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Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Page: 2066

Senator MURPHY —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. I refer the minister to the activities involved in the trade expo Australia Today: Indonesia `94 being held in Jakarta which is the largest promotion of Australian goods and services yet to take place anywhere in the world. I particularly refer to the area of agriculture, and ask: can the minister advise the Senate what Australia can do to assist Indonesia in its agricultural development and what benefits Australia might gain from doing so?

Senator COLLINS —The answer to both questions is: a great deal. There is substantial scope for development of Indonesia's agricultural sector and Australia is very well placed to assist. Many agricultural industries in Indonesia are only now just emerging from their traditional patterns of production and distribution towards modern agricultural and commercial practice.

  The high levels of technical research and marketing skills that are possessed by the Australian rural sector can readily be transferred to Indonesia, earning income for Australia from the export of these services. In recognition of this potential, the Australian and Indonesian governments established a working group on agriculture and food cooperation as one of the initiatives coming out of the Australia-Indonesia ministerial forum which is due to convene again in Canberra this year.

  The working group has identified many opportunities for commercial cooperation in the food and agricultural sectors where Australia and Indonesia have complementary interests. Importantly, by conducting business forums to coincide with working group meetings, the process itself has raised the awareness of these opportunities within Indonesian and Australian businesses. There are numerous opportunities for the development of Australian trade with Indonesia, particularly in the horticulture, meat and livestock, dairy and food processing industries, and the working group has established task forces for each of these areas.

  It might be of some interest to the Senate to know that the agricultural working group, even though it has been established for only a relatively short time, has facilitated the development of three new joint ventures in meat and livestock and two potential joint ventures in horticulture. Its last meeting also resulted in the Indonesian government agreeing to relax the existing restrictions on the export of live cattle from northern Australia—that was for steers only—which will mean millions of dollars of additional income which, whilst it might not have a huge impact on the national picture, is of enormous importance to regional Australia.

  Our rapidly developing skills in land and water management are also being keenly sought after by the Indonesians and other Asian countries as they begin to confront problems of overstocking and scarce water resources. The development of Indonesian food industries has been restricted by underdeveloped food storage, transport and distribution infrastructure. Australian firms are ready and able to develop these services, which will expand the potential markets that our exports can access. The working group is also a useful forum for bilateral negotiations on regulatory and other impediments on trade. I have just mentioned one regulatory impediment which was removed at the last meeting of the working group.

  I join Senator Gareth Evans in welcoming the accelerated liberalisation of Indonesian markets. I understand that tariffs on agricultural products are to be reduced by five per cent with some raw material inputs to have a zero tariff. A senior executive of the Department of Primary Industries and Energy will visit Indonesia this week to continue the dialogue with trade and agricultural representatives of the Indonesian government. The experience of this working group in the short time that it has been established clearly demonstrates the mutual benefit to be gained by further integrating the economies of Australia and Asia.