Thursday 30 September 2010
Hansard of the Legislative Council
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 Maija Lähteenmäki.

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 the -

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 there?

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 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.

Members laughing.

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.