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Wednesday, 26 June 1996
Page: 2267


Senator JONES(3.53 p.m.) —First of all, I would like to say how much I enjoyed being on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, particularly during the period when I was chairman, and then in the period when Michael Forshaw, Bob Woods and Graham Maguire were chairmen. During that time, the real problem that the committee had was to start and finish the China report because of other work that intervened on the committee's time.

One of the most important happenings was when the committee went to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to look at on-the-ground issues that we wanted to relate to the report. I have to thank the ambassador here for his assistance in having the foreign affairs committee of the National People's Congress issue the invitation to the committee to visit China. That, in itself, was a fairly great happening for the committee: to be one of the first Senate committees to go overseas to discuss some of the report that it was preparing at that time.

I also thank the secretary, Paul Barsdell, and his staff for the way in which the report was put together and for the assistance given to committee members on the trip to China and back in Australia where we undertook public inquiries and put down parts of the report. One could run through the report now and talk about some of the recommendations in it, but could I make a further recommendation to members of this Senate and to members interested in foreign affairs that it would be well worth their time and effort to look at the report on China.

I believe, because of the comprehensive way in which the China report has been put together, it would form a basis for either an historical or an up-to-date version of what is happening in China today. It would also give encouragement to business people, to foreign affairs people and to other people to undertake some of the recommendations that we make. I will not deal with the recommenda tion that is being discussed in the House of Representatives for the moment. I will leave that to Senator West. We certainly make a recommendation here in relation to the matter that is before the House of Representatives.

The visit to China and then to Hong Kong, where we spent some time talking to Governor Patten and to the Chinese main negotiator, Zhou Nan, was probably some of the best time that committee members spent, hearing the views of both men in relation to the handing back of Hong Kong in 1997.

The visit to Taiwan was done in a private capacity. I went, as did Senator Teague. We had discussions with a number of people but I want to relate to the Senate one discussion that I had in Taiwan. We spent some time speaking to some of the people involved in commercial enterprises in Taiwan. One particular person—I will not name people or companies at this stage—bought a high-rise property in Sydney and established a manufacturing industry making electrical goods, motors and those types of things. I asked him, `Why would you go to Australia to develop an industry?' He said, `I went to Australia for two reasons: firstly, we didn't have the room in Taiwan to expand; and, secondly, we didn't have the labour. In Australia you have the room and you have the labour.'

I then asked him an obvious question coming from someone who was involved in trade unions, `What sort of problems did you have with the Australian workers? Did you have any industrial problems?' He said, `No, we didn't.' I said, `Why would that be?' He said, `Because we made arrangements and agreements before we started the enterprise and we had no problems.' I said, `My second question would be: how many Taiwanese did you employ?' He thought for a while and then said, `One. By the way, if you would like to meet the manager of our world enterprise, I would be only too pleased to introduce him to you.' He brought him in and he was an Australian who had just been appointed the world manager.

What was said to us that day was that governments in Australia should give more encouragement to people from the Asian region to invest in Australia by way of some sort of tax or investment incentive, something to encourage them to come. He said that he came without any and believed that he did the right thing. He also believed that a lot of other business people would invest in Australia, would develop industries and would employ Australians if they were given just that little bit of encouragement. They now have a policy—I think they call it `Looking south'.

The other point I would like to make is that, as well as talking about employment during my discussion with the world manager, I said that there must have been other reasons why he would spend that sort of money in Australia on that sort of development. He told me that there was.

He said that one of the very important points he had to tell me was that, whenever he sells goods that have been manufactured in Australia overseas, he immediately finds a market. They are sought after because they are manufactured in Australia. I asked about the costs in relation to Australian workers, and he said that we were very competitive.

A story like the one Senator Teague and I picked up during the committee investigation is one that we do not hear too often. But that is the sort of story we ought to look at. If we are going to be involved in Asia, we ought to look at ways to encourage some of that Asian investment into Australia, thereby creating employment for Australians and an export industry for Australia. I think it is very important that those points be considered.

I am not sure there is much more I want to say, because I believe that most of the important points are contained in the report. However, I will further express my gratitude to Paul Barsdell, to the secretariat, to the people who assisted us and to the other members of the committee, particularly those who went on the trip to China. There are a lot more stories I could tell, but I know that other committee members have something to say on this report.

The visit to China, Hong Kong and later to Taiwan—for those members who went there—was one of the most valuable trips undertaken by any committee in the Senate. I think that is shown in the basis of the report and its recommendations. I once again say thanks to those members of the committee who played a role in both the trip and the report.