Thursday 30 September
Hansard of the Legislative Council
VISIT OF THE FINNISH AMBASSADOR
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) Today I am going to start with the Finnish.
It sometimes takes a special event to remind us that Tasmania
has potential synergies with other parts of the world. I am
going to refer to the lunch with the ambassador from Finland.
We had a lunch with the President. Her name, by the way is
Mr Wing - The President?
Mr FINCH - No, you know the President's name. Maija Lähteenmäki
is the ambassador's name and the member for Elwick was in
attendance along with the Clerk. Also at the lunch was Finland's
honorary representative in Tasmania, Andrew Kemp, who has
had a long involvement with Finland. He has taken three visits
to Finland. I think the most recent was in 2009. Also, of
course we know him from the timber processing industry as
well as many directorships. My mind, at the luncheon, was
very much on the potential for trade between Tasmania and
Finland. What can we sell the Finns to pay for all those thousands
of Nokia mobile phones that we bring in from Finland and also
Mr Harriss - We can sell them a better pulp mill than they
have over there.
Mr FINCH - Yes, and what about the Valtra tractors that we
import from there as well? We have not imported a pulp mill
at this stage; one of those kraft bleach pulp mills. They
know how to build them.
My colleagues have been to Finland on their investigation
of a pulp mill. Do they have 37 or 38 kraft bleach pulp mills
Mr Dean - A huge number, in the middle of cities.
Mr FINCH - Anyway, our talks on the day brought out many similarities,
but it was not about pulp mills. We do not have that similarity
with them at this stage. Finland is virtually at the top of
the world, being partly on the Arctic Circle while Tasmania
is at the bottom.
Mr Wing - Depending on which way you look at it.
Mr DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order.
Mr FINCH - It all depends on whether you stand on your head.
They also find it difficult to compete with isolation and
the distance factors. Finland, of course, has a large timber
industry; it is one of the world's top softwood producers
with sustainably managed forests and forestry products which
are competitive on a world scale. Finland also has some hydro-electric
power but is having to rely more and more on nuclear power
because it is a very cold country to keep warm in winter.
Mr Deputy President, while Tasmania could benefit from more
specialised trade with Finland, there is also a lot of scope
with development cooperation because Finland has a habit of
entering into joint ventures with foreign partners as well
as building plants and pulp mills in countries where they
initially exported machinery or equipment. Once they get some
trade established they look to building that partnership.
Trade opportunities would take into account that only the
southern portion of Finland is suitable for food production
and then of course here in Tasmania our summer produce is
available when Finland is enjoying the long, dark winters.
Their electronics industry - and I referred to their mobile
phones before - is actually the envy of the world. There is
really a lot to learn from the way the Finns do some things
and also it may be their political system - and I am sure
the member for Murchison will be interested in what I am about
to say. Finland itself has a 200-member unicameral parliament
or Eduskunta, as it is called. They have proportional representation
with 16 electoral districts, with six to 35 representatives
depending on the population. The Eduskunta elects the Prime
Minister and not the parties.
This is the part that I am sure the member for Murchison will
want to hear. There is an innovative way of dealing with enacting
legislation with great prominence on parliamentary committees.
One whole floor of the Helsinki parliament building is set
aside for committees and the concept of a bill is first discussed
by the Parliament, then it goes straight to a committee which
hears from experts from interest groups and various authorities
which then can influence the drafting. The bill then goes
back to Parliament for further discussion. In other words,
Mr Deputy President, committees are involved in forming legislation
right from the start of the process.
Ms Rattray - A front-end process.
Mr FINCH - Yes, and this is a very cooperative process with
very little of our adversarial and sometimes bloody-minded
approach that we have in Australia.
Cooperation in the Finnish parliamentary process is perhaps
understandable when you realise that no single party has ever
held absolute majority, so that is another synergy that they
have with our Legislative Council, where of course we have
never been controlled by a party but dominated by independents.
There has never been a majority government in Finland, yet
some of the industries there are world leaders, its economy
is sound and it is regarded as an extremely stable place for
investment. I just wanted the Council to make note of that.
We must also focus in a more disciplined way on the sometimes
unrecognised places where Tasmania has potential in trade
cooperation, joint ventures or just relevant things to learn
like the man hugs that we were given by the ambassador's partner,
Dr Nestor T. Vargas Gomez.
Mr FINCH - I in fact do not think our Clerk will ever be the
same after receiving what I am sure was his very first man
hug. I am sure it is not the thing that goes on at the Glenorchy
Football Club even if Akermanis does play.
Just in closing and thank you for your patience, Mr Deputy
President, the good doctor was also very insistent that he
and the ambassador were very keen to visit Tasmania again
during her tenure as Finland's representative to Australia
and thanks to Madam President for the invitation to join the
group for lunch. It was a memorable occasion.