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Tuesday, 7 December 1993
Page: 4007

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia) (3.12 p.m.) —We have heard over the last three or four days various senators on this side of the chamber getting up and giving instances of millions of dollars being lost by businesses. Yesterday Senator Parer mentioned a company that is in this situation. Senator Ferguson mentioned today another company, Sapfor, which is in the same situation. I would also like to mention a company that finds itself in the same situation.

  Today Senator Parer asked a question relating to Voxson. Voxson has had an office in Malaysia for a number of years. Voxson has around $100 million worth of export sales. It gets very little assistance from the government or government instrumentalities. Senator Richardson has been to Voxson to try to assist this company but at that stage the ministry was changed.

  Voxson does not get any assistance from Telecom and it gets very little assistance from Optus. It is totally reliant on the export sales it gets in Malaysia, Indonesia and China. It employs 100 to 150 people, depending on the orders received.

Senator Kernot —It is Australian owned.

Senator BOSWELL —It is not only Australian owned, as the Leader of the Democrats reminds me, but also the only mobile phone company that has products totally Australian built and totally Australian designed. Those sorts of industries should be encouraged. They are at the leading edge of the high-tech industry. For those reasons they need to be encouraged.

  This company goes to an enormous amount of trouble and expends hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars in Malaysia trying to break into the market. Voxson is devastated to see all its efforts and work go down the drain because the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) cannot engage his brain before he puts his foot in his mouth.

  It is all right for us to come into this chamber and use rough and tumble tactics because we have nothing to lose. This business was started in the 1960s. It has been built up over the years and exports its products. This is the type of business that the government says we should encourage. This company meets the market demand, provides investment and wins export dollars for Australia; and what does it get in return? It gets an enormous kick in the head by the Prime Minister.

  Voxson is only one example of many companies that are experiencing this downturn in their business and investments. I ask Senator Richardson—because he has some influence in the government—to lend a bit of weight. We have to stop the rot in Malaysia. If we do not stop the rot in Malaysia, we are going to find that many companies will be very financially damaged.

  We can no longer have Senator Gareth Evans come into the Senate and pontificate about what is happening in Malaysia. The time has now come, before the rot sets in or before it goes any further down the drain, for the government to bite the bullet and do what is necessary to give these businesses not protection—they do not want protection—but a fair go. They are saying `Give us a fair go. We'll take the marketing risks, we'll invest our dollars and take the risks of investment in starting a business, but we cannot tolerate a Prime Minister going there and wrecking our businesses'.

  That is what is happening. The Prime Minister must now do what is necessary to stand up for the interests of businesses that have taken the government's advice and gone offshore and invested, and brought in export dollars. The Prime Minister—I do not believe deliberately, but because he could not control his emotions—has sunk millions of dollars worth of investment and hundreds of businesses that have taken the opportunity to go offshore to invest and create employment.

   Someone has to do something about it because we on this side of the chamber are not going to let this matter rest; we are going to continue to embarrass the government day after day until it finally has to do something to stand up for the people who have been affected. I urge Senator Richardson to do something about this, and encourage the Prime Minister to back off.