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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4954

Dr EMERSON (RankinMinister for Trade and Competitiveness, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy) (16:42): I will continue to seek to answer some of the questions raised by the previous member. In relation to Japan there has been a 25 per cent depreciation of the Japanese currency against the Australian dollar in the last six months and the fact is that such a depreciation does, against the Australian dollar, impose again a very heavy burden on Australian manufacturing, including on the automotive industry—and of course we have seen one consequence of the high dollar being Ford's decision to leave Australia in October of 2016.

I note that the coalition has criticised the government over that decision claiming that there is a $400 dollar per car impost from the carbon price—that is completely false; it is closer to $50, so we have this misrepresentation of the truth by the coalition again. If we are looking at support for Australian manufacturing, next year the coalition has pledged to halve support for the automotive industry in this country, which would lead to the destruction of the Australian automotive industry.

In respect of the question about sticking points in the negotiations with China, there are actually negotiations this week. A key sticking point is this: at this stage China is seeking an increase in the Foreign Investment Review Board's screening threshold for private companies and state owned enterprises from zero in relation to state owned enterprises and $240-odd million in relation to private companies to one billion dollars. The coalition's policy is not to increase those thresholds at all but to cut the threshold for private Chinese investment from $240-odd million to $15 million. The effect of that, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition well knows, is to kill the Australia-China FTA stone dead. And indeed the Leader of the Opposition went to China specifically to tell them that there are particular forms of Chinese investment that would not be welcome and would be rarely approved.

Again, we do not need lectures about foreign investment from China into Australia. We welcome it, subject to it being in the national interest. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been unable or unwilling to rein in Senator Barnaby Joyce, now the candidate for New England, who has been running around saying the Chinese will take over, buy up all our land and send cheap Chinese labour here—all this hysterical economic Hansonism. I would have hoped that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have dedicated herself to trying to prevent this damage to the relationship between Australia and China through the crazy rhetoric of Senator Barnaby Joyce.

In relation to the questions asked by the member for Brisbane, I will not commit to getting answers from the department to all of those questions between now and when parliament recesses in late June. That would be just about all the department ever did. If the member were serious about getting answers to questions then the member would have tailored the questions and limited them to the extent that it would be reasonable to expect the department to provide answers to them. She has decided not to do that, and therefore I will not give that commitment.

In relation to the overseas development assistance budget, this budget boosts Australia's overseas aid to a record $5.7 billion in 2013-14. That is an increase of around $500 million, or 9.6 per cent. This is the highest the aid budget has ever been in dollar terms. We remain committed to increasing the aid budget to 0.5 per cent of gross national income, but we have moved that target out by one year given the very substantial write-downs in revenue.

Opposition members interjecting

Dr EMERSON: I hear interjections complaining about that. Again, we would be happy to have the coalition book up, through the PEFO process, any indication that they would bring that forward. The fact is that under the coalition the aid budget never reached 0.3 per cent and was usually under 0.25 per cent, and here we are at 0.37 per cent.

Again, in relation to questions about refugees, this year—2013-14—we will report up to $375 million for basic sustenance for refugees waiting to have their claims heard in Australia. It is legitimate aid delivered in accordance with OECD guidelines, consistent with the practice of other OECD countries. By way of example, the following expenditure was reported for refugee expenses in 2011. (Time expired)

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Treasury Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $4,621,958,000