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Tuesday, 1 May 1984
Page: 1382


Senator ARCHER(4.25) —I think it would be fair to say that I have just as much hope as the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) or Senator Cook has of improving trade with the great country of China. What I want to know is whether the passage of information that we have received from the Prime Minister is totally true, whether it is totally realistic, whether it represents the facts, whether it will serve Australia well or whether it was, in fact, the size of the potential market that has gone so far as to mesmerise the reality of the situation. I believe quite clearly that this is the point we are debating here today. In former days China, of course, was noted for its activities involving the taking of substances of a nature so as to produce euphoric, even if ultimately fatal, conditions. I am inclined to think that the Prime Minister is still in one of those euphoric dreamlands. He holds the belief that he is in the real world, that commerce and trade are for him, that the world is just a slightly bigger Australia and that the vast experience and knowledge that he has accumulated can be shared with others for the general world good.

The Prime Minister is also, of course, renowned for his great skills in many other areas, but I will leave most of the better known ones alone. Amongst other areas, of course, he is great in sport. We remember only too well the triumphs of the America's Cup, the Davis Cup, the Melbourne Cup and so on. But I wonder how he will fit in with the homecoming of the test cricketers. I am starting to wonder whether the great curve is starting to subside. Then there is the weather , of course, He did great things in drought breaking. We had big increases in grains and great savings of livestock. But what about next year? Perhaps the success curve may decline there also. What about the success of the United States economy? What about interest rates? What about employment? What about development? What about accord?

Yes, what about accord. I have before me a report by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations on industrial disputes for the week ending 13 April 1984. In this great year of accord, 19 1/2 pages for that week are devoted to strikes around Australia. This is at a time when the Government members are so proud of the industrial situation. Nineteen and a half pages of disputes are in that document, a considerable proportion of which disputes are totally outside the accord and the consensus, or whatever the word is. Yet still they go on. What about the mines in western Tasmania? What about the wharves in Melbourne? I see that $200m worth of cargo is stranded by wharfies on a go slow campaign in this year of accord. What about the new Parliament House in Canberra ? What about telegram deliveries? What about the seats for life in the Melbourne Entertainment Centre? What about non-contributory superannuation? What about consensus, the great word which means getting what one wants at the expense of calling everybody else a fool if they do not?


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Archer, I do not want to interrupt your argument, but I would like you to work around to the subject of the matter of public importance.


Senator ARCHER —I am saying that this is the man who decided that he had the great skills of the world. I am trying to work out what his skills are and how he uses them best. In fact, I am wondering whether he does not support the statement of Mr Willis who says that we might be the poor white trash of Asia. Why? It is simply because we are taking more than we are giving. We are now in the hands of the deliberate disruption and destruction of the basis and system of our whole way of life. We have only to look at who controls the arteries of Australia-communications, energy, transport and trade. One does not need to be smart to see who is in there and why. How much consensus is there?

The Prime Minister has a reputation of being Mr Fixit. It is a pity that he lost it somewhere between when he left the Australian Council of Trade Unions and when he became Prime Minister because he has certainly done nothing towards fixing any of these problems, unless one would call demolishing sections 45D and 45E fixing anything. I would like to know what happened to the people whom sections 45D and 45E used to protect. What will protect them now? The workers who used to look to those sections to keep them in work, to keep them in their jobs generally and to keep their families secure are now unprotected. What are we to do to replace that protection? What sort of protection will they get? Is it more important that we should look after the requirements of a few of the major unions than to look after the workers of those unions? I think it is time that Mr Fixit, the man who can fix everything around the world, started to look at that matter. Where has all this prowess gone?

His commercial experience is also absolutely impeccable! Senator Peter Rae made mention of some of his more opportunistic approaches to the commercial field. As Senator Cook said, he had a great record before he entered parliament with regard to all of the things that he did or nearly did. In 1969 we nearly had a hire purchase company. We nearly had an insurance company. We did get Bourke's. We nearly had a housing finance company. We nearly had a consumer credit scheme. We did wind up with Bourke's. On 16 August 1980 an article headed 'The Shop Shuts for ACTU' stated:

The store manager, Mr George Revelman, said yesterday the operation would revert to its original ownership after a four-week clearance sale.

That was the great dream. A Press article of 29 January 1980 stated:

The long cherished dream of ACTU President Bob Hawke to develop a network of union controlled and patronised retail outlets founded on Bourke's Melbourne Pty Ltd is in tatters.

That is the trading experience, the business experience, of the man who decided that he could go abroad and teach the rest of the world how to trade and how to deal; we should not worry about the professionals in the area, but leave it to him because he could fix it. Was it the great commercial experience that he had that encouraged him to take on both China and Japan in the one trip? My goodness , what an ambition! What a performance! I totally agree with Senator Button when he says that it is absolutely essential that we pursue exports. But we must be realistic about it and we must face the facts. We need to have in the negotiations the best and highest skills that Australia has to offer.

Where does this notion of the Prime Minister to succeed in the international field come from? No one on this side of the House or the other side of the House could but agree that the Prime Minister has the front and self-opinion to believe that he has all the answers, and he probably has the egotism to believe that he could teach the hardest and most experienced bargainers in the world about negotiating in regard to probably the two most difficult products in the world. Nothing that I know about the man would pull him back from entering these sorts of negotiations.

The beef business of the world is a rough and tough operation. It is operated by people whose existence is pretty tough. Australian beef producers should be applauded for making a living in certain areas of Australia. Negotiations in the beef business take years to set up and they are based very much on trust, understanding, performance, reliability and government friendship. In this regard the Prime Minister came back and clearly created expectations that were wrong. The statements that he made were incorrect. He knows so much about trading in international fields that he did not even understand what the people overseas had said! He made a complete misinterpretation of the careful wording of what they had said. He walked right into the trap and came out congratulating himself. He then said what a great job he had done when, in fact, all he had done was to agree totally to the cut that they had imposed upon us.

How many of the criteria for all the things that I listed that go with negotiations and with trading with these sorts of countries would this total novice in international trading have been able to provide? Do we have an arrangement that is based on trust, understanding, performance, reliability and government friendship? On what basis would he, or could he, have really expected to do any better? I would have preferred to have placed my trust in true professionals in the field. It is all very well for the front man to go along and wave a flag, but when it comes down to negotiating we need to have people who are proven to be successful in the area. If we had done something like that, the results may well have been better. I hope that now the professionals may be able to pick up the remains and restore the relationship and the sales that are involved.

Eighty per cent of our exports come from agricultural products and minerals. The potential markets, most of all, fully understand the unreliability of this country's delivery record. This was covered by Des Keegan in the Australian of 23 April. In part, he stated:

About 80 per cent of our export income is earned by agriculture and mining, particularly coal, iron ore, aluminium oxides and base minerals. The former is under threat from European surplus farm output and the latter from strikes and dismal metal prices.

Unless we improve our performance we will not stand any chance of getting any more of those markets, and we know it. The Prime Minister may well have dreamed up this steel deal when he was heading north in the rarified atmosphere of 35, 000 feet. But how did he cover the question of delivery? I wonder what sort of undertakings he gave concerning the unrelenting ambush tactics of that element of the mining unions involved? I think I know why the Chinese gentleman to whom I have referred is coming to Australia. I think he wants to have a look at the record of some of the mines to see the total unreliability that we have in supplying our contracts. He will see for himself the work that should be done in trying to get Mr Fixit to get the bandits to turn the ships around and get them moving to fulfil the orders that we have, so that we can be in a much better position.

I doubt that the Chinese would be unaware of the apparently unresolved problem that Mr Fixit seems unwilling to clean up. That is, of course, unless we take the action on sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act as being the clean -up. Maybe that was one of those things that the Prime Minister was referring to , as reported in yesterday's Hobart Mercury, when he told Ministers to steer clear of the difficult decisions and, in effect, not to talk about the things that might hurt. Not one of the potential problems of the deal with the Chinese is a problem of the Chinese. Every single thing that may go wrong is a problem of us in Australia. I, like all hardworking, taxpaying, loyal Australians, respect this. I appeal to those whose desire it is to destroy Australia to reconsider their aims and to help get this and other Australian ventures moving.

My desire is to see development of Australian resources and employment of Australian skills and capital. I believe that in this regard we are second to none in the world and we should be able to get it working. I would like to understand why the Prime Minister, on his return, or at any time since, has failed to discuss the matter in the Parliament. He has not made a statement of any type. He has not put anything down. I believe it is quite extraordinary that he should have regarded the trip as not worth reporting. All Australians would regret that the implementation-even if it is well intended-of his trip was so abysmal.