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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12083

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (19:15): The transformation that we have seen in China over the last 25 to 30 years simply has no historical precedent. At no time in human history have so many people lifted themselves so quickly out of poverty. They have done so using that old tried and tested method—they abandoned collectivisation, they abandoned central planning, they encourage entrepreneurship and the starting of small businesses and they unleashed market forces in their economy. They combined that with providing their people and their businesses with abundant low-cost energy—and, as always, that is what drove their prosperity. Yet it amazes me to hear the contribution from the member for Melbourne and the contributions from so many other members that sit on that side of the chamber. They simply deny those very factors that have been the reason for lifting people out of poverty and they want to go back to those old failed methods.

Before being elected to parliament, I made countless trips to China. I first went to China when you flew into the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong, and you would come in on a bit of an arced angle over the city and over the hills and over the mountains. I have travelled often through Guangdong province, travelling by car from Zhongshan to Dongguan and back to Zhuhai and Guangzhou. I have travelled countless miles over many trips. Over the years, each time I went I would see these amazing and remarkable changes. You would not even recognise towns and cities that you once went to when you went back to them a year later. One time you would be driving down an old, potholed road. You would be competing with people on bicycles and with horse-drawn carts, donkey-drawn carts and old broken-down trucks. You could come back to that same place 12 months later and there would be a multilane expressway with a median strip full of miles and miles of plants and flowers down the middle.

I have seen it in the development of their retail shops in their towns. You would go to an old town and you would see what would normally be retail shops, but they were little more than workshops facing the street with old roller shutters. You could come back 12 months later and that same area would be a boutique with a glass front and lighting that was the equivalent of anywhere in the world. I have also seen it in their sporting facilities. Mission Hills golf club, just north of Shenzhen, is a place that has come from basically nowhere to now have 11 championship golf courses. It is the largest golfing sector in the world. I have seen it in food. On some of the early trips I made to China I would fill my suitcase with Mars bars and a few snakes and a bit of bottled water because the food was almost inedible. When I went on later trips, the food would be the equivalent of anywhere in the world.

That is what we have already seen. That is exactly where we are now. Yes, we buy a lot of goods from China. We buy $50 billion worth of goods from China, everything from sporting equipment and electronic goods to clothing and footwear. People think we are inundated with all these imports from China, as we have heard in some of the speeches here tonight. We import $50 billion worth of goods from China. But we last year we sold $100 billion worth of goods to China. We sold China goods worth twice as much as all those goods we were importing from them—and that is just where we are today. This is only going to improve.

We are seeing a growing number of Chinese middle-class consumers. We know China has not drunk the Kool-Aid on global warming. They are continuing to roll out coal fired power stations. They are continuing to lift hundreds of millions of their people out of poverty. This creates boundless opportunities for Australian individuals and businesses, both large and small. These opportunities are of gold rush proportions. As a government, we can only do so much. We can get these free trade agreements into place. We can lower the tariffs. We can lower the duties. We can lower the quotas. But ultimately it will be up to Australian businesses and our entrepreneurs to take full advantage of this free trade agreement.

Recently there has been some famous dud predictions about what goods will be sold. I will go to a few of those dud predictions. Recently someone said, ' … even the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams …' But I would like to give you another dud prediction. This was from a former China free trade sceptic, a Mr Bill Shorten, before he was a member here, and he said:

What is it that we're going to sell China in the future that we're not selling them now?

I would say, 'What can't we sell to China in the future that we're not selling to them now.' It is not just agriculture. It is not just manufactured goods. It is all the services. I would say to anyone in the Australian economy today, whether you are in sport or in arts or in industry, you should be looking at what opportunities there are for you in China.

As a nation, we need to become more export oriented. After all, 98½ per cent of the world's economy is beyond our shores. This free trade agreement gives those opportunities to Australian companies. I would encourage every company, irrespective of what business that you are in today, to think about it and look at it and maybe take some of your profits or some of your capital and invest it into a trip to China to participate in a trade show and see what opportunities are there for you, because, as I said, these opportunities are of gold rush proportions for our nation.

I would like to quickly respond, in the shortened period of time, to some of the comments made by the member from Melbourne. He talked about jobs and asked what evidence there was that this would create jobs. Since 2007 we have already seen another 100,000 jobs created in this economy that are directly involved in exporting to China. You only have to look at one small example, the vitamins company Blackmores. Over the last 12 months, even before the extra access to the market has come in, they have increased their sales from $2 million to $70 million. That has enabled them to create 100 new jobs at Warriewood on Sydney's North Shore. Their British-born CEO, Christine Holgate, recently said, 'There has never been a better time to be an Australian.' With that I concur. She is exactly right.

I would also like to comment on what the member from Melbourne said about the tariff reductions. He does not seem to understand that those tariff reductions actually mean that Australian consumers, the average workers of this society, will get cheaper goods. That is what they mean. Tariffs are an extra tax on the goods that consumers buy. Removing those tariffs means that the retail goods that consumers buy—clothing, footwear, motor vehicles or whatever—become cheaper to the Australian consumer.

Also, on the issue of investor-state dispute settlements, this is something which is very easy to mislead people on by giving them false information, and that is exactly what we saw from the member from Melbourne, unfortunately, tonight. It is clear you need some type of investor-state dispute settlement mechanism if disputes arise. This is important in order to have confidence in investment. Chinese companies are not going to invest in Australia and, likewise, Australian companies are not going to invest in China if they are not sure those investments have some stability under the rule of law. That is what the investor-state dispute settlement provides. There is nonsense that goes on about environment and all this. In the provisions that are part of this agreement, there are general exceptions for all measures that protect human health and the environment. So the examples that the member from Melbourne gave simply do not apply. If it has to do with human health or the environment, those investor-state dispute settlements do not apply.

The schedule also has reservations which allow Australia to maintain our existing measures and reserve policy space to maintain or adopt new measures in sensitive areas, including security, human health and the creative arts. I would say those investor-state dispute settlements are, on balance, of greater advantage to Australia, because, if there is a case where an Australian company is investing in China, to create more exports to China, and there is a dispute with the Chinese government, the company has these investor-state dispute settlement regulations there to rely on.

This is a wonderful achievement of the coalition government. This free trade agreement will create more jobs. It will create higher-paying jobs. It will create greater wealth. It will create lower prices for consumers. But most of all it will create opportunity. This is a wonderful achievement of the coalition, and I commend it to the House.