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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
02/10/2012
Australia and the countries of the Indian Ocean rim

PEARSON, Mr James Hugo, Chief Executive, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia

[14:02]

CHAIR: Mr Pearson, we welcome you to these hearings this afternoon. It is a great pleasure to have you here because we have not heard a lot from Western Australian business interests and we are very interested in hearing your perspective from the chamber of commerce of the business interests in the greater Indian Ocean area for Australia. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr Pearson : I will make a brief opening statement if I may. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, or CCI, as we refer to ourselves in shorthand, appreciates the invitation to appear before the committee. We would like to put on the record some of the observations we have on behalf of our almost 8,000 members in Western Australia on the commercial engagement between the state and the nation and the countries and economies of the Indian Ocean rim.

I begin by providing some context. My organisation is the peak employer and business body in Western Australia. We represent close to 8,000 members—all employer organisations. Those organisations range from government agencies, not-for-profit agencies and small listed and unlisted companies through to some of the biggest companies on the planet. We represent a diverse range of economies and sizes of employers. Our members are drawn from every geographical region of the state as well as every industry grouping in the state. We tend to focus on matters of principle around the support of free enterprise, and our practical focus is on making it easier to do business in Western Australia. At times, that means that we become involved in debates on policy at a national level because, increasingly, we are seeing that decisions made at the national level and, indeed, the international level are having an impact on even the smallest employer business in the state. So our interests range quite widely. In terms of today's discussions, what I would like to do is to make some observations about our practical involvement in trade and investment, involving countries of the Indian Ocean rim, about which, hopefully, there will be some questions and some discussions, and to make some commentary about policy issues affecting this.

We at the CCI operate an international trade services department, and it is there to facilitate trade and investment involving Western Australian based companies and their counterparts overseas including in the Indian Ocean economies. As part of that service, we organise trade missions overseas and host trade missions coming into Western Australia. We are also involved in the provision of certificates of origin to certify the origin of goods that are being exported from Australia, including to economies in the Indian Ocean region.

What we have observed on the issue of free trade agreements generally is that there is a correlation between the certificates of origin and the amount of trade and the existence of free trade agreements between Australia and other economies. So there, I guess, is a practical piece of evidence that free trade agreements do what they say they want to do, and that is to facilitate free trade. That leads to the question: what would be appropriate free trade arrangements to consider in relation to the Indian Ocean region?

We have also been involved in the establishment of the new APEC Business Travel Card, and we have high hopes about the utility of that. Our observations are that the existing APEC travel card arrangements have been very positive, and so consideration might well be given to the extension of similar arrangements to economies in the Indian Ocean rim.

We are also involved in initial discussions around the organisation of an Australian trade mission to India to coincide with the IOR-ARC meeting scheduled for late November in India. However, for a number of reasons, that mission is not being organised, and I am advised that, in part, that was because of advice from the federal government that there was little business interest or activity surrounding the scheduled IOR-ARC meeting in India. If that is to be taken at face value, and I have no reason to suppose it should not be, it does rather back up a point that was made on another issue by an earlier presenter, and that is: whether or not IOR-ARC is the relevant process or organisation to be involved in matters of trade and investment. My observation probably would be, based on the evidence, that it is not.

I would also like to touch, in my discussion today, on the issue of human capital as well as financial capital, and that is really a way of describing the continuing need of this state in particular for the importation of skilled and semiskilled workers to underpin the rapid economic growth in Western Australia. There are countries around the Indian Ocean which are, or could be, significant sources of labour, on a temporary and a permanent basis. In fact, there have been some historical trends in that regard.

In our international trade area, we operate an umbrella organisational support for a number of bilateral chambers of commerce in Western Australia: for example, the Singapore chamber of commerce in Western Australia, which has just been formed; the Australia India Business Council and so on. They receive secretarial and other support from my organisation, and we also offer something of a one-stop shop—people know we are a central contact point for them.

I think it would be instructive if I were to read out to you the list of five such bodies which involve economies in the Indian Ocean area. They are: the Australia India Business Council; the Australia Indonesia Business Council; the Singapore chamber of commerce, which I just mentioned; the Australia Africa Business Council; and the Australia Arab chamber of commerce. I think that in there you can see reflected reasonably faithfully where commercial interest currently lies in Western Australia in terms of the trade and investment relationship between this state and the economies of the Indian Ocean rim. Essentially, in a free market where people are free to organise collectively or not, the bilateral sets of commercial interests which have chosen to organise are India, Indonesia and Singapore and, more regionally, Africa and Arab. That reflects pretty faithfully in my observation how businesspeople in this state regard the economies of the Indian Ocean rim.

I can speak some more about human capital, which I touched on before. South Africa has been a continuing source of migrants, both temporary and permanent, and the people-to-people connections there are significant, although that is not in proportion to a commercial relationship. Then we look at Singapore, where in fact it is more the case that you have a strong commercial relationship and also a strong flow of people in both directions—tourism, for example, as well as other people movement. On India, I am sure you have been well briefed on issues to do with the education sector and the pathway of education in recent history in Australia towards permanent citizenship, particularly for people from the Indian subcontinent. There is a disproportionate relationship between the number of Indians relocating to Western Australia and what we currently see in terms of the commercial relationship, but one could be optimistic that where people move so might trade at some stage.

Indonesia is the other economy I want to mention in particular. My organisation regards Indonesia and India as probably the two economies of the Indian Ocean rim that offer the most potential for the greatest proportionate increase in trade and investment. Singapore is a very significant trade and investment partner for this state in particular, and the potential there is real, but Singapore comes off a much higher and more well-developed base in terms of both its own economy and its relationship with Australia, although it should be noted that recent initiatives, including by this state government to establish a trade and investment promotion in Singapore, are likely to facilitate more of that. But Indonesia and India are two economies in the Indian Ocean region where my organisation sees considerable opportunity.

Western Australia being known for being a state whose economy is based on the resources sector, it will not surprise you—you have probably heard it already—that there are real opportunities in the mining industry and the export of mining services, which this state in particular is very good at, in India and in Indonesia as well. Energy exports to India—LNG, for example—offer real potential, and there is also potentially some scope down the track for energy exports in the form of uranium, depending on the direction of government policy. Also, Indian commercial interests are in coal in this state and are looking to secure the export of significant supplies of coal from Western Australia into India.

If we move away from the resources industry and think about services, there is no doubt that that represents major opportunities. Tourism, I know, is included in your terms of reference, and there are significant flows of tourists from a number of economies in the Indian Ocean rim. But, as with many issues in this state, infrastructure investment or the lack of adequate infrastructure is part of the issue. For example, if we look at tourism, we know that there are simply not enough hotel rooms, particularly high-quality hotel rooms, available in the capital city, let alone regional Western Australia, for tourists. We also know—because our membership includes four of the five tertiary education institutions in Western Australia—that accommodation for students coming from overseas is also an issue. A number of those institutions are taking steps through investment to address that.

But the general comment I would make is that issues that impact on the competitiveness of businesses in this state are issues that, by extension, impact on their ability to engage commercially and successfully with economies in the Indian Ocean rim. There may well be sectoral-specific issues but, overall, the more competitive the state's economy and businesses within it can be the more likely they are to engage commercially in a viable way with the other economies of the Indian Ocean rim. I will probably stop at that point, and I will be happy to answer questions.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I am very interested in the issue of education. Western Australia seems to attract a lot of students from Indonesia in particular. I wonder about other countries around the Indian Ocean such as India. Are we getting students from there and from the gulf area? I know a lot of Indonesians go to Curtin University. Would you like to comment on that? The other issue is that, apparently, other countries such as the United States and European countries are now cheaper than Australia for students to go to. Have we put ourselves at a disadvantage through increasing fees and the way that has occurred? Have you noticed any impact?

Mr Pearson : I can certainly provide anecdotal evidence from within the councils of the CCI. Our members who represent tertiary and other educational suppliers have said that government changes in policy in recent years have had a significant negative impact on their ability to export education services. That is undoubtedly the case. My understanding is that the issues surrounding Indian students and Indian visitors which were shown in sharp relief in Melbourne in particular a few years ago have not been seen here. There is more of a general observation that changes in government policy have made it more difficult for educational institutions in this state to export educational services.

You mentioned Curtin University. That is probably a standout institution in terms of its engagement with the international student market, and I know that they continue to pursue that very actively. But with changes in tertiary education policy in Australia my understanding, from our members in that field, is that, increasingly, international student opportunities will be a focus so we can expect more and more competition. Anecdotally, I can observe that there are a number of students from many countries in the Indian Ocean Rim, including from Arab states, and that India has traditionally been a major source of students and it continues to be so.

Yes, we face competition from other educational providers. A lot of that would be to do with the reputation of Australian, including Western Australian, educational institutions. If you have the money, presumably you are going to buy the best education, by reputation and by evidence, that your money can buy. For those who are more price sensitive, the decision is also going to be related to the ease of getting into the country to study, the cost of that study—not just in terms of fees but in terms of living in the country—and, of course, what will happen to you afterwards.

One recent change in migration policy which was of great interest to my employer members was one which makes it a little bit easier for students from overseas finishing degrees in Australia. It provides a little bit more flexibility for them in terms of the time they have to take up employment in the field, and that is seen as a legitimate pathway to permanent migration. That is something we support because it is, to put it crudely, try before you buy, on both sides.

CHAIR: One of the things that surprised us a little about this inquiry was the paucity of submissions from businesses. We would have thought that we would receive more, given the opportunities which seem to exist around the Indian Ocean Rim, obviously in countries like Indonesia and India but also in the gulf area and in Africa in terms of mining. We have certainly heard about that but not had submissions. Why do you think it is that businesses have responded so lightly to this inquiry? Would you say that it is a true reflection of the interest of business in the prospects that exist in the Indian Ocean Rim for commercial operations by Australian companies?

Mr Pearson : I think it is a very pertinent question. My opinion would be that it is because Australian business interests that are pursuing opportunities in the Indian Ocean rim are doing so primarily on a bilateral or subregional basis. I suggest this is because those businesses by and large do not think of what they are doing as being part of an 'Indian Ocean rim' opportunity. Businesses tend to be very narrowly focused and well defined—they need to in order to be successful—and it would also reflect the relevance of the existing architecture that the committee is investigating. That architecture is simply not seen as being that relevant to business interests. So we have bilateral chambers of commerce, for example, with the Middle East—the Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry—and, as large as it is with the Africa chamber, but there is no Indian Ocean chamber of commerce, and I cannot imagine that you would need one in the foreseeable future.

The question I would pose to government is: is it necessarily a problem if the architecture that government is involved in is serving other national interests? I think it should be of concern, because if we are looking for ways in which government can facilitate, without interfering in, the flow of trade and investment then we should consider whether or not regional architecture might be part of that. I would also observe that the enormous diversity that exists between the different cultures and types of economies right around the Indian Ocean rim is another reason. There is not an awful lot, it seems to me, that they have in common. When it comes to business, though, that will be done very much on a company-to-company, bilateral market-to-market basis.

CHAIR: As you said at the beginning, there are business councils, such as the Australia Indonesia Business Council, which are specifically bilateral. It has been one of the issues which we have raised several times during this inquiry as to whether this broad approach of an overall Indian Ocean rim organisation is the best way to go, or whether pursuing bilateral relationships might be more productive. I suppose what you are saying about business suggests that, in fact, the bilateral relationships are probably going to produce more specific and better outcomes. In their totality these add up to a good general outcome but they are segmented into individual relationships.

Mr Pearson : I think that is largely the case. There are regional subgroupings, if that is the right way to describe it, in the Arab and African chambers of commerce. But I can see that at some stage, if Australia's bilateral trade and investment relationship with a particular country in the Gulf got to a certain point then it would result in a chamber of commerce with that particular country which would nestle alongside the Arab chamber. Similarly, with Africa, one might expect that if, eventually, bilateral trade and investment flows with a particular economy in Africa got to a certain size—let us call it critical mass—then it would likely produce, amongst other things, a bilateral chamber of commerce.

My comment would be that the fact that we have an Australia Arab chamber of commerce and an Australia Africa chamber indicates that at the moment business does not have that critical mass with any one of those countries, but it has enough of an engagement with that group of countries to justify that chamber of commerce. Businesspeople, in my experience, do not put the discretionary effort and time into forming chambers of commerce unless they see there is a benefit to be had from them.

Often businesses are quite able to get on with the business of business without the facilitation of a chamber of commerce. So, back to practical issues, opportunities like an APEC Business Travel Card applied to the Indian Ocean rim might be a practical way in which government could facilitate people, trade and investment flows. Free trade agreements, it seems to me, are largely being done on a bilateral basis nowadays, in part because of the difficulty of securing conclusions to multilateral trade negotiations. We are really just dealing with the hands we have in that regard. I do not see it as a problem from a trade and investment perspective, and I cannot comment on it from a security or strategic perspective.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I think that is a very useful answer.

Senator FAWCETT: One of the submissions earlier talked about a couple of opportunities—one was on a health-related issue and one was around aquaculture in the Indian Ocean rim—given the food task and the diminishing ocean stocks of fish, highlighting Australia's expertise, and very stoked up; Australia in particular has a great aquaculture industry. Yet they were saying that there has been very little appetite on behalf of AusAID or the government to take that up. The opposing question is: if the opportunity is there and the market is there, what are the barriers stopping business directly taking that up? Is it that governments need to open doors? Is it an issue of ownership, or sovereign risk of investing in that kind of venture? What are the barriers that are stopping us not only exporting technology but also setting up joint partner ventures to benefit Australian shareholders as well as contributing to the food task? And what can government do to help open those doors?

Mr Pearson : There could be many reasons at play here. Drawing on my own professional experience in a previous part of my career where I worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and in my business role since then, I can say that the assistance that Australia's diplomatic and trade network abroad gives to business is generally very highly appreciated. So when businesses from Western Australia are looking for assistance, for facilitation, in countries around the Indian Ocean rim, my understanding is that generally they receive that. But that is very much on an as-needed, one-to-one, basis.

Where governments can get involved is, potentially, in creating opportunities, particularly with economies where governments still occupy the commanding heights, legitimately, or, in some cases, in the non-legitimate parts of the economy—so where government engagement is necessary in order to have business of a certain size done—and if you are talking about significant investments, that is about risk, and the involvement of government in that kind of relationship is often going to be seen as essential. It would depend, in large part, too, on the experience and the confidence that those, particularly potential Australian, investors would have in the counterparties that they would be dealing with in other countries. If they know them and trust them then business will be done, and if they do not then it is less likely to be done. Government can always step in there—and it can do that in a number of ways, including through reducing the financing risk through bodies such as EFIC—if it is seen to be a commercial opportunity that the government feels it is worthwhile to support.

Ultimately, though, the free market tends to sort these things out, provided that the market is allowed to be free. I think what my comments, in a long-winded way, are saying is that, in a number of the countries that we are talking about here, those markets are not free; they are disrupted in one way or another, and often governments might have a role to play in that. So the risk-reward profile is going to be an uncertain one, which is where governments come in. But governments need to be very careful because they are putting at risk taxpayers' money.

I will make another comment, because you are talking about food issues here, and that is: in this state, the government, with industry, is in the middle of developing a strategy for agribusiness for food for the next 20 to 25 years, and CCI is involved in that. It is very much focused on identifying the demand opportunities in the region, including parts of the Indian Ocean rim, and working out how WA agribusinesses can supply.

At the moment, a lot of the thinking of business is around feeding the middle class. So it is not about providing food as bulk commodities; it is about providing something further up the value chain to meet the increasing demand and changing appetites of the growing middle class, including around the Indian Ocean. Whether or not that fits in with your comments about aquaculture I am not sure, but that is certainly where the food export industry in this state sees its future, and that is in meeting the needs of the middle classes that are growing to our north and our west.

Senator KROGER: Chair, the question that I was going to ask is really a follow-up to yours, which I think you have kind of covered, and that is: do you believe a whole-of-government strategic approach in the Indian Ocean rim would advance the interests of business, and, by virtue of that, would advance Australia's interests?

Mr Pearson : I think business would need to be convinced. I think the evidence to date is that, for businesses dealing—adequately or otherwise—with either country specific markets or sub-regional markets, bringing all of those together as 'the Indian Ocean rim' means the term starts to become a lot less relevant. That it is a proposition that ought to be tested properly with business, and I would urge the committee not to take the relative lack of submissions from business as evidence of that. I urge the committee to seek to find a way to test those views more rigidly, because I would hate you to form an impression through lack of information that was not true.

My opinion, based on the evidence I am aware of, is that it is difficult to see how much it would add, other than what I mentioned before, which was streamlining where possible the free movement of people, particularly those engaged in commerce, and the free movement of goods and services through free trade agreements and similar. I would suggest that is where governments could practically make a contribution.

Senator KROGER: I have to say my interpretation of the limited number of business contributions is that they are out there doing what they need to do to make a dollar as opposed to writing proposals and submissions to us, which I support and think is very good. How much of your time and that of the chamber would be directed to engaging overseas interests in one way or another, through possible overseas ventures and so on? How much of the chamber's time would be directed to that?

Mr Pearson : That is something that we are in the process of quantifying because we want to get a better understanding as an organisation of what opportunities might still be latent in that field. We issue several thousand certificates of origin every year, and increasingly that is an online service, so the speed of that has increased. We have around half a dozen people involved in our international trade services area. They issue the certificates of origin, they organise trade and investment missions, they engage with governments both here and abroad on behalf of and with Western Australian and Australian companies, and they provide the support service to the bilateral chambers of commerce I mentioned. There are a number of those in addition to the ones that I have mentioned. I have only talked about the ones that are in the Indian Ocean rim. Out of 300 staff, it would be two per cent, but in terms of revenue generation through commercial activities it would be more than that.

In terms of the profile, it is probably significant that every head of mission from a Canberra based embassy who visits Western Australia calls on my organisation. Actually, I cannot be absolute. A better way to put it would probably be that I am not aware of any that do not. That is at head of mission level, which in itself reflects the significance of my organisation's role in engagement. We are participants in government trade and investment missions abroad and are regularly involved when those missions come in as well. I am not giving you a very definite answer on percentage or proportion of time. the short answer that it is significant.

Senator KROGER: Just to give me a sense, it does not have to be ironclad in its accuracy, are we talking 10 per cent, 25 per cent or half? I am not seeking an exact qualification but just a sense. Would it be as little as five per cent?

Mr Pearson : I hate obfuscating on this. The problem I have is that we are involved in so many different things. I am just trying to think of the most useful measure for you. If it was in terms of gross revenue received, it could well be in the order of five per cent or more. If it is in terms of total people employed in facilitating business activities then it is probably a higher figure than that—maybe between five and 10 per cent. Actually, I read somewhere recently that some research was done, tongue-in-cheek—it was a report by the Economist—and that the statistic that answers all of these questions is nine per cent!

Senator KROGER: I will accept nine per cent!

Mr Pearson : No, I say between five and nine per cent.

Senator KROGER: I will accept nine per cent. We heard earlier on that there was something like one delegation from China a week. It did not quite work out like that, but there were something like 60 delegations a year from China into WA. Are you involved in a lot of those?

Mr Pearson : Yes. It does depend in part on what their focus is. If they come here and they are principally about agriculture, then it is less likely that we would be involved than if they were coming here with a range of business interests. If it is very sector specific and it is not a sector where we are the go-to organisation, then not necessarily, but a lot of them are of a general nature and, yes, we would be involved in many of those.

The level at which we would be involved would depend very much on, I guess, the seniority of the visitors. For example, about a month ago I was involved in a signing ceremony involving a number of Western Australian representatives with representatives of Zhejiang, which has a sister province-state relationship with Western Australia. So, under the gaze of the Premier and the governor of the province, I and a number of other people running similar organisations, or heads of companies, were signing bilateral memoranda of understanding with our counterparts from Zhejiang. That is as significant a state-to-province relationship as it gets in Western Australia, and we and other businesses, many of whom are our members, were closely involved.

Senator KROGER: You would be one of the bigger chambers in Australia, with 300, if not the biggest?

Mr Pearson : We are. In terms of members, we are second only to New South Wales, and in terms of our overall size, thinking about finances as well, we are probably the second or third biggest after New South Wales and Victoria. But, uniquely—if I may—in Western Australia, our organisation is the unrivalled peak organisation. You will be aware that in some other states and territories the Australian Industry Group also has a significant presence.

Senator KROGER: Yes.

Mr Pearson : In Western Australia, uniquely, my organisation represents the Australian Industry Group, as well as being part of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ACCI, who I note have made a submission.

Senator KROGER: As one of those from an eastern state, I am just getting my head around where your chamber is positioned.

Senator STEPHENS: Thank you, Mr Pearson, and I am sorry that I missed your earlier remarks when I had to step outside. I have recently been on a delegation to China, Japan and Korea, and one of the interesting perspectives that we got from that trip was the extent to which Austrade is playing a role supporting Australian businesses to act as an intermediary into developing countries such as Myanmar for Japanese businesses. Because of our relationship and our business standards, particularly around food products, for example, Meat and Livestock Australia are actually able to facilitate Japanese companies moving into Vietnam or moving into places like Myanmar, which is a value-adding proposition in the intellectual space, I suppose. I wonder to what extent we are able to capture that in the IOR-ARC in other ways. Telstra, for example, in their submission to the inquiry, suggested that Australia chairing the IOR-ARC in 2013-14 would give us an opportunity to strengthen areas such as the arts, as well as education—we have had a long discussion about education today—some of the social policy areas and value-adding in the innovation space. Do you have a comment about that? How is your organisation trying to value-add in that services sector?

Mr Pearson : It is a surprising fact for a lot of people that, notwithstanding the dominance of the resources sector in the Western Australian economy, most of the jobs over the next decade in this state will be created in the services sector. What is more, they will be created in the capital city, in the south-west of the state, as opposed to in the remote areas where most of the mining projects are located. Most of our members are in fact involved in the services sector.

You mentioned the arts: we have been quite active in promoting a closer connection or collaboration between business and the arts—we call it commerce and the arts—and have helped in the establishment of a chamber of commerce for the arts in Western Australia because of business's interest in promoting that dimension of services. That is important, in my members' view, because a lot of the innovation and creativity that you find in a vibrant artistic community, particularly if it is widespread in the broader community, lends itself to the innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship that is needed in business, particularly at the small end of the business scale. So business has become a lot more sophisticated about recognising where artistic services and, in particular, the role they play in the broader community add to the atmosphere of entrepreneurship as well as individual opportunities.

I know that, historically, governments play a very strong role in the promotion of the arts, and that is often because of the perception that a lot of the arts cannot be sustained without that kind of government support. So if that is a view of government—and the community supports that particular view of government—then it would seem reasonable for the Australian government to look for opportunities to do that, such as that presented by chairing the IOR-ARC in the future. My observation is that there is a connection between the arts and business, and it is not just one about sponsorship and philanthropy; it is actually one about building that creative, innovative mindset, that willingness to take risks, that can feed into people becoming very successful in business, including in the sphere of the arts. Is that a helpful answer?

Senator STEPHENS: Yes, it is, because Telstra also argued in their submission to us that, really, the purposes of and the opportunities in the IOR-ARC needed to be more widely promoted within the Australian business community. I do not know if you have addressed that issue already. It seemed to us from our conversations this morning that a lot of discussion about the IOR-ARC is academic. The fact that we did not have very many business submissions to this inquiry seemed to reflect that business is just getting on with it—that business was operating outside of this IOR-ARC framework that has been so diligently worked on for 17 years or whatever it is.

Mr Pearson : I am a little bit familiar with the APEC experience because, in a previous career, I worked on APEC issues when I was posted at the Australian Embassy in Beijing and we worked to bring China more fully on board into APEC, in particular into the trade and investment liberalisation agenda that the Australian government was pursuing. I understand that APEC had both a trade and investment dimension—if you like, the overt—and a somewhat less overt security and strategic dimension to it. But APEC as a framework, in my experience, is one that worked and still works today, and I have talked a couple of times about practical measures such as the APEC Business Travel Card.

The challenge I think business would make to the IOR-ARC would be to demonstrate its relevance. Can it produce a practical measure to facilitate business activity in the region? It would probably only have to do one thing, because if it was a good thing, a successful example, then business would take more notice and might well start to invest more discretionary effort and money into finding other ways. The IOC-ARC would have to get some runs on the board first, and I do not think it has. That is probably why you observed, Chair, that you are not getting many submissions from business.

Ultimately, it comes down to what the government, representing the people of this country, want from the IOR-ARC initiative. It does not have to facilitate trade and investment, but in that case it should not pretend it does and should not try to. It needs to be very clear on what it does and does not do.

Senator STEPHENS: I think that is a fair comment. Thanks.

CHAIR: Indeed. As there are no more questions, we thank you very much for being here this afternoon. The evidence you have given us has been very useful actually, especially in terms of the interest in business in this rather broad inquiry; we appreciated that.

Mr Pearson : Thank you.

CHAIR: I thank the secretariat staff, Hansard and everyone who helped put together the arrangements for today. Thank you all very much. I declare this hearing closed.

Committee adjourned at 14:45