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Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Page: 1122


Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (14:54): My question is to the Minister for Trade. How is the government building the Australian economy and seeking out new export markets and opportunities for working people? What are the constraints on the pursuit of more trade with our trading partners?

Honourable members interjecting

Dr EMERSON (RankinMinister for Trade) (14:55): I am receiving unwarranted encouragement from my colleagues, but I do thank the member for her question.

The SPEAKER: The minister does not need assistance. The minister has the call.

Dr EMERSON: The Gillard government is continuing to do what Labor governments do in that great reforming tradition, and that is fashion and shape the open, competitive economy. There is a very clear reason why we are committed to the open, competitive economy: it is good for jobs; it is good for working Australians. That is why we are investing in a high-skill, high-wage future for our country. Indeed, some of the figures are coming in to confirm the benefits that are flowing from those economic policies. In calendar year 2011, exports reached $313 billion. That is a record in calendar year terms. I refer to the Statement on monetary policy, which comments on our trade surplus and indicates:

Australia’s trade surplus reached a 40-year high as a ratio to GDP in the September quarter …

That is a very important achievement in this quest for an open, competitive economy. I commend the Treasurer, I commend the former trade minister but I commend mostly the businesses of Australia who have responded to those challenges. The Statement on monetary policy also says:

… it is likely that over the next year the level of business investment in the economy will reach its highest level, relative to GDP, in at least half a century.

That is good news for future jobs, for high-skill, high-wage jobs.

There is further positive commentary from the three ratings agencies. All the gold-plated AAA ratings that have been given to Australia by the three ratings agencies were never given to a government in Australia led by the coalition but have been given to a government led by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. These are great achievements. There have been other reviews of Australia's economic performance in the context of the Statement on monetary policy from the Reserve Bank. We have got the International Monetary Fund, the OECD and even this statement:

This year, Australia's economic growth is expected to be 1 3/4 per cent; our unemployment rate about 5 1/4 per cent; our net government debt, Commonwealth and state, about 8 per cent of GDP; our collective budget deficits just under 4 per cent of GDP and net interest payments just under 2 per cent of government outlays.

That is an accolade. That is certainly a glowing endorsement of the economic performance of this government—from none other than the Leader of the Opposition. He is the very same leader who, when he is overseas, says that the Australian economy is the envy of the world and, when he comes back here, is into trash-talking the Australian economy. It is Labor that supports jobs in this country. (Time expired)