Question Time: Trade

  • Transcript, E&OE

Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (14:40): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister inform the House how the government's economic diplomacy strategy is delivering jobs and growth to Western Australia; and are there any threats to this approach?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:40): I thank the member for Hasluck for his question. Given that Western Australia accounts for almost half the total value of Australian exports, the issue of growth and job opportunities through trading in overseas markets is important to Western Australia and, therefore, to the nation.

The government are delivering jobs for Western Australia and all Australians through our unwavering focus on seeking new markets and enhancing existing markets for Australian industries and businesses so that they can export their goods and services overseas through the free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China that we have negotiated in our first term of office under our focus on economic diplomacy. Combined, these three free trade agreements are worth almost $24½ billion in total additional income to Australia.

But let us put the impact of the historic China free trade agreement in context. Australia and New Zealand commenced negotiations with China in 2005, with New Zealand finalising its agreement in 2008. Since that time, New Zealand's dairy industry has grown by 864 per cent, while our dairy sector grew by 150 per cent. New Zealand's free trade agreement with China has been an enormous boon for their economy. But Western Australian dairy farmers had to wait out the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years for the opportunity to compete on a level playing field against our competitors across the Tasman.

The Leader of the Opposition trumpeted last November:

Labor supports freeing up global trade because it drives growth, generates jobs, improves living standards and reduces poverty, both at home and abroad.

That is true. But then he went on to say Labor 'have been the party of trade liberalisation for more than four decades'–not true. The fact is the Labor Party never had any intention of concluding a free trade agreement with China. When it came into office in 2007, Labor slashed 75 per cent of the DFAT funds that were committed to continuing the trade negotiations with China.

The Leader of the Opposition is now in lockstep with Labor's union masters, who are running a campaign of economic treason against our nation's interests by making dishonest and untrue statements about the China free trade agreement, directly undermining Australian jobs and Australia's future prosperity. It is astonishing to see a Labor leader campaigning against jobs and against the national interest, and he should be condemned for his failure to stand up to the militant union bosses who put their self-interest ahead of the interests of their workers. The China free trade agreement is about jobs for Australians. Why is Labor against jobs? The coalition support jobs through the free trade agreement, jobs for Australians. Labor opposes them.

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