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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5396

Senator STERLE (2:09 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sherry. Can the Assistant Treasurer inform the Senate about the record international trade deal signed overnight involving the Gorgon liquefied natural gas project off Australia’s north-west coast?

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! On both sides I need order. Senator Sterle, have you finished your question?

Senator STERLE —No, I have not. What are the benefits of international investment to the Australian economy and, especially, what benefits will this investment bring to Western Australia and its regional communities?

Senator Cash —Thank you, Colin Barnett—it’s time!

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —A great question, and a great interjection. I will get to that interjection a little later. This is a very significant contract between one of the partners in the Gorgon project, Exxon Mobil, and the PetroChina oil company. The government, through my colleague the Minister for Resources and Energy, is pleased to have been invited to attend the contract signing in Beijing. I congratulate the Liberal Party in Western Australia and the Premier, Mr Barnett, and the former Premier of WA, Mr Carpenter, for their roles. The contract will see PetroChina buy $50 billion worth of Gorgon LNG over the next 20 years. It will buy $33 billion worth of Australian goods and services. It will create 6,000 jobs at the peak of construction. It will generate $40 billion of government revenue that will go to schools, hospitals and roads. Yet there are still those who question and undermine these particular projects.

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Interjections across the chamber are disorderly. I need to hear the minister’s answer.

Senator SHERRY —I am agreeing with the Liberal Party interjectors. Barely was the ink dry on this particular project than the Leader of the National Party in the Senate, Senator Joyce, criticised the project. He has been spreading his particular brand of division and insinuation with respect to Chinese investment in foreign projects, as important as this one is. Firstly, I point out that PetroChina will have no ownership of the resources in the ground in this instance. Secondly, the joint partners in the Gorgon project are Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell. It may have escaped Senator Joyce that these companies are all foreign owned. So is Senator Joyce’s problem foreign ownership of Australian resources or is it just a base fear of where some of that investment is coming from? Senator Joyce never lets facts get in the way of a random— (Time expired)

Senator STERLE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the Assistant Treasurer advise the Senate what other contracts have been signed recently relating to the Gorgon project? How large are they and how significant are they in terms of Australia’s economic future?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —The $50 billion contract with PetroChina comes on top of a $25 billion deal with India and recent agreements with Japanese and Korean interests. As is obvious, both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party support this approach. Unfortunately, Senator Joyce does not. The Leader of the National Party in the Senate does not like these particular deals. This Gorgon deal with PetroChina will return Australia more money for less product, yet Senator Joyce only sees dangers in these job-creation deals.

Senator Joyce —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The minister is misrepresenting what was said on the radio this morning. I do not know whether there is a point of order—

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order, but you do have an opportunity later, if you are being misrepresented, to stand and seek that that be corrected, at 3.30, after the taking of note.

Senator Joyce —Just on that: so he can say what he likes even though it is a load of rubbish?

The PRESIDENT —Senator Joyce, I cannot control what a minister will say, but if you think you are being misrepresented then you have the right, upon the conclusion of question time, to stand and take a point of order and let it be known that you have been misrepresented.

Senator SHERRY —Senator Joyce cannot see the investment boost and the thousands of jobs that this project will create. It is obvious the Liberal Party supports this project and that is great to see, but Mr Turnbull should exercise some authority and pull Senator Joyce into line. What about the other members of the National Party? Do they support Senator Joyce’s criticism of this foreign— (Time expired)

Senator STERLE —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the Assistant Treasurer reveal to the Senate the current value of foreign investment in Australia and the Rudd government’s approach to this vital lifeline of Australia’s economy?

Senator SHERRY (Assistant Treasurer) —The total stock of foreign investment in Australia as at 31 March 2009 is $1.7 billion. I have to say that the leading foreign investor is the United States. Senator Joyce said he is the champion of regional Australia and of regional jobs. Foreign investment supports one in four jobs in regional Australia and yet Senator Joyce continually criticises these forms of foreign investment. He is the grim reaper when it comes to regional jobs. If we were to adopt Senator Joyce’s approach, you would have to shut down most foreign investment projects in mining and in regional Australia and destroy thousands of jobs. That is Senator Joyce’s approach.

I am pleased to see the Liberal opposition are committed to foreign investment. We need foreign investment, particularly in the resources sector. This project is a great example and they should pull Senator Joyce into line. (Time expired)