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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6804

Economy


Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:23): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. It relates to building the Australian economy. Will the minister inform the Senate why the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement is so important to Australia's future economic prosperity and job growth?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:23): I thank Senator Back for his very important question. The Australia-China Free Trade Agreement will be a key driver of our future economic success. It will be giving Australian exporters better access to a key market—the second largest economy in the world, our biggest trading partner already. This free trade agreement will give Australian exporters better access to that market by bringing down the cost of providing products and services into that market, and by doing that it will help Australian exporters be more successful and help them to employ more Australians. Senator Wong does not seem to be taking this very seriously at all. Senator Wong should be embarrassed, and under the weak leadership of Mr Shorten the Labor Party is standing in the way of stronger growth and more jobs that would inevitably flow from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Senator Bushby: Shame.

Senator CORMANN: It is a shame, as Senator Bushby quite rightly points out. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will deliver more jobs, it will deliver higher wages, it will obviously deliver increased exports and it will deliver better living standards here in Australia—these are all things that Labor is standing in the way of. China, as I have indicated, is already Australia's largest trading partner. It buys almost a third of all Australian exports, valued at nearly $98 billion in 2014. The opportunities to grow that are immense, in particular in the services space and in the agricultural space, and if you look at the services market, in particular, $8.2 billion worth of services are exported into China, which we will be able to grow significantly while significantly boosting jobs along the way. (Time expired)




Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:25): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate how the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement provides opportunities in the area of government procurement?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:25): I thank Senator Back for his supplementary question. As the Chinese economy transitions from being reliant on infrastructure spending and exports to being a service economy with a high level of domestic consumption, Australia has been given a unique first mover advantage in a wide range of services. Australia was an integral part of the first phase of China's rapid development by supplying iron ore, and we will be part of the next phase by providing services. As part of these services opportunities, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement provides a pathway to open opportunities in general government procurement based on principles of a fair and non-discriminatory treatment for Australian suppliers and products. China has a $1.5 trillion government procurement market, and in Australia we have great depth in the market for private services to government. There are tremendous opportunities here for Australian service exporters, and Labor should be getting out of the way and letting it happen.


Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:26): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate of any risks to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and, if there are any, what are the implications of these risks for the Australian economy and for jobs in our community?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance) (14:27): The biggest risk to Australia's future success which would follow the implementation of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is the weakness of the current leader of the Labor Party, Mr Shorten, and the weakness of his shadow cabinet to stand up to him and force him to do the right thing. Where is the shadow minister for trade and investment? She is not only their worst finance minister in the history of the Commonwealth; she is also the worst shadow minister for trade and investment in the history of the Commonwealth. She is running up records for worst performance in portfolio after portfolio. She knows in her heart of hearts that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is in our national interest, that it will help deliver growth in jobs. She knows she should do the right thing—she could get her leader to back Bob Hawke, Bob Carr and a whole lot of other Labor luminaries that have been backing the agreement. Or is she still, like Senator Cameron used to say, having her lobotomy— (Time expired)