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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4718

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (MaranoaDeputy Speaker) (10:15): I rise with pleasure to support the tabling of our report from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on the trade and investment relationship with Japan and Korea. I say to the chair, the member for Page, that I think one of the great things we had on the committee was that we all looked in all our hearings to get the right outcome without looking at politics. It was about what is the right thing for Australia. There was wonderful camaraderie throughout what had been a very long process. It underpins the importance that the committee places on our trade relationship with two very important trading partners, Japan and Korea.

Japan has been our No. 1 export destination for almost 40 years and it will remain a very important country to Australia. Whilst we do not have a free trade agreement with it yet, I am hopeful that negotiations continue, even in the lead-up to this federal election. It must continue because it is important to both countries. I am concerned that perhaps it may get lost in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations that are occurring between other countries in that partnership, but I want to put Australia's interests and Japan's interests ahead of those others. From Australia's point of view, Japan is a very significant investor in Australia—I think our third largest investor. That remains important to us and also to Japan. In relation to the beef industry, it has long been our No. 1 or No. 2 destination for Australian beef. Coming from the electorate that I do and coming from Queensland, whose second largest export commodity is beef, I say that we must continue to make sure that we do all we can to negotiate an agreement that is complementary to our beef industry. One of the things I found and I am sure the committee found while we were in Japan was the importance they place on our food, be it beef or other products, and our clean, green image. That is a trading asset that we have and that we must always protect.

I also thank the embassy staff in Japan and the consuls-general that we met as we took evidence across Japan. I want to thank those companies and their very senior people who attended those hearings for the very comprehensive evidence they gave us. I want to touch on a program called the JET program, those students from Australia who go to Japan and live in a community. They are an inspiration to me and I thought: what a wonderful way to continue to build that relationship that goes beyond the high levels that we were exposed to. Those students were an inspiration to us and also great ambassadors in a wonderful program taking Australian students into Japanese communities with their language skills to broaden the Japanese speaking skills for those Australians who also to take English language skills into Japan.

On Korea, I have been very impressed by Korea's growth. As a former veterans' affairs minister I have observed Korea's growth over a long time since the Korean War. After the Korean War it was MacArthur who said that Korea will always need foreign aid. In 60 years they have transformed that economy from an economy that was an aid recipient to an aid donor, which underpins how that country has grown and become such an important part of the trading scene globally.

I want to touch very quickly in the limited time that I have—because I know I will not be given additional time—on the chair talking about the investor-state dispute in relation to the Korean free-trade negotiations. It is, I think, one of those elements holding up the finalisation of that agreement. I note the government's position, which is stated in the report, and I just want to say for the benefit of the Hansard that the committee also notes some important words from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the shadow minister for trade, the Hon. Julie Bishop. These are the important words that I want to reflect on in these few moments left: 'The coalition would, as a matter of course, put ISDS clauses on the negotiating table and then negotiate the …'— (Time expired)