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Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Page: 7899


Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. Can the minister provide an update on the Australia-China bilateral relationship and how Australia is seeking to increase cooperation?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:50): I thank Senator Smith for his question. Australia, of course, is committed to a constructive relationship with China, which is founded on shared interests and mutual respect. It is a complex, dynamic relationship that engages a range of national interests. China's rise over the past 40 years has been overwhelmingly beneficial for its people and the region, including Australia. From almost zero trade 40 years ago, China is Australia's largest export market, taking a third of all our merchandise exports, and our largest market for services, primarily tourism and education. It is also our fifth largest source of direct investment. As significant as it is, our relationship with China is much broader than trade and investment, and occasionally we have differences, but we manage those on the basis of mutual respect.

I note that this government and China designated the relationship as a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2014. The breadth of this contemporary relationship was reflected in my discussions with my counterpart state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi in Beijing last week at the fifth foreign and strategic dialogue. Australia and China are engaging on a broad set of national interests—regional stability and development, economic growth, law enforcement and security, scientific research and, of course, people-to-people links, which go back many, many years between our countries. The discussions followed Minister Birmingham's successful visit to Shanghai to attend the extremely impressive inaugural import expo, which saw literally hundreds of thousands of visitors in Shanghai. The Prime Minister will have further opportunities to engage with Chinese and regional leaders at the forthcoming APEC East Asia Summit and the G20 meetings. Our engagement reflects our continued practical commitment to deepening our relationship with China.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a supplementary question?

Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:52): My question is: how is Australia looking to increase cooperation with China on sustainable development, particularly across the Pacific?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:52): Australia has clearly said many times on the record that we welcome investments from all development partners that support sustainable development and respond to the priorities of Pacific governments in our region. We want to see infrastructure investment that is transparent, non-discriminatory and open, and upholds robust standards so that investments deliver long-term benefits and avoid unsustainable debt burdens. We welcome deeper cooperation with partners, including China, in the Pacific where we have shared interests. During last week's dialogue, we agreed to explore opportunities where we could work together in the region to support security and stability and prosperity—for example, building on our successful trilateral partnership with Papua New Guinea to address malaria. During my visit last week, I also met the chair of the recently established China International Development Cooperation Agency and proposed the establishment of a development policy dialogue and technical exchanges between his agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a final supplementary question?

Senator DEAN SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:53): How else are we strengthening the Australia-China relationship?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:53): It is a good question. Next month, China will be hosting the fifth Australia-China high-level dialogue, another initiative of this government to further develop and deepen our relationship. I'm pleased to advise that former Prime Minister John Howard will lead the Australian delegation to this year's dialogue on 7 December. The high-level dialogue brings together senior Australian and Chinese leaders from across government, business, academia, media and the arts to discuss key aspects of the bilateral relationship, which will include diplomatic, trade and economic relations, those people-to-people links of which I spoke earlier, and international and regional cooperation. This year's meeting will also coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Australia-China Council, another element of the Australia-China relationship. It was established by Malcolm Fraser in 1978 and is a further example of our long-term commitment to the development and depth of this relationship.