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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 22

Senator BURNS —My question is also directed to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development, Senator Cook. I refer to the minister's announcement on Sunday about the forthcoming industry statement, which will be a critical element in the government's continuing commitment to increase the competitiveness of Australian industry. Can the minister inform the Senate what steps he will take to ensure that the interests and the priorities of the Australian business community are fully reflected in the development of this statement?

Senator COOK —I said on Sunday, immediately upon being sworn in as minister for this portfolio, that my first priority was to prepare the industry statement, a statement that was initiated by my predecessor, Mr Griffiths. I have already acknowledged Mr Griffiths in an earlier question.

  The statement is and will be important. There is a lot of work in the very short timetable now for completion of the statement, but I do expect to be able to complete it on time. I think it is necessary that the statement reflect the views of the broad business community and to that extent I intend to undertake extensive consultations. I think it should also extend to the views of the Australian union movement and any other industry policy makers. I would be delighted if any members of this chamber wished to offer ideas too. I think it is an important statement and therefore should reflect the close working relationship that this government has developed with the Australian business community.

  On Friday I will commence consultations with the automotive industry and then, later in the morning, with the environmental industry in Australia. Environmental technology has been a fast growing export, I might say, and I think there are many fine environmental companies that will carve a place for themselves in the world. Their views will be quite important.

  Later, at a time that I can accommodate in my program, I will meet the fast growing communications industry, the processed food industry and the industry that has grown up around information technology. We will certainly be interested to know the views of these industries as to how the government can assist their exports, which are quite significant, to grow further. I intend, with Senator Schacht, to meet the small business community—an important lifeblood to industry in Australia—and I will be interested to hear the views it might have on access to capital to fund its development and place in the market. As well, I will meet the metals industry, the aerospace industry, the maritime and shipbuilding industry, the construction industry and the agrifoods industry.

  As I said to Senator Spindler in answer to an earlier question, we are operating in an economy that is looking at revising its growth prospects upward and that has notched upward in terms of its general economic growth. Export growth has significantly increased too. The global economy is, while patchy, showing signs of recovery and some of our main markets are exhibiting more demand. In all of those circumstances, the issue that I am keen to pay attention to is the solving of the question: how can we, as a government, help Australian industry capture the opportunities in those growing markets?