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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3348


Mr MELHAM ( Banks ) ( 19:44 ): In early April, the Prime Minister led the most senior ministerial delegation to visit China. My electorate of Banks has one of the highest numbers of overseas born Chinese in this country, together with those who have Chinese parentage. Regardless of the circumstances in which people chose to come to Australia, I am sure that they are pleased with this government's ongoing commitment to strong relations with their home country.

The Prime Minister used the opportunity to brief President Xi Jinping on the release of the government's white paper on Australia in the Asian Century and the policy underlying that white paper for expanding and diversifying our relationship; not just our economic relationship, but also education links, science, cultural and arts links. In addition there were several key issues under discussion.

On trade and finance, Australia and China continue to work together on a free trade agreement. Both countries have complex economies, so this will take some time; however, both countries are working toward a positive outcome in due course. One of the outcomes of discussions which I am sure will be of interest to my constituents is the start of direct trading between the Australian dollar and the Chinese renminbi. This will make it easier for Australian businesses, both large and small, to buy and sell into the Chinese market.

On tourism, the Prime Minister announced that Australia will move towards facilitated border clearance for the growing number of Chinese tourists and business travellers through a pilot scheme to make SmartGate open to Chinese e-passport holders. I also note the announcement of the plan for an Australia Week in China, to be based in Shanghai, as a showcase of the best Australia has to offer in tourism, trade and investment.

On defence, both countries launched a strategic policy exchange, bringing together officials of Australia's Department of Defence and China's People's Liberation Army to discuss regional security issues and an inaugural Australia-China Military Friendship and Culture Week to be held in Canberra in September-October 2013. On clean energy, China and Australia have agreed to new arrangements to strengthen collaboration on carbon markets. Australia is sharing information on the design and implementation of emissions trading schemes through technical workshops and joint research projects.

Apart from the specific issues I have identified, a critical outcome was the agreement by the leaders to upgraded bilateral architecture based on an annual leaders meeting and ministerial-level economic, foreign and strategic dialogues. These arrangements will provide a modern platform to give renewed strategic direction to the relationship.

As the local member for almost 28,000 people of Chinese origin, I am very proud that it is this government which has continued to build on the relationship established by Gough Whitlam through his visit to forge relations with the Chinese government in 1971—a visit, I remind the House, that was criticised by the coalition at the time, but a visit that has served this country well in our relationship with China. I am also aware that many of my constituents were able to stay in Australia because of the Hawke government's decision in 1989 to allow student visa holders a visa extension after the Tiananmen Square incident.

Today the Labor Party has an excellent relationship with China and with those from China who now choose to make their home in Australia. The acceptance of China-Australians in this country today is particularly pleasing, because it was not always so. There was the fear of the yellow hordes post the Second World War. Prior to that there was the appalling treatment of Chinese who were here working in the mines and other places. It was a fear that was based on ignorance and prejudice. What Chinese-Australians have shown is a capacity for hard work and a capacity for the family and they have won the respect of the rest of the Australian community in terms of the way they involve themselves in not just the business community but in other activities within Australia. What it shows is once you start to interact and involve yourself in those communities, that ignorance and prejudice just flows out of you and what we have is an enrichment of this country. Chinese migration to this country has enriched Australia. We are the better for it and we are the better for our relationship with China.