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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 11945


Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (10:54): This is a great day for Australia. This is a great day for Australian jobs. This is a great day for confidence, enthusiasm and imagination, because today what we have seen is the parliament work. We have seen the government and the opposition able to reach agreement on this historic trade deal. And this is a great credit to Andrew Robb, who brought this deal home, and also, I must say, to Senator Wong, the shadow trade minister, who negotiated these changes with Andrew Robb. It is really good for Australians, and Australian business in particular, to have the confidence that the parliament works and on a matter as important as this the two sides can come together.

The Leader of the Opposition—I give him credit too. I described the Leader of the Opposition on one occasion as just a cork bobbing along in the slipstream of the CFMEU. Well, I have to say: today the Leader of the Opposition has struck out from the slipstream and charted a course that is plainly in the national interest, because this is a deal that always had to be done. China is the world's single largest national market. It is absolutely critical for Australian jobs in the future. It is vital—our biggest export market. We sell it today—not almost entirely but very largely—the makings of steel: iron ore and coal. The Chinese economy is in a state of transition. It has been heavily dependent on investment, which has been driven, over many years, by government policy. Every Chinese government for years has recognised that it needs to move to a consumer driven economy—a consumption driven economy. And that is why they have taken steps to ensure that Chinese depositors—families putting their money in the banks—are getting a higher interest rate in real terms. Wages are improving. There is a general concerted effort to do that. And you see so much evidence of that and so many opportunities for Australia.

Our opportunities in the Chinese market are limited only by our imagination and enterprise. And can I say: we are an extraordinary nation. We have 23 million extraordinary Australians. And their imagination and their enterprise will ensure that we have access to and benefit from this market in a way that even the architects of this agreement—principally, the trade minister, Andrew Robb—would not imagine. This is going to be a very big step for Australia.

Let me say something about the way the Chinese market is transitioning. We, in our lifetimes—in the lifetimes of almost everyone in this House—have seen China go from barely registering in the global economy to being the world's single largest national economy. I see the honourable member for Fraser at the table opposite; some economists say the United States is still a bit ahead, but everyone agrees that China will overtake it in due course as the single largest national economy.

When Mao Zedong succeeded in taking over China in 1949, he stood on top of Tiananmen and he said: 'The Chinese people have stood up.' And so they have. So they did, against a lot of challenges.

What Deng Xiaoping did in 1979, however, was to realise that China, to be prosperous, had to not just stand up but reach out, and he evoked the memory of the 15th century admiral Zheng He, who toured all through South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean, and he said: 'When we were open to the world, we were strong; when we became closed to the world, we became weak.' And it was from that moment that China began its transition to become a more open economy—a more internationally engaged economy. And that has been momentous. It has been an extraordinary shift, of hundreds of millions of people being lifted out of poverty. We are able to benefit from that, now and in the future.

We have seen, obviously, our ability to sell China the makings of steel, in particular—iron ore and coal—and that has been critical as they have been building up their infrastructure from, in effect, a standing start. But, over time, of course, the steel intensity of any economy peaks. The United States, for example, makes less steel now than it did in the 1950s because so much of that built infrastructure is in fact completed. So an economy naturally shifts to be one that is more driven by consumption and more based on services. About 80 per cent of our GDP is driven by services. In China it is much smaller but growing rapidly. Only about 20 per cent of our exports are services.

As China moves to a more consumption-led economy, the opportunities for services—our services exports are principally now tourism and education—grow exponentially. There are hundreds of Australian architectural practices operating in China today. The recent success of Cox Rayner in winning the contract for the big national maritime museum is just one of many examples of how Australian ingenuity, Australian innovation and Australian enterprise can take advantage of this market. The opportunities for our farmers are enormous. Chinese families can afford and want to buy better quality food and better quality drinks—wine in particular. There are enormous opportunities for us, and this is now made possible by this agreement.

We have a great achievement here. I am pleased that we have been able to provide some assurances to the Labor Party. As the Leader of the Opposition himself said, in many cases we are simply providing assurance that existing policies would not be changed and they would be dealt with by regulation. It is good that we have been able to achieve that. This agreement, with the consensus that has now been reached, is vitally important for business confidence in this country. A lot of people underestimate the importance of confidence in an economy. We have to remember that, while interest rates are at their lowest in human history, we want to see more employment, more innovation, more enterprise and more investment. What drives that investment and what drives those business decisions is confidence—a belief that people have that the future is going to be better and that there will be more opportunities in the future.

This agreement flings open the door to the largest single national market in the world. It is an absolute foundation stone for our future prosperity. We recognise—and I am sure all honourable members recognise—that our prosperity depends on Australia being more competitive, more productive, more internationally engaged and more innovative. That is how we remain and become an even greater high-wage, generous social welfare economy. There is no alternative. That is why every element of the government's policy is designed to enable us to do that. Every element of our policy—every vector, every sinew—is focused on more jobs, better jobs and greater opportunities for Australian business, and this China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is an absolutely critical foundation stone for that.

This is a great day for Australians, it is a great day for Australian jobs and it is a great day for Australian business. It will provide the additional confidence and leadership that our economy needs to continue to prosper in this, the most exciting time to be an Australian.

Debate adjourned.