Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 23 June 1994
Page: 1955

Senator BROWNHILL —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. The Pacific Basin Economic Council recently concluded its meeting in Kuala Lumpur, a meeting comprising 800 delegates from most of the states in the Asia-Pacific region. As the region's premier council of business men and women, a council the chairman of which is an Australian—indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the council is the forerunner of APEC—will the government lend its support to PBEC's request to APEC for official representation? Given that the government claims it is keen to see the interests of Australian businesses represented in the region, is the representative of PBEC's Australian committee on the Trade Policy Advisory Council? If not, why not? What is the present composition of the advisory committee?

Senator McMULLAN —I congratulate Mr Synmore on his election as president of PBEC. I think it is a tribute to him and a very good thing for Australia that he has been selected. I greatly welcome that as I welcomed the opportunity to discuss that issue with him before he left for that meeting. As to whether PBEC should be given particular status in relation to APEC, that is an issue that requires a bit of consideration. There are a number of business initiatives within the APEC region and it is very welcome that organisations such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are seeking to take initiatives based on their perception of the significance of APEC and an APEC-wide coordinated activity with regard to their kindred organisations, most particularly, as Senator Brownhill would know, with their counterpart in Indonesia in recent weeks. I welcome those initiatives.

  There is also, of course, the Pacific Business Forum, the establishment of which flowed from the leaders' meeting in Seattle, which had its first meeting in Singapore this month. At this stage that is the major business conduit into APEC but PBEC is also represented with observer status. I understand that there is a bit of competitive enthusiasm to have representation there. It is something that we should think about, but it is not a straightforward question because there are a number of competing interests there. That does not in any way minimise the significance of PBEC as a very significant representative body in the region.

  With regard to the composition of the Trade Policy Advisory Council, TPAC, nobody is there in a representative capacity. We do not have people there as the chair of this or the president of that. A significant number of senior Australian business representatives and the president of the ACTU are on that body. The 34 members include representatives of some of the senior government departments and public sector agencies in the trade area, but they are mainly significant business people, mainly chief executives. None of them is there in a directly representative capacity. That means that the representative of PBEC is not there in a representative capacity. Stuart Harris, who is an active participant in PBEC, is on it, so PBEC's views are represented, but no-one is there specifically as a representative of any organisation.