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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 8616

Trade with Indonesia

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:54): My question is to the Cabinet Secretary, Senator Sinodinos, representing the Minister for Trade and Investment. Can the cabinet secretary update the Senate on the trade and investment minister's recent trade mission to Indonesia.

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:55): I thank Senator Canavan, a great representative of the great state of Queensland and, I know, someone who is committed to open trade and investment. Last week, Senator Canavan, you are right, the Minister for Trade and Investment led Australia's biggest ever trade mission to Indonesia, with more than 360 senior business people accompanying the minister for Indonesia Australia Business Week. These business leaders covered a variety of industries: infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, agriculture, food processing, health and aged care, resources and energy, education and tourism.

The Minister for Trade and Investment delivered the keynote address to an Australia Indonesia business conference in Yogyakarta. He was accompanied on this delegation by, among others, my good friend and colleague the Minister for Tourism and International Education, the Minister for Health and Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Sport, and the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection along with a number of state ministers from around Australia. In other words, this was very much Australia Inc., 'Team Australia' on the ground in Indonesia promoting one of our most important bilateral relationships.

Many northern Australian economic centres are actually closer to Indonesia than southern Australia. Darwin is closer to Kalimantan than Canberra and Broome is closer to Bandung than Brisbane. Indonesia is a market of 250 million consumers right on our doorstep, including a large, rapidly rising middle class. We must not underestimate the size of the opportunity in the case of Indonesia. As the middle class expands, their demands for more processed foods, for more advanced manufacturing and for more sophisticated services will increase. Australia is primed, particularly northern Australia, to take advantage of that opportunity.

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the cabinet secretary outline to the Senate how the government is working to enhance the Australia Indonesia trade relationship?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:57): The backdrop to Australia Indonesia Business Week was a very successful meeting between the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, and Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia. It was clear from the reporting not just from what we have received internally that this was a meeting of the minds: two people with business backgrounds who understood each other and who were able to speak authoritatively around issues to do with how we, as a country, can assist the development of Indonesia. That is the backdrop. Frankly, to date we have not done well enough. There are less than 250 Australian businesses with a presence in Indonesia. Two-way trade in goods and services is just $16 billion per annum. That is why we need to invest more and more in the Canberra Jakarta bilateral relationship. As a result of what happened with Australia Indonesia Business Week, the fact that we could devote so many high-level ministerial resources and Austrade resources, provides— (Time expired)

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:58): Mr President I ask a further supplementary question. Can the cabinet secretary also inform the Senate of any previous hurdles in the Australia Indonesia trade relationship and why stable and sensible government policy is crucial to this relationship?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:58): The one thing we must not do going forward is to repeat some of the errors of the past. Under the former government, we had the debacle of the live cattle industry being closed down overnight on the back of a Four Corners report. Imagine closing a whole industry overnight, leaving them in uncertainty. Imagine if you did that in George Street in Sydney. Imagine if you closed down the whole street and told all those retailers: 'You're now closed down. We don't know when you will be able to open again. We can't make any commitments as to how we will compensate you or when you can open again.' That was a debacle. That was, I think, a defining point in the relationship with Indonesia, but going forward we have been able to revive the trade and give them the assurance that they will not face that sort of uncertainty in the future. You cannot treat major trading partners or any country like that. The supreme arrogance of saying that these domestic interests or concerns could— (Time expired)