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Thursday, 1 March 1984
Page: 249


Senator CHILDS(5.23) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The Foreign Investment Review Board report of 1983 is a significant paper. I have certainly spoken on all other reports before this chamber since I have been here. I believe that one of the basic principles of the Australian Labor Party in the age of foreign investment is the maintenance and support for a competitive, non-monopolistic private sector, including small business and farming, controlled and owned by Australians operating with clear social guidelines and objectives. The words 'controlled and owned by Australians' are fundamental to Labor's position on the private sector. Indeed, I feel there is wide support throughout the community for the retention of Australian control and ownership of the Australian economy.

I am greatly concerned at the extent to which our industry is foreign controlled and the likelihood that this foreign control will increase further unless preventive action is taken. This report has to be considered against the background of the vastly increasing foreign control that has occurred in the last few years. That increasing foreign domination of the Australian economy by the foreign-based transnational corporations endangers our foreign sovereignty and places our resources, technology and the leading role in determining the future pattern of development under the control of corporations whose interests are not in accord with the best interests of our nation. Furthermore, the international scale and enormous economic power impinge upon the effectiveness of the traditional tools of government and economic management. Indeed, they reduce the authority of the elected government over the national economy.

One matter of concern to me is the continuing tendency for foreign investors to acquire existing businesses rather than establishing new businesses. The 1982-83 report shows that out of 944 foreign investment proposals only 43 involve the establishment of new businesses. The other 901 proposals related to acquisitions of existing Australian businesses. I am also disturbed to see that of the 43 new businesses almost half-21-were proposed for the finance and insurance sector. This disturbs me because the finance sector is a strategic sector of our economy . I believe that we should restrict foreign entry into the strategic sectors of the economy. Yet even before the Martin Review of the Australian Financial System has been published it seems as though foreign interests are making a major push into the finance sector of our economy.

Another matter of some concern revealed in the report before us relates to the manufacturing sector. Of a total of 187 foreign investment programs in the manufacturing sector, only three involve the establishment of new businesses. At a time when Australia desperately needs new growth in our manufacturing sector only three foreign investment proposals out of an overall total of 944 related to new manufacturing business. I feel that this emphasises the Labor Party platform which is a vital platform when referring to overseas control. We do not object to overseas investment in Australia, but the reference in the Labor Party platform points out that we want that investment only when it introduces beneficial new technology and expertise, increases employment, expands taxable capacity, and otherwise shows itself to be in Australia's national interest. Unfortunately a table in the last report showing foreign investment as a proportion of net private investment expenditure has not been reproduced in this report. Time does not allow me to refer to this any further except to say that I think the figures in the last three reports showed a very significant and alarming situation concerning foreign investment as a proportion of net private investment expenditure. I hope that in the next report we will get a proper detailed analysis of what has happened in this area in the period under review.