia's India strategy', which is full of paragraphs which I have ticked. I will study the full body of this report thoroughly, and I commend it to the Senate.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.