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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 25

Mr HARTSUYKER (2:02 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Would the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House of Australia’s record export performance in September? What policies will ensure that this performance continues?

Mr VAILE (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Cowper for his question. I recognise the member for Cowper’s electorate is a major exporter from the mid-North Coast of New South Wales. I am pleased to inform the member for Cowper that the international trade in goods and services statistics released by the ABS last week showed Australia’s exports in September reached $14.7 billion. That is the highest level for the month of September on record—$14.7 billion. The underlying strength in exports is displayed in the fact that, for the first three months in the 2005-06 financial year, exports were 12.9 per cent higher than the first three months of the 2004-05 financial year. So we are on a glide path that is increasing in terms of our export efforts. In the financial year to date, exceptionally strong growth has been recorded in iron ore exports, up $1.3 billion, and coal exports, up $2.3 billion, compared to the same period last financial year.

The member for Cowper will be interested to know that, as we move into 2006, the exports of LNG to China will begin and, of course, a lot of the equipment that is used to liquefy the natural gas from the North West Shelf comes from the member for Cowper’s electorate on the mid-North Coast of New South Wales. Those exports will also feed into increasing the statistics as far as our export effort is concerned. Members would be aware that last year we reached the highest ever level of exports out of Australia of $162 billion. But we need to do more. We need to create a better environment and a more competitive environment.

If our export community is to continue to grow and prosper, we need to work together to implement fair, practical and sensible changes to our workplace relations system. The largest manufacturing exporter in Australia, the automotive industry represented by the FCAI, supports the government’s view that we need to reform workplace relations in this country. The FCAI says we need these reforms to be more competitive and more efficient overseas in those markets. A move towards a single national workplace relations system is crucial to this government’s commitment to improve productivity, create more jobs and increase living standards for Australian families. At the risk of being criticised, I invoke the words of a former great Australian on this issue. For the benefit of the Australian Labor Party, particularly the Queenslanders on the other side of the House, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen in 1987 said:

In industrial relations issues, as in economic ones, the problems we see in Queensland cannot be solved by State action alone. It is critical for Queensland that the next Federal government creates an environment in which real industrial relations reform can occur.

That is exactly what we want to do. We want to create reform; we want to create an environment so that the Queensland economy and the national economy can prosper and individuals and Australian families can prosper as well. The Australian Labor Party needs to get on board with these reforms and join with the manufacturing industries in Australia which want to see these reforms so that they can be more competitive in the international marketplace.