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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8713

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (MaranoaSecond Deputy Speaker) (10:36): It is with great pleasure that I follow the Chair of the Trade Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, the member for Page, on this very important inquiry into and report on Australia's trade and investment relations with Asia, the Pacific and Latin America. This inquiry commenced in the last parliament. That is not a reflection of the difficulties we had getting evidence; it is just that it is a very large region we were inquiring into. It included the Pacific Rim, North and South America and the Asian area including Russia, which was of interest. I think many people out there may not realise the important role that Russia and Latin America play in APEC discussions. I think that if you look at the three regions—Asia, the Pacific Rim and Latin America—geographically they are so close to Australia and very important to our trading relations in the years ahead. Whilst we may have taken into the second parliament to complete this report, I commend the recommendations and this report to the many out there interested in trading in this region.

I also want to acknowledge the people, the embassies and high commissions and the members of the business community who made submissions to our committee. They were always so professional, and I would leave those committee hearings thinking, 'If only we could do a bit more to facilitate trade and break down some of the inherent barriers that have been there,' because there is a desperate need to ensure we continue to grow our domestic economy but that also means seeing that the economies of the countries that we trade with continue to grow.

One of those areas that I was interested in, as the recommendations in the press release suggest, was breaking down and doing a lot more work through APEC on those choke points and supply chains, because that is about efficiency of delivery. Another one was the introduction of a paperless trading system, because it came up repeatedly that the paperwork can so often bog down and delay a delivery of a commodity, on both sides of the equation. We have to do more work through APEC in that regard, and it might also mean assisting other trading partners within this region to develop those paperless systems and moving away from multiple supply lines of paper that often gets lost. In the electronic age in which we live today, this is something we should facilitate as much as possible not only here in Australia but also in our trading partners to assist those companies that may not be able to do it as quickly as we would like. Perhaps, as the recommendation suggests, we could assist those other countries.

Another area was to encourage the acceptance of an APEC business travel card. We found that mentioned by a lot of businesspeople in their submissions—that sometimes where a visa is needed we could do more to facilitate cooperation and that investment. Also, it was seen sometimes as a barrier—'Can we go now and meet with another country where there may be a business opportunity?' So I commend that also; I would like to see more work done on that through APEC to encourage the acceptance of an APEC business travel card. It sounds small, but it was one of those things that sometimes became an annoyance. There should be that facilitation for visits to build greater confidence in trade.

Another one was to work through COAG with the state governments. Quite often we found that states were doing something to facilitate trade with a particular trading partner and the Commonwealth was also trying to do it. It sends a confusing message when it is the same nation as a whole trying to facilitate trade in other countries, and we need to work through COAG to get greater cooperation between the Commonwealth and the states and to avoid overlap when it comes to that work that is, at the end of the day, creating jobs in Australia.

Finally, I thank the secretariat for the wonderful work that they do. They are just tireless—Tas Luttrell, who we had for so long, and more recently other members of the departments here in Canberra. I thank them. I thank all of those who have participated, including the business community and the high commissions and embassies who have made submissions to this very important report. I commend the recommendations to the parliament.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Sidebottom ): Order! The time allotted for statements on this report has expired.

Ms SAFFIN: I move:

That the House take note of the report.

Debate adjourned.