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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2392

Senator LOOSLEY —I present the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade entitled An island tiger: report of an unofficial visit to Taiwan. I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

I have great pleasure today in tabling the report of a recent visit to Taiwan undertaken by five members of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. The visit resulted from an invitation from the ministry of foreign affairs in Taipei for seven members to visit at the end of May. Unfortunately, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Halverson) and the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) had to withdraw from the visit at the last moment, so only five members actually travelled. The visit was led by the honourable member for Calare, Mr David Simmons.

  The first part of the report's title—namely, `An island tiger'—reflects in many ways the progress that Taiwan has made over the last four decades. I am sure everyone in the chamber would be aware of the history behind the forced relocation of the nationalist Kuomintang government under Chiang Kai-shek to the island of Taiwan in 1949. Since that time, Taiwan's fortunes on the international stage have been somewhat mixed. With more and more countries recognising the People's Republic of China as the sole government of China, today only some 28 countries recognise the government of Taiwan. Australia, of course, is not one of those.

  This visit to Taiwan was a first-class opportunity for those able to go to see at first hand the economic miracle that is Taiwan. Taiwan, with a population of 21 million people, has undergone a striking transformation over the last 40 years, from a largely agrarian society to being one of the most significant economic forces, certainly in the Asian region and beyond on a global scale.

  Taiwan's importance for Australia is undoubted. Taiwan is Australia's seventh largest trading partner, with two-way trade now valued at more than $5 billion. There are increasing levels of investment between Australia and Taiwan—$75 million in Taiwan; $225 million in Australia. Taiwan is a significant market for a number of Australian exports. For example, it takes 19 1/2 per cent of all the iron and steel which our country exports and 13.8 per cent of our aluminium, to cite just two substantial figures.

  The visit, although it was unofficial, did allow the members of the committee to meet with very senior government, political and industry figures. Members of the delegation took the opportunity to raise with the Taiwanese specific concerns which they had about access to markets for some of our agricultural produce in the context of Taiwan's desire to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

  Other issues raised included the question of United Nations membership for Taiwan, its future relationship with the People's Republic of China, and Australia-Taiwan relations in a bilateral sense. Issues such as improving educational and scientific links, tourism, business migration and environmental protection were also on the agenda.

  Since the lifting of martial law in Taiwan in 1987, opposition parties are now legal and there have been multi-party elections. The process of democratisation has not always been smooth, but the delegation was encouraged by the goodwill on all sides towards maintaining and nurturing the democratic system. As parliamentarians they were very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the Vice-President of the Legislative Yuan, or parliament, for discussions. I, for one, would like to see such parliamentary contacts maintained and strengthened wherever possible.

  In conclusion, I would like to thank the members of the delegation who participated in the visit. I refer to the honourable member for Calare (Mr Simmons), the right honourable member for New England (Mr Ian Sinclair), the honourable member for Throsby (Mr Hollis), the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Gibson) and the honourable member for Hunter (Mr Fitzgibbon), who each contributed in different ways to making what I have been advised was a most successful visit. On behalf of the committee I would like also to thank Mr Francis Lee and Mr Samuel Chen of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office here in Canberra for their assistance in facilitating the visit and underpinning its success. I commend the report to the Senate.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.