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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 54


Mr PASIN (Barker) (15:19): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on how the government is promoting Australia's national interests and strengthening our bilateral relationships? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches that would threaten our national interest?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinMinister for Foreign Affairs) (15:19): I thank the member for Barker for his question. I can confirm that the Australian government is working hard to strengthen and deepen our bilateral relationships with countries in our region and globally, for it is in our national interests to ensure that we have the strongest possible strategic, political and economic ties.

For example, this afternoon I will be hosting Foreign Minister Wang Yi here in Canberra for the fourth Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue.

Mr Rob Mitchell interjecting

Ms JULIE BISHOP: This will be probably the ninth bilateral meeting that I have had with Foreign Minister Wang. This is an opportunity for us to discuss a range of common interests and issues regional and global. Of course, in the bilateral sphere we will be talking about the achievements of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which celebrated its first anniversary on 20 December.

Members on this side of the House know that given the size of our population our prosperity and our standard of living depends upon the ability of our businesses—small, medium and large—to export our goods and services to marketplaces around the world. Last year, under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and more broadly, our merchandise exports to China were worth about $75 billion and our services exports to China about $10.7 billion.

In relation to the member for Barker's own state of South Australia, last year one-fifth of all exports from South Australia went to China. In particular areas of interest to the member, bottled wine exports increased by 40 per cent, the export of fresh and chilled abalone increased by about 50 per cent and there was an increase in the export of navel oranges by about 55 per cent. Impi Highland, which is a citrus grower in Renmark, said that pursuant to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the implementation of it the Chinese market was now a game changer for the citrus industry. That is another example of how important these free trade deals are.

I have been asked if there are any alternative approaches. Sadly, I have to say that the Labor Party has a very patchy record when it comes to trade agreements, even though they are about promoting more Australian jobs. It was up to the coalition to ensure that we negotiated the free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea after years of absolute inactivity. I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition also has form—he encouraged that xenophobic union campaign against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. On this side of the House we know that more marketplaces give more opportunities for export businesses, which means more jobs. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The member for Petrie on a point of order.

Mr Howarth: The member for McEwen was making sexist comments to the foreign minister then, at the start of that question, and I would ask him to withdraw.

The SPEAKER: The member for Petrie well knows it is impossible for me to hear everything that is uttered across the chamber. All I can do is ask the member for McEwen whether he used unparliamentary language or reflected upon a member.

Mr Rob Mitchell: No, I didn't.

The SPEAKER: The member for McEwen will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business has the call.