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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2295

Senator CHRIS EVANS —My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity, equally important, as acting trade minister. The minister would be aware that the substantive Minister for Trade is today launching in Indonesia a report on Australia-Indonesia relations entitled Expanding Horizons. Can the minister comment on what this report indicates about the future of the commercial relationship between our two countries?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The report that Senator McMullan will be launching tonight in Indonesia and which will be tabled in parliament tomorrow entitled Expanding Horizons: Australia-Indonesia in the 21st Century is an extremely important document, making it clear that there are very bright prospects for a rapid expansion of what is already a substantial relationship between our countries.

  While two-way trade has tripled over the past five years, we can do more together. While last year Indonesia was our 10th largest export market, by the year 2020 it could be our fifth largest under quite conservative assumptions which are spelt out in the report.

  The report recommends a four-part agenda for developing the economic relationship as follows. The first element is broadening the dialogue through, among other things, pursuing bilaterally movement toward harmonisation, mutual recognition or convergence of policies and regulations; identifying specific differences and means of tackling problems to prepare the ground for broader regional action. Associated with that, pursuing research collaboration in a broad range of fields, and providing specialised courses in universities in Australia and Indonesia on respective legal systems and commercial practices.

  Secondly, there is the element of improving our competitive performance in Indonesia by, among other things, identifying areas of greatest potential for forging real partnership relations, where Australia's leading edge strengths in science and technology can be aligned with Indonesia's needs and strengths; encouraging Australian companies to enter into consortia arrangements; and encouraging Australian contractors to integrate innovative sources of finance into project packages.

  The third element is raising awareness through, among other things, marketing Australia as a sophisticated society and culture and a competitive supplier of high-tech, high quality goods and services; increasing the content on Indonesia and mainstream curricula; and creating more opportunities for student exchanges with Indonesia. Finally, there is the promotion and facilitation of trade and investment with Indonesia through, among other things, providing advance notice on each side of proposed policy changes to aid predictability and reduce risk and uncertainty; undertaking research on the commercial viability of regional growth zones such as EAGA and the possibilities for Australian collaboration or inclusion.

  I should say that this report is the product again of the East Asia Analytical Unit within my department. It is the ninth major report to be produced over the past 2 1/2 years and is another first-class piece of work. In this instance the work was not wholly done in-house, but was the product of many outside contributors.

  However, I think that it would be fair in the present circumstances, in the light particularly of his comments this morning, lifting his previous vow of silence on his contributions to foreign policy, to acknowledge that the real intellectual driving force behind this particular report was none other than Mr Alexander Downer. On the face of it, it may not appear that Mr Downer has made much of a policy contribution to Australia-Indonesia relations or indeed to any other foreign or domestic policy area. But appearances can be deceptive.

  On the face of it, it may indeed appear that Mr Downer is not like those people who disappear without trace, but in fact is someone who has arrived on the political stage without trace. It can now be revealed that instead of spending the last six to nine months plotting, as we all thought he was, to knock off John Hewson, what Mr Downer was doing was slaving away, under four or five different noms de plume, to produce the significant bulk of this particular package.

  To be absolutely fair, I should also acknowledge, in the light of Mr Downer's statement this morning, that Alexander Downer was someone on whom I personally relied to conduct a significant proportion of the shuttle diplomacy on Cambodia in 1989-90; that Alexander Downer was someone who, it should now be revealed, played an absolutely critical intermediary role in resolving the little difficulty that we had with Malaysia last year; and in his most breathtakingly unheralded contribution of all to Australian foreign policy, it was in fact Alexander Downer who two weekends ago, utterly secretly, went up to Pyongyang and negotiated Jimmy Carter's meeting with Kim Il Sung.