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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 734

Mr RICK WILSON (O'Connor) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Will the minister outline to the House how affordable and reliable energy supports Australian exports? How would alternative approaches jeopardise the prosperity of hardworking Australian exporters and energy reliability?

Mr CIOBO (MoncrieffMinister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (14:48): I thank the member for O'Connor for the question. Like all those on this side of the House, I know he is passionate about boosting Australian job opportunities by growing our export sector. And he is right: the fact is that Australian exports have flourished under this coalition government and they flourish because it is the coalition government that has put in place three powerhouse free trade agreements with key North Asian markets: South Korea, Japan and China. In fact, the value of Australia's exports reached some $32.6 billion in December, the highest level ever in our nation's history and, in fact, resulted in a record export performance of a trade surplus of some $3.5 billion, which is also the largest ever recorded.

Over 2015-16, our net exports contributed to over half of Australia's economic growth, some 1.4 per cent out of a growth rate of some 2.7 per cent. So what these results show is a clear vindication of this government's efforts with respect to pursuing trade agreements that are good for Australia, good for Australian workers and, of course, good for Australian wages. In large part, our record exports have been driven by increased services exports and large increases in Australian energy exports of LNG and coal. And this is the same LNG and coal sector that provides the low-cost energy that is critical to Australia retaining its export competitiveness. While Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter with exports expected to be around $58 billion in 2016-17, according to the Minerals Council, we want to make sure as a government that government policy is committed to ensuring continued growth in the sector and continued jobs.

You would expect with that growth in the sector that the Liberal Party might be a little bit more committed to it. You would expect that the Leader of the Opposition, for example, would be little bit more focused on backing clean coal technologies like those on this side of the chamber are. But the problem is that the Leader of the Opposition does not care about coalminers, he does not care about those regional communities. In fact, he is more concerned about kale than he is about coal. That is what his focus is. His focus is about what he can do for those in the inner cities that would rather eat kale than what it is he can do about coalminers in regional Australia. The fact is that Australians can see straight through this Leader of the Opposition. They know a phoney when they see one, and let me tell you, Mr Speaker, they can always spot a 'Counterfeit Bill'—they can spot a 'Counterfeit Bill' from a long way away. And when they look through a magnifying glass, what they can see about the opposition is that they have failed policies, policies that are not good for Australian workers and they will turn their back on our trade and export agenda.