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Thursday, 22 August 2002
Page: 5493


Mr BRUCE SCOTT (2:50 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Would the minister advise the House how Australian businesses are benefiting from the current economic and trading environment that has been created by this federal government?


Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for Maranoa for his question and acknowledge his keen interest and that of his electorate in the international business that is being undertaken by Australia's exporters, particularly from the rural sector. Over the duration that our government has been in office, we have seen a significant improvement in the economic circumstances in Australia that have been fundamentally brought about by the reform processes that we have introduced as a government, and business recognises that. Exports have delivered Australia export income of about $154 billion dollars in the last year, up from $99 billion when we came into office. This government's reforms have seen interest rates come down to around 6.5 per cent—reforms that have seen much lower inflation compared to under Labor, reforms that have seen us pay off $60 billion worth of Labor's public sector debt and, most importantly, reforms that have seen unemployment drop to the low rate of 6.2 per cent and have seen 970,000-plus jobs created across Australia in the Australian economy, real jobs created by the private sector.

This government has created an economic and trading environment that is great for business. We have seen over 400 international companies set up their headquarters in Australia, doing business from here into the Asia-Pacific region. This is a direct result of having one of the best run and fastest growing economies in the developed world. It has enabled Australian businesses to launch themselves into the international marketplace and for Australian businesses to start buying back icon products. We have seen many Australians complain about the loss of icon products out of Australia over the years. Last week I had the honour of participating in the announcement by an Australian company that they had purchased back from offshore, foreign ownership, a great Australian food brand icon—that is, Rosella. Rosella has been owned by foreigners for the last 40 years and it has been bought back by a company called Stuart Alexander and now has Australian ownership.

It is also enabling Australian companies to purchase companies offshore, buy icon products offshore, bring the intellectual property back into Australia and generate jobs in Australia. I will give you a classic example. The company Compumedics—who were in fact a 2001 Australian export award winner—are a small to medium enterprise manufacturing specialist products to combat sleep disorder. They export their products into Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Europe and the USA. They have recently bought a US medical technology company who also manufacture similar equipment. They are going to bring all the intellectual property from that company back into Australia and generate jobs in Australia.

We have often complained in Australia about the brain drain out of this country. Here there is a brain gain that is coming back into Australia, and it is all because these Australian businesses are operating in a very competitive and efficient economic environment because of the reforms that our government has been prepared to undertake. I might add that they are reforms that have been opposed every inch of the way by the Australian Labor Party. They cannot point to one reform that has delivered benefit to our economy that they have supported. They are still opposing reforms in the Senate as we speak. That is to their detriment and it is to the detriment of the Australian Labor Party in the eyes of the public. There is a challenge to the Leader of the Opposition to prove Laurie Oakes wrong in his article this week.