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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21563

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (9:55 AM) —This time next week we will see two of the world's most important leaders visiting Australia and addressing a joint sitting of the federal parliament. These visits by the United States President, George W. Bush, and the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, mark a historic occasion at a time of great opportunity for Australia. I welcome both of these world leaders to the nation's capital as it is essential that we continue to further strengthen the relationship between our countries.

President Bush's visit comes as this government continues to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States. Australia can only stand to benefit by the establishment of an agreement with the United States. With a population of 330 million, the United States boasts the world's largest economy. As the federal member for Maranoa, I represent a large rural electorate that would enjoy significant opportunities by gaining access to the United States under a free trade agreement in the areas of agriculture particularly, education, science and technology, to name a few of the industries in my electorate.

Specifically, one of the industries in my electorate that would prosper under a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States is the beef industry, and I would like to share some details of that industry in my area with the committee this morning. The industry includes the OBE Beef producers' group in Western Queensland, who are organic beef producers. It also includes producers who are establishing valuable niche markets: companies like Stockyard; the Stanbroke Pastoral Company, with their Diamantina brand of product; and the Australian Agricultural Company, with their 1824 Aged to Perfection beef. A bilateral free trade agreement represents valuable niche market opportunities for these companies, which have large investments in my electorate. Other beneficiaries include the wine industry in the Granite Belt and elsewhere in the electorate—they are already establishing a very important presence in the United States—and horticultural industries, including mandarin, lemon and table grape producers in Central Queensland, the St George region and other parts of Western Queensland. I would like to reiterate the trade minister's comments at a luncheon in Canberra earlier this year. He said:

... a Free Trade Agreement ... is—without question—the most significant bilateral trade negotiation in Australia's history, and a singular opportunity for Australia.

The minister also said—and I could not agree more—that Australia is not going to compromise its strict quarantine regime or compromise the farm sector.

Finally, I would like to add that the Chinese President, who leads one of the largest populations in the world, is an important visitor who will be welcomed in Australia. This government, through the Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, has already started work on a scoping study of the opportunities for a bilateral free trade agreement between Australia and China. This will be an important opportunity. A bilateral free trade agreement with China somewhere down the track will be important to the future prosperity of both countries. Australia's relationship with the United States of America has stood firm throughout the past century. We are both strong democracies that share common values. We as a coalition have always been prepared to share our international responsibilities when it comes to security and defence. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! In accordance with standing order 275A, the time for members' statements has concluded.