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Tuesday, 15 September 2015
Page: 6811

Trade with China


Senator SINODINOS (New South Wales) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs representing the Minister for Industry and Science, Senator Ronaldson. Will the minister outline to the Senate how the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will help foster continued job creation, investment and growth in the Australian resources sector?

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting


Senator RONALDSON (VictoriaMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (14:50): Senator Collins, I will take that interjection. I was actually in PNG with a group of men aged 90-plus commemorating 70 years of the end of the Second World War. If you think that is amusing, then that is a poor reflection on you.

Senator Jacinta Collins: Mr President, on a point of order: I made no interjection.

The PRESIDENT: That is a debating point.

Senator Carol Brown interjecting

Senator RONALDSON: I might ask Senator Brown what comment she made later on. I thank Senator Sinodinos for the question. Under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement our resources will be entirely duty-free. Reducing the tariffs on minerals and eliminating the tariffs on the coal sector will increase Australia's mineral exports by about $600 million per annum. This is a better deal than was done with New Zealand. New Zealand exports increased fivefold over the last five years after the agreement was done.

This agreement does not involve changing any workplace relations laws. It does not involve changing any migration laws. It will not involve reducing existing labour market testing and labour market protection. Every way you look at it, this is a great deal for this country and a great deal for Australian workers. That is why Bob Hawke, Bob Carr and Simon Crean and a number of the Labor premiers have come out to support it. Sally McPherson, who runs an earthmoving plant and equipment supplier, has said:

The China deal will make mining more competitive and that will be good for jobs in Australian businesses like ours … anything that gives our mining companies a better chance to compete abroad—

(Time expired)





Senator SINODINOS (New South Wales) (14:52): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister explain to the Senate why this historic free trade agreement is a good deal for Australians, particularly those living in our regions, including in my home state of New South Wales?


Senator RONALDSON (VictoriaMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (14:52): I again thank Senator Sinodinos for that excellent question. Under this Australia-China free trade agreement, 95 per cent of our exports to China—that is, our wine, with tariffs which are up to 30 per cent at the moment; our beef, with tariffs of up to 25 per cent; our seafood, 15 per cent; our dairy, with tariffs of 20 per cent; our lamb; our cheese; our services; as well as our resources sector—will be entirely duty free. As Senator Sinodinos knows, those in the regions need stable, full-time, highly paid, long-term jobs. This agreement is great for the regions. For them to vote against ChAFTA means that they are voting against the regions. Those who vote against ChAFTA are voting against those workers in the regions and those workers that we want in the regions. If you look at what the benefits are, you need to go no further than the $760 million Whitehaven Coal project. (Time expired)


Senator SINODINOS (New South Wales) (14:53): Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. Would the minister outline to the Senate whether there are any direct impediments to the implementation of this historic free trade agreement?


Senator RONALDSON (VictoriaMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (14:54): I think that all Australians know that the greatest impediments are those sitting opposite and Mr Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition. They have a choice to make: do they back the CFMEU or do they stand for jobs? Do they back the thugs or do they back workers? That is the question that those opposite have to make up their mind about. If Mr Shorten is serious, he will stand up to the CFMEU and make sure that this deal is done. As said by the NFF, this is a $300 million a year impediment to the agriculture sector if it does not go through. The coal industry loses $4.6 million per week, and there will be $4 billion lost to the Australian financial services sector alone by 2030, at a cost of 10,000 jobs. So it is about time Mr Shorten stopped pandering to the xenophobic attitude of the CFMEU and supported Australian jobs. (Time expired)