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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31784

Mr ROSS CAMERON (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (12:35 PM) —I rise today to reflect on a matter of great moment and significance not only for this week in parliament but also for our nation's history: the very last stages in the execution of what will be the largest free trade agreement ever entered into by Australia as a sovereign nation. I want to remind the chamber that there have only ever been two other free trade agreements concluded between developed economies. Most free trade agreements have been between a developed economy and a developing economy. Australia's free trade agreement with New Zealand was the first free trade agreement between two developed economies. It is still the most liberal free trade agreement ever negotiated. The second was the free trade agreement between the United States and Canada.

Those two free trade agreements have shown that the benefits tend to flow to the smaller party to the transaction. There are benefits on both sides, it is a voluntary agreement entered into for the benefit of both parties, but the preponderance of benefit goes to the smaller party getting access to the larger market. I want us to reflect for a moment on the relative sizes of these two markets. Australia has an economy of about $A700 billion and the United States has an economy of $US11.7 trillion. After doing the currency conversions, according to the Economist magazine, the US economy is 22 times that of the Australian economy. This is the opportunity which we are being given through this free trade agreement.

In the area of professional services, in which I have a special interest as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, this will be the single most liberal professional services agreement ever entered into by the United States. No other nation in the world will have the degree of access that Australian lawyers and financial services providers will have to the American market. In fact the Americans have committed to work with us in the various state jurisdictions and with professional organisations to try to accelerate access to and penetrate further into the various layers of the American economy.

Here we have Australia with 2.2 per cent of the Morgan Stanley capital index of global GDP and the United States with about 25 per cent of the capital index. This is a vast opportunity for Australia. So what is the attitude of the Australian Labor Party? What we find is a party which is riven with divisions, which is completely perplexed and which is like a marsupial in front of the headlights not knowing on which side of the road to get off.

This gift-horse for our nation, according to the conservative Treasury estimates, in 10 years will be worth $6 billion a year in annual GDP and will create 30,000 jobs for our children and their children. I see the member for Greenway in the chamber. Western Sydney generates 10 per cent of Australia's GDP. To apportion that for the member for Chifley, who is in the chair, it will mean 3,000 jobs for our constituents in Western Sydney if we can execute this agreement, and Labor does not know whether to pass the agreement. Labor has baulked at this magnificent opportunity for Australia and it has reserved its right to oppose it in the Senate.

To me, this is not just about the free trade agreement; it is also about the capacity to govern a nation. The leadership of a country like Australia is about the capacity to recognise and seize opportunities for 20 million Australians. Often, opportunity knocks but once. It comes in a time and tide and, if we do not seize that moment, it will pass us by. If anything disqualifies the Australian Labor Party from a credential to govern this nation it is their vacillation over this agreement. I urge all members of this parliament to get behind the FTA and sign it into law. (Time expired)