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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7447

Trade


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:56): Mr President, my question is to the new Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. Will the minister advise the Senate how digital industries stand to benefit from the government's free-trade agenda.


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:57): I thank Senator Smith for his question. As colleagues know, the government's free-trade agenda has been turbocharged by the nation's best ever trade minister in Andrew Robb. These trade agreements offer significant benefits for our digital industries.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement recognises that telecommunications is a significant means for service delivery and a critical enabler of international trade, including for small and medium enterprises. The TPP will eliminate over 98 per cent of tariffs in the transpacific region, removing import taxes on around $9 billion of Australian trade. Last year one-third of Australia's total goods and services exports, worth $109 billion, were sent to TPP countries. This agreement opens up a raft of opportunities for digital industries, for the information technology sector and importantly for our start-up sector to embrace the market of our region with open arms. This will only build upon the significant benefits that will come from the China free trade agreement and from the free trade agreements with Korea and Japan.

The TPP includes state-of-the-art e-commerce provisions, which will help drive the information economy and facilitate trade among TPP parties. For example, TPP parties have committed to allow the movement and storage of data across borders providing an exciting platform for growth in Australian ICT exports. Obviously the TPP is a great deal for agriculture and a great deal for services. Importantly, we should also recognise it is a great deal for our digital industries.


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:59): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate how the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement will deliver significant benefits in telecommunications to those businesses and consumers?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (14:59): The agreement provides greater certainty for Australian telco suppliers operating overseas in TPP countries. Australian suppliers will stand to benefit from future market reforms undertaken by TPP parties. The agreement establishes balanced intellectual property rules that promote investment, innovation and creative endeavour while also supporting consumer access to the latest information and services.

Excitingly, TPP parties have agreed to work together to promote transparent and reasonable rates for international mobile roaming services, which will help promote the growth of trade among the parties and benefit consumers. The agreement provides TPP participants with the ability to enter into arrangements with each other on the rates and conditions for wholesale international mobile roaming services. This is going to deliver great benefits for both Australian businesses and consumers.


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (15:00): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate how digital industries and consumers alike stand to benefit from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and whether there are any threats to this?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government) (15:00): China's online retail market of half a trillion dollars a year is larger than that of the United States already and it is growing rapidly. Education technology start-ups have visited China recently, sponsored by our government and the New South Wales government, marketing teacher training software and English language software. All of these opportunities are advanced by this landmark free trade agreement.

I do need to make the point that, if Labor want to embrace start-ups and innovation, as they claim they do, they would get out of the slipstream of the CFMEU and support the ChAFTA. That is something we on this side dearly hope those opposite do. Labor are putting up barriers for start-ups to access the endless opportunities in the Chinese market. The government is unlocking the gate and we are embracing the future. What we dearly hope is that Labor get on board. (Time expired)

Senator Brandis: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.