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Thursday, 18 November 1993
Page: 3140

Senator McKIERNAN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask the minister: further to recent reports of Australian commercial activity in Indo-China, can he inform the Senate how well placed Australian businesses are to participate in the emerging economic opportunities in the countries of the region? Could the minister also give the Senate some information on the successes that have been achieved to date?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I appreciate Senator McKiernan's interest in this matter. I know that he has just returned from a visit to most of the countries in that region—no doubt they will all have very bright ties in the next few months!

  The Australian embassy in Vientiane has reported that, on 8 November, Transfield signed a development agreement with the government of Laos for $A1.15 billion for a power station project. The development agreement fulfils part of a memorandum of understanding between Transfield and the government of Laos, which was signed in March of this year. The project is the largest ever negotiated by the Lao government. Australian interests had to fight off competition from United States, Japanese and European firms and are now ideally placed to secure final construction contracts. Australia's solid bilateral relationship with Laos has underpinned Transfield's success in that country.

  The Nam Theun 2 is one of a number of major investment projects secured by Australian companies in Indo-China over the last year. Last April BHP Petroleum signed an agreement for the $US2 billion development of the Dai Hung offshore oilfield in Vietnam. BHP is a major shareholder in and operator of the joint venture.

  More recently, Telstra signed an agreement with Vietnam's director general of post and telecommunications increasing its stake in Vietnam's telecommunications sector to more than $A200 million. At the third meeting of the Australian-Vietnam joint trade and economic cooperation committee on 6 October, Vietnam's trade minister, Mr Le Van Triet, described the Telstra/DGPT cooperation as Vietnam's most outstanding joint foreign venture to date.

  These commercial successes in Indo-China are underpinned by sound and expanding government to government relations which have been developing steadily and surely with the countries of Indo-China over the last 10 years.