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Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Page: 9268


Mr JOHNSON (7:55 PM) —In the 21st century the great debates that will face leaders and countries are going to be enormous. In those debates, whether they be on issues of energy, the environment or global finance, one country is going to be front and centre, and that country is China. For our country, Australia, it is absolutely critical that we have an understanding of an appreciation of and a very strong familiarity with China; that we have good relationships with its people; that we understand its culture; and that our leaders and the leaders of China are able to communicate—not just in language but also in the policy framework.

That is why last Saturday I had the pleasure of convening the fourth annual Australia-China Business Forum, which I was able to put together in the Ryan electorate. I want to take this opportunity in the parliament to thank the speakers at the forum and the sponsors of the forum, because to be able to bring together speakers with an expertise, an understanding and a commitment to strengthen the relations of this country with China is very important and something that I encourage other colleagues to do. I know that we have a Prime Minister who speaks Chinese and who is very familiar with Chinese culture and history. When I have had the opportunity to speak on Chinese television myself, I have very publicly, generously and warmly commended that attribute, because I think it is something that we should recognise and be proud of. As a citizen of Australia, I acknowledge that the Prime Minister of my country can speak the language of the world’s most populous country. With his skills and understanding in this area, I think that there is a great opportunity and a great responsibility for him to bring all the issues and the concerns of our two countries together. I hope that, in the context of the great debates that we will face when it comes to the environment and energy, he will be able to bring those talents to bear.

I want to also focus on the area of clean coal technology, because that was one of the themes of the conference that I hosted on the weekend. I know that the Prime Minister has announced some $100 million for an institute that will bring together the best and the brightest around the world to our country to try to find a way to make dirty coal into clean coal. In the state that I come from, Queensland, we have some 400 years of coal deposits left. With a country like China, which is so voracious in its energy needs, we can play a major role in its environmental issues.

The theme of the conference, which I want to flag to the parliament, was ‘Energy Security, Affordability, Diversity and Reliability’, and was very much a welcome one. It was very popular, and we certainly had some heavyweights speaking on that theme, such as Mr Bob Bryan, who is the Chairman of the Queensland Gas Company and a very significant corporate figure in Queensland. He spoke about the option of gas, and I am pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Northern Australia, who is from Western Australia, is here, because with his background he will have an appreciation for gas as an option in the energy mix. I also want to acknowledge the keynote speaker, who flew from Beijing to Brisbane to speak, and that was the Chairman and CEO of Microsoft China, Mr Ya-Qin Zhang, who also happens to be the Global Vice President on the board of Microsoft. This gentleman is the modern face of modern business in contemporary China. It is in our interest to be able to develop relationships with people like Mr Zhang from China.


The SPEAKER —Order! It being 8.00 pm, the debate is interrupted, and in reminding members of the need to not bring their phones into the chamber the offending member apologises to the member for Ryan.