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Wednesday, 8 June 1994
Page: 1493

Senator CHRIS EVANS —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. The minister would be aware of the business interest in the Australia Today, Indonesia 94 promotion to be held in late July in Jakarta. Can the minister advise what benefit Western Australian business, and Australian business in general, would derive from participation in the expanding horizons business mission and forum to be held as part of Australia Today, Indonesia 94?

Senator McMULLAN —The Australia Today, Indonesia 94 promotion to which Senator Chris Evans refers is the largest of its kind that Australia has ever undertaken. That is appropriate in recognition of the fact that no relationship offers greater potential on the social, cultural and economic front than Australia's relationship with Indonesia. As honourable senators would know, the promotion was inaugurated by the Prime Minister in March and will be formally opened by Senator Gareth Evans next week. Because of our very effective representation internationally, Australia's exports to Indonesia have grown by an average of 26 per cent each year over the last five years. That represents a lot of exports, and a lot of jobs. All indicators point to Indonesia continuing to provide an excellent market for Australian business and trade over the next decade.

  This forum is important for Australia overall. It will give opportunities for businesses, wherever they might be—including those in Western Australia, to which Senator Chris Evans referred—because it will be showcasing the modern Australia. This goes back to the point that I made in response to Senator Colston's question about activity to change the image of Australia in the minds of people with whom we are seeking to do business—to persuade them that there is more cultural sophistication and more technological advancement, that we are a highly skilled and talented nation, and that we can be looked to for more than commodities and as a tourist destination, important as both of those things are.

  The forum is important for generating a framework within which business can be more successful. It is a joint venture between the Australian and Indonesian governments and the private sectors. It represents, in many ways, the future of Australian-Indonesian relations in that we are working together—the public and private sectors—towards a common goal which will be mutually beneficial.

  The expanding horizons business mission and forum to which Senator Chris Evans referred will be one of the highlights of Australia Today. A very impressive line-up of business leaders will be attending, some as patrons, and a large group of over 150 Australian companies will be represented. They will be working very closely with Indonesian business people through a series of seven industry focused groups that will cover industry sectors where Australia has a competitive edge, and they will provide a forum for networking and discussing joint venture opportunities.

  As to the particular issues that Senator Chris Evans raised in his question, my response is that, overall, the forum will provide the opportunity to expand Indonesian knowledge of Australian business potential and information about business opportunities for Australian business in Indonesia. With regard to Western Australia, there has been particular interest in some developments and simultaneous activity in Surabaya in which I expect a significant Western Australian involvement. But overall, for Australian business, for Australian investment opportunity, for Australian trade opportunities and for the broadening and strengthening of our very important relationship with Indonesia, culturally, economically and broadly in people-to-people links, this is a very important promotion. I am sure that all senators join with me in hoping that it is very successful.