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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4948


Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:16): Mr Deputy Speaker, I note that the minister has provided rather general answers. I do ask again that the minister take the specific questions on notice and provide specific answers to my questions prior to the parliamentary recess.

I would like to go on in regard to the Australia and the Asian century white paper: what percentage of board members and Australian Public Service senior leadership are currently considered by the government to have 'deep experience in and knowledge of Asia', and how does the government define deep experience as set out in the white paper? What has the government done to make it easier for low-risk visitors to come to Australia, as called for in the white paper? What steps has the government taken to streamline the visa process? Given the importance placed on food security in the white paper, what assurances has the government provided to Indonesia that it will not again unilaterally ban live cattle exports, thus threatening Indonesia's food security? What has the government done to expand the Work and Holiday visa program to 1,000 places for Indonesia? Could we have an update on that? When will this expansion of places take place?

I also refer the minister to Budget Paper No. 2 and to the section marked Australia in the Asian century: business engagement program. How many Australian businesses are currently participating in that engagement program? How many grants have been made available under the program, and what is the average size of the grants? I point out that the grants are apparently available for amounts from $20,000 to $300,000.

On the matter of trade, I have a number of questions. I refer the minister to the 2013-14 budget for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and to the fact that funding for the department will be cut by one per cent in real terms. Which of Australia's long-running, free trade agreement negotiations currently under way does the government expect to conclude before the September election, given the government's latest budget cuts? Does the minister stand by his comment that a free trade agreement with China is 'overrated'—despite a joint feasibility study finding that a free trade agreement could boost Australia's real GDP by around $24 billion over the period 2006 to 2015? What impact are the government's funding cuts having on the department's ability to commence new free trade agreement negotiations? When did Hong Kong first approach the government about establishing a free trade agreement? What was the government's response to the proposal? If it was in writing, will the minister release the letter? When was the government's response officially communicated to the Hong Kong government? What reasons were given for this decision? Was the department asked to provide advice on the proposed free trade agreement with Hong Kong? If so, when was that advice provided? Did the department undertake any economic modelling to determine the benefits to Australia, should a free trade agreement be signed with Hong Kong, and if so, what was the result of that economic modelling?

If no economic modelling was undertaken, why not? What are the benefits to Australia from closer economic and trade ties with Hong Kong? Would the minister describe the potential benefits as significant or does the minister believe that a free trade agreement with Hong Kong is overrated as he said in relation to a free trade agreement with China? Does the minister agree that Hong Kong is considered an important gateway in and out of the Chinese market? Would a free trade agreement with Hong Kong give Australian businesses greater access to China? Does the minister agree with that?

I also refer the minister to the reference to Indonesia in the department's strategic directions statement. What is the current state of negotiations on the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement? When did the last round of negotiations take place? Has a date been set for next round of talks and, if so, what date is that?

What steps has the Australian embassy in Indonesia taken recently to restore the live cattle trade between Australia and Indonesia? What consultations have taken place between the live cattle industry and the department? Is the department aware of the campaign by Animals Australia Inc. to end live exports? Does the minister agree that this would have a devastating impact on regional Australia? (Time expired)