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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6799

Trade with China


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:05): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Abetz. Can the minister outline to the Senate how the China free trade agreement will drive economic growth and why any delay in its implementation will be costly?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:05): I thank Senator Bushby for the question. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is an outstanding agreement that will see benefits flow to Australian businesses immediately. This free trade agreement will result in a sharp growth in export trade, create significant new openings for Australian services and result in increased investment flows. The government is working hard to ensure the agreement can be brought into force before the end of this year. Why? Because it will result in double-whammy effective tariff cuts for our exporters—one round of cuts this year and a second round in January 2016. This would result in literally hundreds of millions of dollars in tariff or tax relief for our exporters. If this free trade agreement is delayed beyond this year or worse, the costs will be enormous. As our farmers say, a delay will cost agriculture alone $300 million in 2016, with untold flow-on effects to rural and regional communities. Failure to ratify the agreement will cost the red-meat industry $100 million, the dairy industry up to $60 million, the wine industry up to $50 million and the grains industry more than $43 million. The coal industry says that every week of delay will cost it about $4.6 million in extra tariff payments on thermal and coking coal.

The Financial Services Council warns that if ChAFTA is stopped it would cost our economy more than $4,000 million. China buys almost a third of all Australian exports, valued at nearly $108 billion in 2013-14, and is our top overseas market for agriculture, resources and services exports. Labor's Senator Wong and Mr Shorten need to get out of the way. (Time expired)


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:07): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate how the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will be a boost for all sectors of the Australian economy and create jobs?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:07): The Business Council of Australia says:

With one in five Australian jobs linked to trade, these agreements turn the tyranny of distance into the era of opportunity.

The dairy industry says that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will create 600 to 700 jobs in its first year alone. And other industries, such as beef, horticulture, wine and so on, will see strong jobs growth.

The Financial Services Council says the agreement will result in the creation of 10,000 new jobs. The natural health supplements company, Blackmores, has already hired an additional 100 people to help deal with the increasing demand out of Asia. They are expecting continued strong growth because of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The Seafood Trade Advisory Group says that the agreement gives the industry the confidence it needs, saying that the agreement's benefits will accrue to Australia's regional and coastal communities with an estimated 8½ thousand jobs. (Time expired)


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate how the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will benefit particular agricultural industries in my home state of Tasmania?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:09): Our home state of Tasmania will be a huge beneficiary of this agreement. Tim Reid, a cherry grower in my home state of Tasmania, recently travelled to China on a business mission to explore the opportunities. Mr Reid says that he has seen a more than thirtyfold increase in exports of cherries to South Korea in just the first few months of the Korean free trade agreement, which eliminated a 24 per cent tariff.

Following the drop in export costs to Japan, the Abalone Farms Australia director says they are now exploring how they can capitalise on the reductions delivered by the free trade agreement. Under the free trade agreement the 14 per cent tariff on live and fresh chilled abalone will be removed. And the largest honey company in Tasmania, OzHoney, is looking forward to tariffs of up to 15 per cent being slashed. Mr Bourke, the owner, says, 'We're producing record numbers of everything.' (Time expired)