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Wednesday, 17 August 2005
Page: 72

Mr TUCKEY (2:09 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Would the minister inform the House of Australian farmers’ contribution to our record trade performance? How is the government helping farmers to export their products?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for O’Connor for his question. He represents a large part of Western Australia, and a lot of rural exports go out of his electorate. The most important thing we can do is to continue to maintain the competitive edge of Australia’s producers and exporters right across the nation, whether they be in the cities or in regional Australia. In regional Australia, which is where the member for O’Connor comes from, despite ongoing drought in some areas, our farmers have been making an enormous contribution to Australia’s export effort. Remember that over the last 12 months Australia has exported $162.3 billion worth of goods and services. That is a record as far as Australia is concerned. In 1995-96, it was $99 billion, and it has gone up to $162.3 billion. Out of interest, the Australian beef industry has contributed $4.8 billion in exports, thanks to the 70,000 Aussie beef farmers, some of them in the member for O’Connor’s electorate. The Australian lamb industry has contributed $1.2 billion to that effort, thanks to the 38,400 lamb producers across Australia, a lot of them from Western Australia. That is a very important contribution.

The government are working on a number of fronts to help Australian farmers to export their products and to improve their competitive edge. Obviously, we need to maintain our focus on opening up markets across the world. We also need to maintain our focus on a competitive and efficient environment in Australia, and that includes the telecommunications system across regional Australia. The government’s investment in telecommunications in the past, and what we have proposed today for the future, will continue to help Australia’s exporters to remain globally competitive. A critically important element of this debate is that, under the announcements made by the government today, services will be delivered and guaranteed into the future. Fundamental reforms are needed, and will be delivered, to fund new infrastructure, encourage competition and safeguard services—all important elements of the package.

We are not resting on our laurels. We are not in a policy vacuum, unlike those on the other side of politics. All the ideas for reform and improvement are coming from this side of the House. We will continue to deliver good policy, sound economic management and strategic investment in essential infrastructure so that we can maintain the competitive edge for Australian industry and Australian exporters.