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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26106


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (11:08 AM) —This government is proud of its achievements in the job market. We have now got unemployment in this country down to around the lowest levels in the last 20 years. We have achieved that through sound economic management and increasing growth opportunities—and that is what this agreement is all about. The GTAP modelling that is referred to in the CIE report suggests that manufacturing exports will increase by more than $2.2 billion. I would have thought that would be a very positive thing. Look at what the automotive industry has said about the agreement. The Australian industry sees `new export opportunities' flowing from this agreement. Just think of the potential that comes from opening up the US government procurement market to exporters of Australian manufactured products.

The potential for growth in this area is great. True, it requires Australian industry to seize the opportunity. It has got to compete in a very competitive global environment but these days the Australian manufacturing industry is demonstrating that it is able to do that. In a dynamic economy there will be changes between the sectors and within areas of employment. Certainly, I have only to look within my own immediate area of responsibility, Defence, to see that. The Australian defence industry is now much more outward focused, recognising that it can compete in the global marketplace, that it has areas of expertise that are as good as, if not better than, those anywhere else in the world. What it needs are more opportunities to sell that to the world.

This agreement is all about opening up markets to enable good Australian businesses to grow. We did it through the Singapore free trade agreement, we have done it through the agreement with Thailand and we will do it through this agreement with the United States. We will do it through an agreement with ASEAN. It is very difficult to predict firmly job consequences because job consequences simply do not flow from one agreement. But if a series of agreements has the effect of opening up massive market opportunities which were hitherto closed, it gives Australian industry an opportunity that it has never had before. That is why we are not at all surprised to see these advices that are coming out telling us that the agreement has the potential to result in 30,000 extra jobs in Australia. That is what this government is all about, and producing jobs for Australians and all of the benefits that flow from economic growth are what this negotiation has been all about.