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Wednesday, 14 December 1983
Page: 3759

Senator MAGUIRE(3.29) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The 1982-83 annual report of the Department of Trade indicates that in that financial year, following two disappointing years, Australia's exports grew by 13 per cent. The report confirms that in that year we had a positive balance of trade, after a deficit in the previous year. That is a very welcome development. It also indicates that the higher export values in the last financial year were due to higher contract prices for minerals and, very encouragingly, stronger growth in manufactured exports, something which is long overdue.

It is very striking that in 1982-83 the share of rural products in Australia's exports fell to 36 per cent compared with a figure of in excess of 40 per cent in the previous year. That 36 per cent share of exports possibly is the lowest in Australia's history. Of course, in that financial year the figures reflected the drought which affected most States of Australia. Most of the farming community was affected. It also reflected the poor world prices for various Australian export commodities. It was said once that Australia rides on the sheep's back but I think the figures for 1982-83 give some suggestion that certainly in that year that was not the case.

For example, last financial year 45 per cent of all Australia's exports came from minerals, fuels-for example, coal-and metal products, a figure now well in excess of the share of exports contributed by the rural sector. It is very striking that last financial year the exports in the minerals group grew by some 28 per cent, a very rapid growth indeed. In fact, in recent years the minerals group has been contributing most of Australia's export growth. It is very encouraging that in the last financial year exports to member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations grew very rapidly and there was good growth in our exports to the People's Republic of China. The Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade is looking at that subject at the moment to try to encourage further growth in trade with China.

One matter which concerns me greatly in relation to our balance of payments is the growing share of invisible items incurred by Australia. For example, in 1979 -80-three financial years ago-intangible items in the balance of payments cost Australia $4.7 billion. But in 1982-83 the intangible items-that is, royalties, copyright, property income and so forth-exceeded $6 billion for the first time, a very rapid growth in the intangible element of Australia's balance of payments . Those intangibles or invisibles now actually cost us in the order of 30 per cent of the total value of our exports. I think that matter really needs to be looked at.

It is very striking that of that component of intangible items the one known as other property income-that does not include all property income-grew by 80 per cent in three financial years to a massive $3,400m. Over $3,000m each year is now being taken from Australia in the form of property income. Over that same period of three financial years the cost to Australia in respect of royalties and copyrights grew by over 50 per cent. I think it is time that those intangible items in our balance of payments were the subject of a comprehensive study to identify the trends at work, to try to establish what causes are at work and perhaps to identify areas where Australia and Australian firms could contribute more.

Question resolved in the affirmative.