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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12111

Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (21:11): I too rise to support the government on the signing of Australia's Free Trade Agreement with China. I am particularly keen to rise to speak about this, given its importance to my electorate of Robertson.

I am pleased to speak on the Customs Legislation Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2015 in the House, not at a union-organised debate. I believe that this place is the appropriate place to discuss what the Prime Minister has described as 'a great day for Australia and an historic day that is good for jobs and good for business'. May I commend the outstanding work of the Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, in securing this deal, a deal that will unlock more opportunity, more investment, more jobs and more enterprise with Australia's largest trading partner.

This China-Australia Free Trade Agreement also builds on the positive outcomes already generated by deals with Korea and Japan in creating jobs and boosting economic growth. And it also sits alongside the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which allows us to harness the enormous opportunities in the biggest global trade deal in 20 years. The TPP will set up a more seamless trade and investment environment across 12 countries that collectively represent around 40 per cent of global GDP.

And with the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, we have a deal that will see 95 per cent of Australian goods exported become tariff free. This includes the abolition of tariffs on our agricultural products, as well as on a range of manufactured goods such as pharmaceutical products, car engines, plastic products and processed foods. It will remove tariffs on almost all resources and energy products, and will also open up more opportunities for Australian services. We have also secured improved market access for industries like banking, health and aged care, tourism, legal, construction, telecommunications and education services—all good news for businesses and industries on the Central Coast.

The removal of the five per cent tariff on Chinese manufacturing exports, electronics and white goods is also good for business, and will enhance our vital trade and investment relationships in this lucrative Asian region for decades to come.

But it is not just those of us on this side of the House who are endorsing this outstanding achievement for our nation. Let me share some comments with the House. Adam Kay, the chief executive of Cotton Australia, has described the agreement as vitally important. He said that more than 99 per cent of Australia's cotton crop is exported, the majority of it to China. And in the past two seasons that has represented more than $1 billion for the cotton industry. This agreement delivers important tariff cuts, and so Mr Kay describes it as a 'shot in the arm' for industry.

Noel Campbell, the president of Australian Dairy Farmers has declared that this deal matters, in particular for local famers. He said that it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for business. And it is easy to see why, with tariffs of up to 20 per cent eliminated over the course of the next few years. As the grand-daughter of a farmer who farmed in Dubbo in New South Wales for many years, I can advise that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will help grow the state's almost $1.8 billion worth of agricultural exports to China, not just in dairy but also in beef, sheep meat, hides and skins, horticulture, wine and wool.

The Minerals Council of Australia has also declared that the trade agreement with China is an unambiguously good deal for Australia. The council described it as a high-quality agreement that will deliver stronger economic growth, more jobs and better living standards. And in the case of the minerals sector, the council said the agreement will eliminate tariffs that add nearly $600 million in costs to the bilateral minerals and energy trade.

In fact, overall, we have seen independent economic modelling demonstrate that the free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea will together add $24.4 billion to the Australian economy over the period of the next twenty years. Increased exports and cheaper imports will also allow local businesses to hire more workers, with increased economic activity supporting higher wages. I am advised that real wages are forecast to be 0.5 per cent higher by 2035 as a result of the free trade agreements. In fact, the Financial Services Council says the China agreement could result in the creation of 10,000 new jobs by 2030 in financial services alone. So with this historic agreement secure, I am rally looking forward to working with my community of Robertson on the Central Coast and looking forward to listening to the myriad ways in which we can take advantage of this breakthrough locally.

I am pleased to announce to the House today that I will be hosting a special Austrade seminar in my electorate on 5 November. The seminar is aptly titled 'Seize the Opportunity' and will be an opportunity for residents and businesses in my electorate to discover how they can benefit from Australia's free-trade agreements with China, Korea and Japan. Austrade is designing the seminar so it can equip and inspire those attending with the very latest information to help realise the benefits created by these free-trade agreements. This will include advice on how the Central Coast region can open the door to market opportunities, grants and assistance, as well as some fantastic success stories that will no doubt inspire our community as well. It will also be a great chance to learn about changes to access and tariff, managing risk, legal compliance and other frequently asked questions by businesses in my electorate. The seminar will be at the Gosford RSL Club, just around the corner from my electorate office. It starts at 9am in the Pacific Room and runs till midday, with no charge, and I invite any businesses and any interested residents in my community who would like to come along to contact my office and we will send you the details. In particular, I look forward to engaging with our strong local services and manufacturing sectors on the Central Coast.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics last year reported there were more than 12,000 small businesses in the Gosford local government area, which matches closely with my electorate, and advises there are more than 550 businesses involved in the manufacturing sector. And an analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research has found that exports in Gosford City are increasingly strong. The three largest industries were manufacturing, generating $710 million in 2013 to 2014, followed by health care and social assistance and rental, hiring and real estate services. This China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is good news for those industries in my community. China is a major export market for Australian manufactured products, with exports worth $4 billion last year.

This agreement creates new opportunities for manufacturers, particularly those looking to supply goods to China's rapidly expanding middle-class. China currently applies tariffs of up to 47 per cent on some of Australia's manufactured products, including items like paper products, car parts, clothing and film. So I look forward to engaging with more businesses in my electorate that stand to benefit, and also with those people who have genuine questions about this landmark agreement.

I commend this legislation and the agreement to the House