Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4013 ..
acknowledge that China, which has the fastest growing economy in the world, is an enormous potential market for Australia, Canberra and other countries.
The role of the ACT government, through the nurturing of the sister city relationship, essentially is as a facilitator. The ACT government is not engaged in business in China and it will not, of itself, become engaged in such business. However, the ACT government is pleased to be able to assist and facilitate ACT businesses in making contacts and in doing business with Beijing and other places in China. We see our role as a facilitator and as a partner in that sister city relationship. The primary responsibility for conducting business with Beijing and China lies with businesses, business organisations and representatives in Canberra that wish to do such business. That is the message that I have often relayed directly to business organisations and leaders in Canberra.
This government strongly supports and it will continue to support its relationship with China. However, the task of conducting business, making contacts and signing those contracts is the role and responsibility of business-a factor that is understood and accepted by business. I refer to the work that we are doing and to the strategies that have developed and evolved. It is understood and accepted by all those organisations, companies and individuals that are seeking to do business in China that the primary responsibility for making the contacts, doing the deals, signing the contracts and getting the business lies with businesses that see a future for themselves in that area. That is not the function of the ACT government. However, we accept and acknowledge that we have a role to play, and we play that role.
Only two weeks ago I had dinner with the Chinese ambassador to farewell him at the conclusion of his current term. In that context we discussed a number of issues concerning the nature of our relationship. There is a broad understanding in the Canberra business community about the nature of this government's role in and its support for that relationship. This government, as a facilitator, is happy to continue to maintain its relationship with Beijing. From time to time that will involve delegations from the ACT government, including the relevant minister, being sent to China. Our relationship with Beijing is quite clear, open and transparent.
I wish to clarify one issue. Mr Pratt said earlier that I had insulted the Chinese ambassador. That is an interesting interpretation of events that were obviously reported to Mr Pratt concerning certain meetings and confidential discussions that I had concerning Falun Gong and human rights issues. I am one of those heads of government who has the gumption, courage and integrity to raise human rights issues with representatives of other nations. I have said in this place that this government supports the right of all individuals, including those practising Falun Gong, to demonstrate in this place. I had a vigorous and unambiguous exchange with the ambassador about this government's attitude to human rights, civil liberties and the rights of all individuals to demonstrate and express a view in this place. I will defend that right to the death. If Mr Pratt believes that sticking up for basic rights and civil liberties is a matter that should be brushed under the carpet in the interests of some other aspects concerning our relationship with Beijing, he will find me wanting.
MR PRATT: That is all very well, Chief Minister, but where are the results? Why are you putting forward stunts such as the phoney sister city relationship with Baghdad when