Question Time: Trade with China

  • Transcript, E&OE

Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the support for Australia's free-trade agreement with China and what has been received? How is this different to the way some unions have responded?

Mr Burke: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. How is that a question to the foreign minister and not to the trade minister?

The SPEAKER: The foreign minister is entitled to answer it.

Mr Burke: She is not responsible for the free-trade agreement, she is not responsible for trade unions and she is not responsible for public opinion.

The SPEAKER: The member for Watson will resume his seat. The foreign minister has the call.

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:38): I do thank the member for Hasluck for his question. The member for Hasluck knows that this is an agreement with another country. This is in the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. I can tell him that, indeed, there is substantial support for the free-trade agreement with China across the Australian community from exporters of goods and services, from industry groups, from the business sector, from people looking for jobs and even from those outside the Australian community, who have recognised the significant advantages this agreement will bring us. For example, Tim Groser, New Zealand's trade minister, said:

…we are using the Australian FTA as part of the structure of an argument as to why we know need to upgrade China's first FTA.

In other words, New Zealand reaped such enormous benefits from its 2008 free-trade agreement with China, it now wants what China has offered us in our agreement. But it is what Labor luminaries had to say that is the most interesting. Former Labor Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, now head of the Australia-China Business Council said:

ChAFTA is a high quality agreement that will deepen Australia's relationship with our biggest trading partner…

Premier Daniel Andrews, Labor Premier of Victoria, said:

It is very exciting to see the free trade agreement that, for the first time takes a really bold step in terms of services.

Labor Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill, said:

This free trade agreement will give us the impetus to grow that trade opportunity even further.

Former Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, said the Labor Party 'must not go backwards on this issue'. Former Labor foreign minister, Bob Carr, stated categorically:

There will be more jobs and higher wages in Australia if the China free trade agreement goes ahead.

The Chief Executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, Brendan Pearson, called any decision to block the trade deal as 'unthinkable'.

Brent Finlay, President of the National Farmers' Federation said:

If the Parliament fails to ratify ChAFTA this year

… … …

This will damage the competitiveness and affordability of all Australian products in China, and set Australian agriculture back $300 million in 2016.

So why is it that the Leader of the Opposition opposes this free-trade agreement and the benefits that will flow? Because he is the puppet of the CFMEU. The myth that a flood of underskilled Chinese workers will steal Australian jobs is a disgrace.

The SPEAKER: Member for Griffith, before you raise your point of order, you would have heard yesterday my concern about frivolous points of order. I intend to take action on frivolous points of order.

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr Snowdon interjecting

The SPEAKER: I remind the member for Moreton and the member for Lingiari they are warned.

Mr Bowen interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McMahon will cease interjecting. If you look at page 189 of the Practice, you will find that where a Speaker believes that points of order are being used for obstructive tactics, there are ample examples where points of order are cut short or simply not heard at all.

Ms Butler: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order in respect of standing order 90, which, as the foreign minister would know, prevents her from impugning the motives of any member of the House.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The foreign minister has the call.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: I call on the Leader of the Opposition to stop the disgraceful propaganda, to end the campaign against the China free-trade agreement, to defend the national interest and stand up for the Australian jobs in the Australian economy.

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