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Monday, 6 September 1993
Page: 990

Senator BROWNHILL (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (11.12 p.m.) —I seek leave to table a report of a trade study tour of the UK and Europe which I undertook.

  Leave granted.

Senator BROWNHILL —At the end of June and during July, I spent about five weeks in Europe on a trade study tour. The object of that tour was to actively inquire into the operations and workings of the common agricultural policy—CAP; to see how the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was progressing and what would be the eventual outcome of the Uruguay Round; to assess the significance of trade opportunities for Australian exporters in Central Europe; and to investigate what factors encourage and discourage foreign investors from investing in Australia, remembering that Europe is the largest investor in Australia.

  The farmers in the UK, of course, have the CAP, which in the European Community is giving some $80 billion-odd in farm support. One farm I visited in Scotland had about 450 acres and was getting #60,000-odd sterling in subsidies, which is about $A136,000. That included about $226 per cow for having it standing in the paddock, and about $90 per ewe; and earning something like $226 per acre set aside. By law, they set aside some 15 per cent of their land for about seven months each year. It was a great revelation to see that first-hand.

  As far as how the GATT negotiations were progressing, I had the opportunity to meet with members of the Cairns Group in Geneva and also the Assistant Director-General of GATT. We all know the advantages of a successful outcome to the round: something like $US200 billion. One of the comments made to me was, `If you think you understand GATT, you haven't been listening'. It is very complicated and it will take a lot of hard negotiation to get a successful outcome.

  I hope that we do get a successful outcome. I am afraid I am pessimistic about getting real, meaningful results for the Australian farming industry, especially in the areas of access, even though some of the external support systems may be reduced. I think that the internal support systems will remain because the Europeans have always said that they want food security, and that happened after the Second World War. So it will be interesting to see the results. I am afraid, however, that I am pessimistic.

  I also wanted to assess the opportunities for Australian exporters in central Europe, which is now emerging out of the communist occupation that has basically been there since the Second World War. For example, in the Czech Republic and Poland I believe there are great opportunities for the Australian wool industry to be involved in joint ventures. I know that one venture with the Czech Republic should eventuate in the next few weeks. I am very hopeful that in the near future quite an amount of Australian wool will be going into Poland as part of a joint venture in that country as well.

  Another area I wish to mention relates to the environmental clean-up in central Europe, which I believe has been mentioned in the newspapers and also in the Senate today. I also investigated the factors that would encourage or discourage foreign investors from investing in Australia. At the moment there is a great deal of concern amongst the investors that I met in the business community in Europe about the Mabo issue and the question it raises with regard to investment in Australia, and also about the republican debate. As far as Mabo is concerned, people over on the other side of the world who want to invest here are very concerned about the security of their money if they put it into investments here—especially in mining and land generally—and as to what might happen.

  In regard to the other area of concern, the republic debate, I do not think it worries the English much whether or not Australia is a republic, but they do have a great concern about the instability that is being shown here in Australia at the moment. People overseas are concerned because they have always regarded Australia as a safe haven to put money into, and it is not a safe haven any more.

  Basically, Mr Acting Deputy President, the report that I have now tabled is there for you and others to read. The message is clear, in my opinion. We cannot expect the rest of the world to give us a living. We cannot expect everyone to change things just for Australia. We are really only a small country in a big scene on the world stage.

  Basically we have to get things right here at home. Things are not right here at home because our parameters that everyone has to work under are not right. For instance, our tax system does not give people the incentive to want to invest. Our transport system is not efficient enough so that people can actually get their product to the seaboard; our waterfront is still one of the most inefficient in the world.

  There is an indicator which shows the extent to which infrastructure meets the business requirements. In relation to port access, I believe that Switzerland and Austria—two landlocked countries—are ranked behind us, as is Italy, which is torn by industrial strife most of the time. It is quite interesting that we are ranked 19th out of 22 countries in an indicator which shows the extent to which infrastructure meets business requirements in OECD countries. So I think we have a lot to do there.

  My thanks to all the people who helped me on the trip. I wish to thank Tod Mercer, who is from the parliamentary liaison office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, and the other 80-odd people who gave me briefings and helped me on my trip for the 35 days that I was out of Australia. I appreciate very much the courtesies and the help given to me by the embassies and the high commissions around the world. My thanks are due also to Senator Cook and Senator Gareth Evans for the hospitality that their two departments extended to me and the help that they gave me on this trade trip where I was trying to find out for myself how Australia was faring in Europe and other parts of the world. I thank the Senate very much for allowing me to present my report tonight.