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Debate between Bob McMullan (Minister for Trade) and Tim Fischer (National party leader)



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DATE: 15/02/96 TIME: 1300 HRS SOURCE: 2 NAT

PROGRAM: NATIONAL PRESS CLUB

PRESENTER: KEN RANDALL (PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PRESS CLUB)

SUBJECT: DEBATE BETWEEN BOB MC MULLAN (MINISTER FOR TRADE) AND TIM FISCHER (NATIONAL PARTY LEADER)

KEN .RANDALL Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to today’s National

Press Club Telstra address.

A double header, as you have just heard, on the subject

of Australia’s international trade. The Minister for

Trade, Mr, ex-Senator, Bob McMulIan, and the

Opposition spokesman on Trade, National Party leader,

Tim Fischer.

This is, ah, a rather formularised, necessarily so,

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Ah, there will our usual question period, except that

questions asked to both speakers will be responded to

within the space of three minutes.

If it is directed to one only, they will answer it within

three minutes, with the other one having a one minute

right of reply. We will have brief closing statements

from each of the, um, speakers. With their opening

statements you will hear a warning gong at about the

one-minute-to-go mark and to determine the order we

have tossed a coin already.

Tim Fischer won the toss and elected to open the

proceedings which means that at the end that order will

be reversed.

So please welcome, first of all, Tim Fisher.

TIM FISCHER Ken Randall, Your Excellencies, Minister Me Mullan,

ladies and gentlemen. It was a delight to win the toss

here today, a good omen, and also it is a privilege to

present the Coalition trade policy, ’Meeting The

Challenges’ and debate that policy.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 2

Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a drift in the

affairs relating to the trade portfolio for thirteen years.

Yes, there has been some progress on the multilateral

and bilateral, um, on the multilateral and regional front,

but there has been almost a stunning silence with regard

to the bilaterals - and that I propose to discuss in some

detail with you today.

At the very outset, I want to make the point that what

is an indisputable fact is that in thirteen years hard

labour we have had no less than seven Trade Ministers

over that period, and in that same period there was, ah,

indeed, ah, a period of time when in fact trade was not

even in the Cabinet as a portfolio.

I say in clear cut terms, here and now, trade will be at

the Cabinet table, trade will be the second in seniority

portfolio of the incoming Coalition government, and

you do not face the prospect of a Minister for Trade

changing every two years, or even faster, as has been

the case under the Federal Labor Government. There

has been, too often, almost a dismissive attitude as to

who would take the Trade portfolio as an afterthought.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 3

I want to highlight, as indeed, on occasions, Minister

McMullan has done so himself, the importance of

contact - ah, and continuity of contact, of a Trade

Minister with his opposite numbers around the world

and in some of those very important forums, be it

APEC, The Cairns Group and the like.

Thirteen years - no less than seven separate Ministers

for Trade. That will not be the case under the Coalition

Government.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it is with pleasure that I track

you through our Liberal and National Party trade

policy, which is entitled ’Meeting the Challenges’, and

it divides into five tracks.

The domestic track is one where we want to elevate the

importance of trade right here in Australia, build a

successful export culture, give it the priority it deserves,

both here in Canberra and right across the nation. In

that regard under our policy we will be introducing for

the first time ever, an annual bench-marking statement

to the Federal parliament, the highest forum in the land,

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 4

and that will be entitled ’The Trade Outcomes and

Objectives Statement’.

Sadly, there have been very long periods where trade

has not been the focus of decent parliamentary debate,

or even ministerial statement under the Labor

government and, I’m honest enough to say, for periods

under previous Coalition governments. This will now

change. With the Coalition, ah, ’Meeting the

Challenges’ trade policy approach we will have an

annual Trade Outcomes and Objectives Statement for a

number of reasons, not the least of which is to give the

highest priority to trade as an area of activity of

government policy - remembering governments facilitate

businesses trade, and to encourage a greater export

effort and diversity of export effort, so essential for

Australian economic growth.

It, of course, will not only benchmark past performance

in trade and point to ah, ah, objectives with regard to

our trading approach, it will, on occasions, also

highlight those areas of trade difficulty where it is

appropriate to do so and where some progress might

accrue from taking that action - remembering one or

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 5

two other nations around the world go down this path

with bells on, and do so without hesitation, in

nominating those nations which they deem to be

interfering with a proper and fair trading approach.

Then there is, of course, the multilateral front. Of

course the outcome of the Uruguay Round, with the

regard to the GATT, now World Trade Organisation,

was an important breakthrough for the world.

However, there is no such thing as an international level

playing field.

It is in that context that we bring a pragmatic approach

to all that is unfolding, especially with a Dispute

Resolution Circumstances attaching to the WTO. I flag

here and now that, of course, inevitably, there will be

a further round of trade negotiations and that is a matter

to be pursued and take advice on with regard to the

timetable, when the WTO has an extremely important

Ministerial Council meeting, and that has been set down

at this stage for December 1996 at Singapore.

The third track relates to the regional area, and to such

key organisations as APEC.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 6

I want to say that the Coalition helped provide the basic

framework which led to the establishment of APEC.

The government, being in office, took that fore ward, I

recognise that, but curiously enough, the government,

for some extraordinary reason, has failed to appoint an

ambassador to APEC.

Under our Coalition trade policy we will be appointing

an ambassador to APEC, and in so doing we join

China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Papau New Guinea

and the USA in having ambassador level, ah,

representation on a continuous basis with APEC. I

acknowledge the Minister in fact gave this the tick in

his response to my policy launch on the 12 January,

saying he had no particular reason to argue against that

particular proposal.

Why hasn’t he done it? Why hasn’t his government

done it in the course of the existence of the APEC

grouping, if it is all that important? And indeed it is

extremely important.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 7

With regard to the bilateral, the fourth track. I want to

emphasise that that is an area where affairs have drifted

for far to long. On occasions there has been the odd

report surface, giving a nice little flick across the

knuckles, perhaps, to raise some of the areas of

problems associated with our trading partners. But the

bilateral is hard work, it does take a lot of resources -

but I refuse to be part of the ’white-flag brigade’ which

says ’it’s all too hard, therefore we are not even going

to make a substantive effort’.

So on the Jones Act, the United States. I appreciate the

government has finally elevated it to it’s number one

priority - the Act which prevents the export of high-tech

ferries from Hobart to Hawaii, the United States. That

of course should have been a much higher priority over

the last thirteen years.

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, we of course have as

the fifth track in relation to our approach to trade, the

promoting and financing Australian exports.

Austrade stays, the MDG scheme stays - refined re­

focused, improved - and a range of other schemes.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 8

KEN RANDALL

Our approach, the Coalition approach, to trade, to

building an export culture in this country is all about

providing for winning markets, winning new markets,

building on existing markets, and doing that with an

efficient and effective trade policy that will meet the

challenges.

Thank you Tim Fischer.

And it’s time now for the second opening statement

from the Minister, Bob McMullan.

BOB MC MIJLLAN Thank you very much Ken. Your excellencies, Mr

iMINISTER FOR TRADE) Fischer, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

During the course of the next term of government,

between now and 1999, Australia has the chance to

reach a goal we’ve never reached before. If we

maintain our export performance of the last ten years,

' we will achieve a sustained trade surplus by 1997/98 -

not just a one-off trade surplus, but a trade surplus on

a consistent basis - year in, year out.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 9

Achieving this goal won’t be easy - it won’t just

happen. It will only happen if we make it.

In the last decade we transformed our export

performance. In the ten years to 1994 our exports

increased by one hundred and seven per cent, compared

with an average of sixty-five per cent for industrialised

countries overall. This strong export growth has helped

out around five hundred thousand jobs to our economy

since 1983.

Exports, as a proportion of our economy have reached

nineteen per cent, up from less than fifteen per cent just

a decade ago, and they’re on track to reach nearly

twenty-five per cent by the year 2000. This has two

important consequences: first, the improved trade

balance will make an important contribution to reducing

the current account deficit; second, projected export

growth will create up to fifty to seventy-five thousand

extra jobs each year. That’s two hundred and fifty

thousand to up to four hundred thousand jobs for

Australians by the year 2000 - a substantial contribution

towards achieving our goal of reducing unemployment

to five per cent.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 10

There’s been another important change. Exports of

high value manufactures have been growing at an

annual rate of seventeen per cent since 1984, and

services exports have been growing by thirteen per cent,

but the result - that we are less vulnerable to economic

shocks. And while we were dependent on only one or

two sectors, any sudden change, such as a large drop in

prices, could cause a major disruption to our economy.

But not only have we gone forward, we’ve created the

potential to keep going forward.

But fulfilling this potential won’t be easy. It can’t be

achieved by trade policy alone - but trade policy has a

vital role to play. That’s why the alternative trade

policies on offer at this election are perhaps more

important and require greater scrutiny than in any

election in recent times.

So, what are the criteria for a coherent, integrated,

rigorous trade policy?

It involves a balanced approach on three levels:

multilateral, regional and bilateral.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 11

It is indisputable that the multilateral system offers the

biggest rewards across the board for our farmers and

miners, for industry and for the service sector. The

Industry Commission has estimated that the market

access gains achieved by Australia in the Uruguay

round, for example, will increase exports by five billion

dollars by the year 2000. No amount of purely bilateral

negotiation could have achieved that sort of outcome.

Under Labor, Australia has taken the initiative on

regional trade liberalisation and already we’re beginning

to see real trade outcomes, of benefit to Australia.

For example, as part of the APEC down payment at

Osaka, Malaysia made a commitment to reduce applied

tariff rates on more than three thousand items, effecting

at least six hundred million dollars of Australia’s

merchandise exports to that country.

No amount of purely bilateral effort has the potential to

achieve that sort of outcome. That’s not to say that

carefully targeted bilateral activity doesn’t have a role.

In fact we already devote the majority of my

departments resources to bilateral activity.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 12

In terms of improving market access, however, we need

to recognise the limitations of bilateral strategies as an

arm of trade policy. For example, a reduction which

was achieved recently in Malaysian tariffs on pesticides

from thirty per cent to ten per cent, could be worth

several hundred thousand dollars to our chemical

industry over time, a most useful achievement, but quite

insignificant compared to the Uruguay round or APEC.

Contrast this structured, focussed, coherent approach

with that of the Opposition, which asserts that we

shouldn’t be putting so much effort into pushing for a

new multilateral round, and claims that we place too

much emphasis on the Asia Pacific region to justify

their new found enthusiasm for aggressive bilateralism.

And this raises a number of important questions:

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 13

. Where will the extra resources for this policy come

from?

. How does Mr Fisher actually propose to pursue his

aggressive bilateral strategy?

He has said he’ll do some tough talking. I can only

repeat what the Brisbane Courier Mail said when Mr

Fischer talked about a trade war with the United States

last October. ’It was shrill, over the top and, in the

end, counterproductive’.

And so was Mr Fischer’s comment after the release of

his policy in January, that, with regard to Japan, we’re

one of their biggest suppliers - which, he says, gives

Australia muscle to be threatening our major trading

partner.

This may be tough talk - but is it smart? Is it

responsible to be threatening your biggest customer and

a country with which we have an eight billion dollar a

year trade surplus.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 14

Aggressive bilateralism also conveniently neglects to

acknowledge that bilateral is, by definition, two way.

Just as we have access demands of our partners, they

have demands of us. For example, the United States

has demanded of Australia that we dismantle our local

content requirements for broadcasting, that we abandon

foreign investment screening, that we remove quarantine

restrictions on cooked chicken meat, on salmon, on pig

meat, and on other commodities.

So, what is the proposal for a trade off? Our cultural

industries, our quarantine standards, our foreign

investment regulations, or is it asserted that, when

confronted with some tough talk and maybe the threat

of a trade war, the United States trade representative

will simply roll over and say, ’yes, whatever you’d

like’.

To sum up. Over our term, the Labor government has

developed and implemented a balanced and effective

trade policy that seeks to use all the means at our

disposal to open markets for Australian exports.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 15

By any measure, it’s been a policy that’s helped

Australia win exports and it’s created jobs at home -

half a million jobs, and offers the potential for much

more over the next three years.

What the Coalition is proposing as their key trade

initiative - something called aggressive bilateralism - has

significant potential to harm Australia’s trade interests

by diverting scarce resources into relatively

unproductive activity and by the damage it could do to

Australia’s reputation as a consistent and reliable trading

partner.

In conclusion I’d like to leave you with a message I

heard from the Chief Executive of a company to whom

I recently presented an export award. He said, ’we

have to get comfortable with winning and being

winners. It’s okay to be proud of ones successes’.

The fact is, in trade, as in many other areas of national

endeavour, we’re beginning to win - and this is not the

time to put it at risk.

Thank you.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 16

KEN RANDALL Thank you both for those opening statements in today’s

double National Press Club Telstra Address.

We move on to our usual period of questions with the

time limitations that I mentioned before applying to the

responses, and from here on the warning gongs will

mean time to wind up.

The first question today is from Ian McPhedron.

IAN MC PHEDRON Ian McPhedron from the Canberra Times. My question

is to Mr Fischer.

Mr Fischer, given that your credentials on Asia and

foreign policy generally are quite good, and that you in

fact indeed made some principal stands on a number of

sensitive issues, and this question is quite specific:

How, if you win government, do you propose to

convince foreign governments that the views of the likes

of Bob Katter and Mr Burgess are not representative, or

even unacceptable, when you won’t, like the ALP and

now the Liberal Party, sack people with those extreme

views?

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 17

TIM FISCHER Ian, there’s a very sharp difference, as you specifically

raised the example of Graeme Campbell. Graeme

Campbell has never apologised for his unacceptable

remarks. Bob Katter has apologised, against the odds,

apologised, as has Mr Burgess. I took the proper action

available to me as leader of the National Party under the

structure of the National Party, and publicly cited in the

middle of an election campaign, the conduct of a

member and candidate in relation to the matters you

raise.

In terms of my links with Asia, I’m glad you

acknowledged those. It has involved for example,

working visits to nineteen different Asian countries. It

has involved being the only MP ever to be to a place

like Bhutan, but more particularly to have visited Hong

Song Su Chi* last year, and go to the efforts to do that,

and achieve that, when Minister Evans, with all his

Asian links, was unable to do that. But more

importantly, Asian governments will recognise the fact

it was a coalition government which abolished Labor’s,

well, abolished the existing White Australia policy

supported at time by the Labor movement of the period.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 18

We live in the 1990’s. I will not as leader of the

National Party, allow any racist element into the

National Party, or the endorsed candidates for the

National Party. I have acted decisively with regard to

the matter which I fully expected you would raise here

today, and I state again my links, my working links,

achieved from opposition are a cut above the average,

but it is for others to judge that. I am determined to

build on that as an incoming Minister for Trade, and I

have every confidence Asian leaders will recognise the

Coalition government as being responsible and ’fair

dinkum’ about its approach to expanding our links with

Asia.

KEN RANDAL Mr McMullan, do you have a response?

BOB MCMIJLLAN I only have a very brief remark, because I don’t in the

slightest think Mr Fischer is a racist, and I would not

accuse of being such.

But the key question is, who do you recommend Tim,

the people of Leichhardt and the people of Kennedy,

should vote for?

KEN RANDAL Next question’s from Ian Patterson.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 19

IAN PATTERSON

TIM FISCHER

15 FEBRUARY 1996

Ian Patterson from Rural Press. This is to Mr Fischer.

In your capacity as Shadow Trade Minister and as

Leader of the National Party, one of the biggest

problems facing agriculture and the natural environment

in Northern Australia at the moment is a rash of

mimosa pigra*, which is spreading veiy quickly across

Northern Australia. The funding for control of that -

federal funding - is about to run out. Is your incoming

government, assuming it does, going to commit money

to fighting that plague?

Well there are a raft of threats to Australia’s sustainable

agriculture production, and it is a very important part,

but not the only component of a comprehensive

approach to the portfolio. John Anderson, my Deputy

Leader and Shadow Minister for Primary Industries,

will deal with that as the incoming Minister as if related

to his portfolio, and he’ll have every confidence in

dealing with that, because in our environmental

package, which we will deliver on, there are a number

of initiatives to in fact deal with weeds, outbreaks of

noxious weeds, and other outbreaks which can in any

way, shape or form, jeopardise the sustainability of

agriculture, and jeopardise our export effort.

2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 20

KEN RANDAL Minister?

BOB MCM1JLLAN Ah, a bit hard to answer that question. It was a bit

specific to Tim, but in general, there are two points I

would wish to make. One is that, with regard to those

sorts of issues, the environment policy of both parties

has set forward some ambitious objectives about

cleaning up problems of weeds, of natural resources,

rivers and other things. The difference is, and it’s

appropriate to say it here at this Telstra lunch I suppose,

ours doesn’t depend upon something we can’t do to

fund it.

KEN RANDALL Next question’s from Adam Connolly.

ADAM CONOLLY Adam Connolly from the Daily Telegraph Mirror. My

question is also to Mr Fischer.

How can Australia as a middle ranking power achieve

a better trade result with economic giants with Japan, if

we have to rely solely on aggressive bilateralism; and

secondly, the Liberal Party has endorsed the Hilmer

reforms on competition policy, yet there are some

concerns within the National Party about what affect

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 21

that would have on the agricultural industry. To what

extent is Hilmer going to create friction in a Coalition

government?

TIM FISCHER On the first question, bilateral of course, I emphasise on

the policy documentation, which I take this opportunity

to table, because I’m yet to see the ALP Trade Policy

in terms of the election setting. Yes, they’ve got the

winning markets document of last year, but I have a

clear cut document I present to this forum, and say to

you, that stipulates we will maintain the multilateral

efforts. We will maintain the regional efforts. We will

boost the bilateral efforts as an additional circumstance,

and not taking away from the multi lateral and the

regional. And in proof of that of course, are things

like, including boosting our representation to APEC, the

appointment of an ambassador to APEC, that is one

small thing, relatively small thing, but something six

other countries have done.

I challenge the Minister to say why hasn’t Australia

done that?

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 22

I might add on the matter of Hilmer competition policy,

our position is very clear cut, and under Hilmer,

prospects for the public interest, the public benefit to be

considered, the public has part of this equation, as I’ve

always maintained, and the Coalition has determined

that in respect of the public benefit, it does apply.

With regard to the Australian wheat industry, and the

maintenance of a single desk selling power for the

Australian wheat industry, that is a legitimate piece of

weaponry, which is not subsidy ... which is not

subsidy, which is not contrary to WTO rules.

I challenge the Minister to say whether he would

dismantle that single desk selling power. Likewise with

newsagents - we have those agreed positions. They are

comprehensive. Competition policy does stack up, is

going to, I hope, generate benefits across Australia, and

one area they might like to start with is petrol pricing

differentials between Sydney and Melbourne, and places

like Canberra, Perth, Balranald and beyond, and prove

the flip side of the competition policy coin, that it can

deliver.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 23

There will be no friction in an incoming Coalition

government. We have agreed settings. We’ve been

honest enough to put them out front. Labor hasn’t.

KEN RANDALL Mr McMullan?

SENATOR BOB MCMULLAN Thank you. There’s more challenges there than the

minute will allow, but let me respond with one

comment of my own, and one response to the point that

I think there’s something useful to add to.

The first is an interesting question, which I’ve been

asking since Mr Fischer’s policy was announced, and

we should find the answer today. Will there be any

more resources applied to the Department of Foreign

Affairs and Trade, to pursue this policy of aggressive

bilateralism, or if not, from where will they be

diverted? That’s a question, if Mr Fischer doesn’t

answer it, I assume Mr Howard will with the release of

the funding today.

With regard to the Australian Wheat Board, our policy’s

quite interesting. I sit next to Bob Collins in the ·

Senate, and I heard him one day outlining our policy,

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 24

and he was outlining Mr Howard’s policy and

endorsement. The problem is, it’s not the same as Mr

Fischer’s policy.

KEN RANDALL Next question’s from Clinton Porteous.

CLINTON PORTEOUS Comments by Bob Burgess and...

KEN RANDAL Who’s it directed to Clinton?

CLINTON PORTEOUS I’m sorry, Tim Fischer. Comments by Bob Burgess

and Mr Katter. Graeme Samuels from the President of

the Acky, said they are damaging to our representation

in the region. Robert Mitchell, the President of the

Australian Chinese Chamber of Commerce went one

further, saying they’ll be exploited by the Asian press

to confirm the worst stereotypes in Australia, and the

damage caused outside the country is unforgivable. Do

you concede that damage has all ready been done in the

Asian region by those comments, and how can people

believe you, if you’ve got back benchers like these

people, that you aren’t going to blow our chances in

Asia with trade?

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 25

TIM FISCHER I resent the element of that question which suggests that

racism is alive and well in the National Party, and that

I will have any truck with racism. My credentials speak

for themselves, and I was pleased to hear Ian

acknowledge that in his question earlier on. Bob Katter

is of Lebanese decent and has spent most of his lifetime

fighting racism in a very difficult terrain in that regard,

in outback Queensland. The other person, Mr Burgess,

is of English and Italian decent. The terminology they

used was utterly unacceptable. The difference is they

recognised that, they apologised ladies and gentlemen -

I remind you, they apologised, and that action flowed

in part following on action I took the moment I heard

it. I have here other communications from other ethnic

groupings, who make a particular stand and point that

they accept the apology. They have looked at the

policy positions of the Coalition, and they’ve met with

me previously, and a formal letter in the case of one

testifying their total confidence that there was no racism

intended, and that they will build on the work of

increasing our links with Asia, greater Asia, when in

fact the Coalition government comes to power.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 26

TIM FISCHER (CON'D

I might add, on this matter of Asia, we had a Prime

Minister brand a Prime Minister of Malaysia

’recalcitrant", and then spend a fortnight mucking

around with the matter at the time when some very

serious and critical negotiations were taking place on

some very major tenders with Malaysia. I acted within

minutes. The Prime Minister took a clumsy fortnight,

and took much longer in terms of bilateral relations to

get them back on an even keel. And that’s the same

Prime Minister who said Islamabad is the place you fly

over when you go to Europe. That is an unsatisfactory

approach. I have always been fair dinkum about Asia,

and I will see that my party is more and more.

..(inaudible section of transcript).. ■

No I don’t. Absolutely not, and the credentials are

there, and those of you who admissively magnify the

matter along those lines I think have not spent much

time in Asia, as you don’t fully understand how modus

operand! works. I accept that you have to be

responsible. I can only say why did it take the Labor

Party twelve years to deal with Graeme Campbell, a

person who has never apologised for his remarks.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 27

KEN RANDAL Minister?

BOB MCMULLAN Well thank you. I don’t want to dwell too much on that

part of it which relates to Graeme Campbell, and Mr

. Burgess and co - but the difference isn’t, as you

described it, as to who apologised and who not. The

difference is simple. Graeme Campbell is not our

candidate. We are not recommending that the people of

Kalgoorlie vote for Graeme Campbell. You are

recommending that the people of Cairns vote for Mr

Burgess, and the people in Mt Isa vote for Mr Katter.

That’s your recommendation to them. But the more

serious point about the damage in Asia, I don’t want to

say anything that will make any potential damage to

Australia’s interest worse, and I will not. But the

’Strait’s Times’ was quoted by Greg Sheridan this

morning as a pining that there was some truth to Mr

Keating’s claim that Mr Howard had outdated leanings,

and still looked too much to Britain and the United

States.

Now that’s a very authoritative journal of the region

saying that, and accurately quoted as I understand it,

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 28

and I don’t think anything that we should be endorsing

candidates who make statement that merely exacerbate

that existing concern about Australia’s standing in the

region, and about the commitment of an alternative

government in Australia to maintain and enhance that

standing.

KEN RANDAL Thank you. Question from Anne Davies.

ANNE DAVIES I have a question for each of you. Mr Fischer first.

Your ... the Coalition has committed to achieving a

surplus nett of asset sales in the next budget. Yesterday

you were honest enough to acknowledge that there is a

black hole in the next financial year’s budget, and that

the commentators are right. Could you tell us how big

that hole that is, what are the Coalition’s estimates; and

secondly, wouldn’t it be more honest to explain to the

public how you’re going to fund this black hole now,

before the election?

Now for Mr McMullan, it’s the same question for Mr

McMullan. Could you guarantee that your government

will produce a surplus in 1996/97 nett of asset sales?

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 29

TIM FISCHER I take you back to the exact transcript of Lateline. You

would have heard me specifically refer to the

independent analysis, part of which was published in the

Financial Review yesterday. It is that which I was

referring to. I frankly do not know whether there is a

black hole or not, because this government will not

release the forward estimates, and I join John Howard

in issuing the challenge to Minister Beazley and to

Minister McMullan to release those forward estimates,

so that everybody can be on an equal footing, and make

the assessments, and respond accordingly.

It’s an offer which John Howard generously made

yesterday, in which I fully support him. It is something

which I think the public of Australia are entitled to

know between now and the 2 March, and we work on

the forward estimates in the absence of anything else,

and we have very cautiously and responsibly come up

with a set of election policies and priorities which are

fiscally responsible, and which are about getting this

country back on the rolls, and recognises the limited

ability to have campaign expenditure, expenditure

relating to campaign initiatives and policies, which

would be irresponsible.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 30

We have been very cautious, and you’ll see the full

detail of that.

KEN RANDAL Bob McMullan.

BOB MCMIJLLAN Thank you. Tim must have read a different transcript

of his comments last night from me. The ones I saw

didn’t have any qualification about any people’s views.

* They seem to me to be a clear and unequivocal

articulation of his, but perhaps he read a different

transcript. The situation with regard to the surplus in

96/97, I have ... not being the Finance Minister, and

not even being a member of the ERC, I haven’t been as

privy to the information to everybody in the

government, and there are those better placed than me

to give you detailed position, but in general, as I

understand it, the position it this: that we go into this

election with a more comprehensive range of

information about the budget situation, more

contemporaneous information about the state of the

budget, and the forward estimates of revenue and

expenditure, and therefore the likely deficit or surplus

consequences than in any election, certainly any election

for which Mr Howard was ever the treasurer, but I

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 31

think in any election, because of course you’ll know

there was the mid year, the mid term review, released

only in January.

What we have done in this election is set out to do two

things. One, fund all our promises so that nothing in

this, in the commitments we’ve made, will affect

adversely the budget bottom line; and over and above

that, sort to identify proper tax collections from upper

income Australians, which we seek to raise, which will

go and which will be used to improve the budget

bottom line, by, we asses, about $800 million a year as

you’ve seen in the document released by the Treasurer.

But they are not being used to fund election

commitments. That money is being used to improve the

budget bottom line.

KEN RANDALL Next question’s from Tim Stevens.

TIM STEVENS Tim Stevens from The Australian newspaper. My

question is to Mr McMullan, in his capacity as a former

National Secretary to the ALP. It’s generally agreed

that Mr Robb has been running a better campaign at this

stage of the campaign than the Labor party.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 32

Would you agree with that? How would you, as

National Secretary, have run if differently?

BOB MCMIJLLAN No, and I wouldn’t.

KEN RANDAL Do you want to respond to that Tim?

TIM FISCHER Well, this campaign is at the half way mark, and there’s

much to come. I think the Coalition is far better placed

than in 1993. Andrew Robb is running a first class

campaign, along with Cecile Ferguson. But ultimately,

it is for the people to decide, and I would just simply

add that I did use the term independent analysis last

night in the Lateline. What the Minister has confirmed

here, that the people are in the dark, and that he is in

the dark with regard to the forward estimates. It’s

about time the people saw the forward estimates.

KEN RANDAL It was agreed at the beginning that if the opportunity

arose, our two guests would like to direct one question

to each other. This seems like a good moment, so Bob

McMullan, what’s your question to Tim Fischer?

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 33

BOB MCMIJLLAN

TIM FISCHER

Well, a result of all these question and answer sessions

I’ve got lots of questions, but let me not succumb to

that temptation, and I’ll try and ask one about trade,

and it relates to the point that I made in my speech. I

just - 1 come back to it, recognising that bilateral trade

negotiations are often a two way street. What would

you offer, for example, to the United States, in return

for any improved access, if they sought from us

concessions about Australian content, or quarantine, or

foreign investment regulation, or any of the other

demands that they’ve made on us, what would you be

prepared to offer in return for that trade excess, in

addition to the suggestion you made in the interview

after your policy release about possibly making some

adjustments to textile clothing and footwear, and

automobile tariffs?

No, I want to say very clearly in answer to that, the

Jones Act, it’s now a matter of mutual agreement I

think is one of the very key priority areas relating to

access to the United States market. It is a piece of

legislation left over from the Civil War which blocks

exports of hi-tech Australian ferries to the United

States.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 34

No matter that little has been done about it until we

started to elevate the bilateral push in more recent

months, and finally, the Minister admits that it’s even

number one on his list. Well, he’s had thirteen years as

a government, and seven Trade Ministers, and very

little progress.

What we will be doing, I accept, is going into

negotiation against a giant, a David and Goliath

circunistance. For all that, there are scope away from

the tariff area - the tariff being agreed circumstance

here in Australia of negligible levels, five percent, with

the three discreet areas which have special

arrangements, but they too are not on this negotiating

table, namely passenger, motor vehicles, sugar and

TCF. I did not say that they would be part of the

equation.

BOB MCMULLAN Want me to quote? Do you want me to quote?

TIM FISCHER What I do say is very clearly, in absolute terms, that the

quid pro quo circumstance does apply, and the quid pro

quo circumstance may well relate to some of the issues

in part nominated by the Minister, but they will be on

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 35

the basis of what is in Australia’s national interest.

What I won’t cop sweet is a continued circumstance

where a country preaches trade liberalisation, a country

is our ally, and yet, a country has an absolute barrier on

Australia exporting a particular commodity, and

competing fairly, not only with regard to the Jones Act

on hi-tech ferries, but with regard to other products as

well, when we accept their export competition in those

categories.

KEN RANDAL Okay Tim. What’s your question to the Minister?

TIM FISCHER Minister, I’m happy to ask you that in respect to the

export market development brand scheme, is it true that

in fact the number of public servants units required - the

administration of that scheme, has doubled, over the last

two years? Is it true that the cost of that administration

has moved up from around three million dollars to six

point six million dollars? And to help you, I remind

you of your answer to Senate question 2250, where you

confirm those figures.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 36

And whilst I accept the need to eliminate rorts, and

there being far too many examples of that rorting, I put

to you Minister the question, are you satisfied that this

system is delivering, or has now become so complex

that it requires a raft of consultants to assist companies

to complete the complex forms, which I’m not sure

you’ve ever cited as Minister. I hope you have. Here

they are. We now have a consulting industry simply to

help companies complete forms for the EMDG scheme.

Do you confirm in addition to that, public service

resources, and actual costs of administering the scheme

have doubled in recent period? Why is that so? Why

don’t we get more performance out of the EMDG

scheme at the coal face?

BOB MCMULLAN Okay, if we’re quoting each other, let me first make a

quote as regard to the previous answer, where at your

press conference on the 12-January, you said, with

regard to a specific question about CCF and

automobiles, you said, ’there may be some limited

scope to point the fine tuning of change with regard to

those three areas to create a degree of leverage’. Now

I’m sure I’m remembering last night’s transcripts right,

but I know I’m quoting that one correctly.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 37

Now with regard to your question on the EMDG. It

was reviewed - it’s been reviewed to death, but in the

most recent review, independent review, it got a ringing

endorsement as a successful program that generates

enormous exports, every dollar of expenditure that

Australia makes, and was recommended, there was a

separate review, which I’ll point to, and which you can

ignore if you choose, but I chose not to.

This independent review said it was a very successful

scheme, and should continue. The Auditor-General

made a report, telling us that we needed to do more to

cut out fraud, and I don’t know what you would have

done in response to that report, but what I did was

accept the Auditor-General’s recommendation, and put

in extra fraud control. They cost money, but they save

the taxpayers from fraud, and that is our obligation.

TIM FISCHER I would design a scheme that precludes the opportunity

of fraud in flowing - something that flows from a

complexity of your scheme Minister, and I refer you to

your own application forms.

BOB MCMULLAN That’s as good as aggressive bilateralism.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 38

KEN RANDALL Okay, thank you very much.

LIZ ROUDAL

IA API

BOB MC MULLAN

The next question from the floor is from Liz Roudal.

Liz Roudal from AAP. My question is to both of you.

Do you think that it’s right that someone should be

locked up for two and a half months for advocating a

legal way to vote?

I suppose, to balance things up, I’d better answer that

first.

To be fair to the courts, the gentleman is not in jail for

advocating that, he is in jail for contempt of court ...

and I accept that our legal scheme requires protection of

contempt of court. The government ... I don’t know

whether ... what the government has said about this, but

I’ll tell you my policy. I don’t think people should go

to jail in Australia for what they say, and I think you

should be entitled to advocate a vote that is of a kind

which I don’t like.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 39

That’s not the government’s policy, but it’s my policy -

but, that’s not a question of whether he should be in

jail, because he’s in jail for contempt of court, and that

is ... that is a matter the courts have to act, to preserve

the dignity and standing of the courts in our society,

and I respect their right to do that. For so long as the

,law is as it is, the judge - I don’t know all the details of

the case, but we must protect the contempt of court

provisions and I don’t question that, but I don’t think

citizens should be in jail in Australia for what they say.

KEN RANDALL Tim Fischer.

TIM FISCHER I acknowledge the separation of powers doctrine and to

any executive legislature and the judiciary and, like

Minister McMullan, I am saddened by this circumstance

where, in a vibrant democracy, this is the outcome,

albeit for contempt of court.

I first clashed with Albert Langer at Monash University

many years ago in a Vietnam debate, but I simply don’t

allow that even to colour my judgement. I am saddened

by the fact that this situation has come to this. I am

constrained in making any additional comment.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 40

KEN RANDALL

TIM COLBATZ

(THE AGET

15 FEBRUARY 1996

T he n&xt question is from Tim C o lb a tz.

Tim Colbatz, from The Age newspaper - and this

question is to both of you.

Um, in the budget papers last year, in statement No 2,

which was drafted by Treasury, but nonetheless is a

statement of government policy, Treasury basically

advocated the twin deficits policy, arguing that the

current account deficit was primarily caused by

government budget deficits - um, and not implicitly, not

in fact by trade performance.

I’d like to ask both of you if that is your view, whether

you feel that it is essentially a matter of our trade

performance, or essentially a matter of our public

savings performance - and, in that context, how credible

is anything that either party is saying, when they are

simultaneously pledging to have an underlying budget

surplus next year, and promising no means, either tax

rises or spending cuts, by which to achieve that?

2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 41

TIM FISCHER I would, ah, say that clearly the strength of the

economy is enhanced by building a diverse and

comprehensive export performance - an expanding

export performance. It, in turn, reduces the current

account deficit; it, in turn, will help reduce the budget

deficit, place the budget in surplus, and build on that

further down the track.

It is for others to perhaps argue some of the

terminology. For my part, I believe that our export

effort, ah, has in fact drifted, when you examine our

loss of market share in some of the critical markets of

our region.

I believe that, overall, there has been some good

growth, but, at the end of the day, this country has been

running one to two billion dollar current account deficits

for far too long.

. »

We are a resource rich country. We have far more

resources than New Zealand. New Zealand is divided

between two islands, and yet New Zealand now has a

credit rating - an international credit rating better than

Australia’s.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 42

BOB MC MULLAN

I am motivated by fixing that and making my

contribution to fixing that by government ... the

incoming government facilitating an expanded,

improved export effort, which will impact on both the

current account deficit and the budget deficit.

Well thank you.

I accept the economic identity that the current account

deficit is the difference between your investment and

your savings. That’s a matter of arithmetic and I accept

it. It doesn’t mean that I accept that it’s cause and

effect, and I am not therefore totally committed to the

view ... to the so-called twin deficits theory. '

I’m not sure if it’s fair to Treasury to say that’s exactly

what they said in Budget Paper No 2 either, but,

nevertheless, I accept that there is a connection and that

therefore a key part of anything to do with resolving the

current account deficit is both public savings and private

savings, and the most important - by far the most

important, by volume, is what happens with regard to

private savings.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 43

But public savings is ... is a contribution the

government can make to improving the overall level of

national savings, and we should. And during the course

of this election, we have. The commitments we’ve

made have been less than the funding arrangements

we’ve outlined, but - I say, I don’t accept the twin

deficits theory, in so far as it implies cause and effect.

I think it’s much more complex and there are savings

elements of a solution, there are industry policy

elements of a solution, there are micro-economic reform

elements of a solution and there are trade policy

elements of a solution to a current account deficit.

And just one last point with regard to Tim’s response.

The OEDC forecast is that New Zealand’s current

account deficit next year will be higher than ours, as a

percentage of GDP. So that is not actually a very

effective advocacy.

KEN RANDALL Bruce Juddery.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 44

BRUCE JUDDERY Thank you. Bruce Juddery, freelance reporter.

(FREELANCE REPORTERS

My main question is for Bob McMullan.

Um, Mr McMullan, you went on some length earlier on

about the strong growth in services and ..(inaudible).,

manufactures and so forth. One of the, um ... the, the

key elements has been the fact that export of, um, of

educational services in the last few years, from

Australia ...

BOB MC MULLAN Intellectual services.

BRUCE JUDDERY

'

Intellectual, but educational in particular.

BOB MC MULLAN Yes, yes.

BRUCE JUDDERY Um, to what extent have they been damaged, do you

think, by the serious dispute engendered by our

colleague, Simon Crean’s either stupid or dishonest

promise to take a recommendation to the Cabinet, which

he knew perfectly well, or he should have known

perfectly well, he couldn’t, um, get up, on a five point

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 45

six per cent pay increase for academics and other

university people, this year - when he should have know

that the cabinet papers ... the budget papers said one

point three was as much as they could get.

Um, to what extent is that damaging the government’s

running in, um, potentially a marginal election ...

electorates, including your own, where you are the host

to ... which is the host to, um, important university

campuses?

And are you upset or hurt that the National Tertiary

Education Union has barred you from - or claimed to

bar you ... purported to bar you - from access to the

Australian National University campus?

And, um ...

KEN RANDALL We didn’t put a limit on questions, Bruce, but, is there

really more?

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 46

BRUCE JUDDERY

BOB MC MULLAN

Mr ... well, I want to be fair. I want to be fair. Um,

Mr ... it’s a different question to ...

I get another try, do I, for Mr Fischer?

Let me give the .1. let me give the three part answer to

what, as far as I could understand Bruce, was a three

part question.

I don’t think the dispute will effect our potential to

continue successfully to export educational services.

It’s been one of the great success stories of this

government. We have taken export of education

services from zero to one point five billion, and we

intend to continue to do that. The dispute is a cause of

reasonable ... real concern, because it’s ... it’s

disrupting ... it has the potential to disrupt the

university education of young Australians, and I hope it

does not and, after the election, I’m confident that the

elements required to resolve the dispute exist. I don’t

regard that as all that difficult a task, and I certainly

think it’s unfair to Simon to ... for him to have to carry

the responsibility for a collective decision.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 47

I accept my share of the responsibility for that collective

decision. It was a cabinet decision. I was part of it, he

was part of it, we were all part of it. I accept it.

As to the reaction by the Tertiary Education Union. I

was very pleased with that part of their reaction which

said that voters and members should put the Coalition

last at the election. I thought that was a very profound

piece of assessment, and I agree with them about that -

and if they wanted to be effective about banning me

from the ANU, they should have told me. It’s the first

I’ve heard of it.

KEN RANDALL A final ... this question’s from Pru Coward.

PRU COWARD

(ABC RADIO!

Pru Coward from ABC radio - to both of you.

Um, I wonder how much further our human rights

policy and our foreign affairs policy will need to be

compromised in the region which we are most

aggressively seeking trade relations - ah, and I wonder

whether there will have to be a change in foreign policy

to compromise the advancements in trades we’ve been

talking about today, or whether foreign policy will

come first?

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 48

KEN RANDALL Would you like to try that first.

TIM FISCHER Okay Ken - happily. I come to this audience as one

who, for example, has looked very closely at the human

rights circumstance of Tibet, having a made it to Tibet

for a period of time, visiting a jail in Lhasa, Tibet and

evaluating the whole horrific circumstance that pertains

to the Hun Chinese and their arrival in larger numbers

in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and it’s a very good

example to point to in terms of the concerns I have and

indeed the Coalition has, with regard to these issues.

Having said that, they are, nevertheless, part of a

complex web associated with a bilateral relationship

between Australia and China - and you build in-depth

bilateral relations by building trust, a dialogue, a wide

ranging approach of depth which can therefore allow a

diplomatic recognition to continue, even through the

most turbulent times - can allow the proper progressing

of the issues from time to time, which should properly

be raised. But they’re done in perspective, in context.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 49

So, my answer is that the trade agenda sits there in

most of the bilateral relations that Australia enjoys, is

legitimate for that to be pursued. But with regard to

human rights and related issues - they too have a place

in perspective as part of an overall successful bilateral

relationship between any two countries ... between

Australia and any other particular country.

BOB MC MULLAN My view is that trade policy for any Trade Minister, of

course, is a veiy fundamental issue, and it’s important

to the future of Australia - but we don’t live just in an

economy, we live in a society and we have broader

values than merely economic values, and we must

preserve those also - and Australia needs to be and to

continue to be, an advocate of human rights, across the

range. Sometimes that will be difficult. Sometimes,

not often, we’ll pay a trade policy price for that

advocacy. South Africa is the most obvious example,

of recent times, where we were prepared to do that -

and there’s ... there’s a small element of that, I suspect,

at the moment in Myanmar, where others are

proceeding more quickly than us to establish

government based trade connections there, but there are

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 50

need to defend and protect. But the conflict is not

always there and not there anything like as much as

commentators would suggest. Usually it is possible,

effectively, to articulate ones concerns about human

rights issues, without paying an industry a trade price -

most particularly because the trade is not very often

conducted between governments, it’s conducted between

businesses and they conduct their business on the basis

of their commercial criteria, and continue and succeed

to do so.

The ... it is also, I think, important that governments

seek to play a positive role in resolving human rights

issues, not merely the armchair critics or seek to be

negative, and most particularly there’ve been some

recent Australian government initiatives funding trade

union and labour rights issues in our region, to assist in

cooperation with the governments in this region, assist

in the development and protection of proper labour

standards in our region, which is, I think, an important

human rights question, and which we will seek to play

a positive role, over the next three years.

KEN RANDALL Thank you all very much.

15 FEBRUARY 1996 2 NATIONAL 1300 HRS 51