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PM should accelerate post-2000 industry reviews

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The obvious advantages arising from the APEC deal struck in Bogor should not completely overshadow the risks or costs involved for Australian industry.

While Australia should undoubtedly gain from the free-trade arrangements to be introduced over the next 25 years, the Government has a responsibility to spell out the details and indicate precisely how all industries will be affected.

As the Malaysian Prime Minister has indicated, the Bogor agreement may not be binding on individual countries. The Government should clarify whether it intends to implement a zero tariff policy for all Australian industry by the year 2010, regardless of progress achieved elsewhere.

The textiles, clothing and footwear and automotive industries, in particular, have a justifiable cause for concern until the details of the Government's approach are spelt out.

If the costs of adjustment for these industries are to be minimised, the Government should act now to accelerate plans to review the post-2000 tariff arrangements and establish strategies to facilitate more rapid structural adjustment.

A renewed commitment to the process of microeconomic reform is essential. It is imperative that we take the necessary steps to ensure that Australian enterprises are not disadvantaged relative to their overseas competitors.

Unfortunately the Government does not seem prepared to take the necessary steps to for reform of the labour market, to boost infrastructure investment and reduce the burden of government costs and regulation on business.

Australia can no longer afford the current sense of reform fatigue. We must undo the damage of recent decisions including the Government's deal with the maritime unions and the unilateral move to revoke the agreement for a single aviation market with New Zealand.

It's time for the Prime Minister to stop basking in the international limelight and to refocus the Government's efforts on a positive agenda for reform.

16 November 1994

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For further information contact John Moore on (06) 277 4134. COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY