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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13081


Mr RAMSEY (Grey) (10:15): I endorse the remarks by the member for Bruce. I too was on the delegation. It was indeed the 40th anniversary of our relationship with China, and we were warmly welcomed wherever we went and had excellent access to Chinese officials—who were too numerous to mention in the short time that I have available, but we did appreciate the very open discussion we had with the Chinese leadership.

Australians are mostly focused on our trade with China in raw commodities—that is, the mining products from Australia—but in fact the relationship goes far deeper and Australia operates a huge surplus with China. They are our biggest trading partner and our trade includes more than $6 billion worth of agricultural sales from Australia to China. We met with a number of businesses while we were in China, and some of the opportunities that are there for Australian business at the moment are really starting to reveal themselves. There is an emerging middle class in China, which is focusing on clean, green and healthy food. The echoes of the contaminated infant formula are still repercussing—if that is a word!—throughout the Chinese nation. So there is a keen interest in products from Australia.

While Chinese investment in Australia was raised on a reasonably regular basis—and the member for Bruce has already brought that point up—the officials were keen to point out that China should not be treated differently from any other nation when investing in Australia. In the light of this debate it was particularly interesting, for me at least, to be meeting with an Australian company called Lynch Trading, who are cut-flower wholesalers—the largest in Australia—operating in the Hunan Province, where in fact they have negotiated a 50-year lease, with another 50-year right of renewal—to develop a framing cut-flower industry in China. So just in that line of debate of foreign investment in Australia, and the oft-raised point that we cannot invest in China: in fact there are many companies investing in China at the moment, and that was quite interesting to me.

There are a range of other Australian industries operating in China, and they are very confident of expansion. Energy supply and greenhouse abatement were raised. One of the interesting points made to me was that the Chinese estimated that they utilised just 30 per cent of their hydro-electricity assets up to this stage, which is worth comparing with the restrictions we put on these areas in Australia. Of course, defence arrangement with the US was raised.

In Indonesia I was very pleased to be on the delegation. Indonesia is the most important country, I believe, to Australia—a moderate, democratic Muslim nation of 240 million; our biggest wheat customer and also our biggest thermal coal competitor. We covered a broad range of issues, and the meetings with Indonesian members of parliament were excellent and ranged across the spectrum. I was particularly interested in our visit to the Centre for International Forestry Research in Bogor, where we talked about the effects of palm oil, both on the environment and the economy; and the likely effects of the recently passed anti-logging bill in this parliament on their economy and their ability to manage their industry.

We went to Western Sumatra, as the member for Bruce raised. I won't go back through those projects, but they were very good for us to see firsthand. Of course, boatpeople were raised. And, once again, Australia's relationship with the US and the establishment of American troops on Australian soil.

I would like to thank those who assisted in any way with the delegation—particularly Ambassador Frances Adamson in China and all her staff, and Ambassador Greg Moriarty in Indonesia and all his staff. I would also like to thank the member for Bruce, Alan Griffin, Senator Ursula Stephens and Senator Richard Colbeck for their very good company and fine manner throughout the delegation. I particularly, once again, thank Peter Stephens, our delegation secretary, for his great work ethic and the well structured way he put together the delegation.