House debates

Monday, 18 June 2007

Private Members’ Business

Free Trade

1:35 pm

Photo of Michael JohnsonMichael Johnson (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the House:

recognises the importance of globalisation and open markets to continuing Australia’s record of 16 years uninterrupted economic growth; and
calls on the Australian Government to continue promoting the benefits of free trade, which include alleviating global poverty, especially in developing countries.

I am pleased to speak in the parliament today on this important motion. I think it is particularly timely and relevant, given that the Minister for Trade recently launched the 2007 trade statement. The trade statement shows that Australia’s exports in 2006 were the highest on record—up 16 per cent to some $210 billion. This is more than double the 1996 export levels and a record in both value and volume terms. In fact, 19 of our top 25 exports reached record export values. In moving this motion in the House I want to draw to the attention of the people of Ryan how important international trade is to the prosperity of our society. I think that most Australians would probably not fully appreciate the profound importance of Australia’s trading relationships with all the key nations and economies of the world, and I want to play a small part in increasing that awareness.

Australia’s trade policies and trade success have an enormous capacity to alter the lives of every Australian and, in my case, to affect the economic success of Ryan businesses and the families of Ryan. One in five Australian jobs directly depends on our exports. Australia’s international trading architecture is absolutely critical to the overall economic success of our nation. In the Ryan electorate, the lives of 12,750 people are directly impacted on by the success of our trade with the world. So the lifestyle of thousands of Ryan families depends very much on the companies that they work for and the businesses they may own trading with the world and selling their expertise and their products and services to the world.

Trade has always been closely tied to Australia’s overall economic success. An interesting feature of our trading pattern is that many small and medium sized businesses are now trading with the world. Many medium sized businesses that might have started out as mum and dad businesses are now trading with the world and reaping the enormous benefits of doing so. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reflects that around 86 per cent of exporters in Australia are small and medium sized enterprises. The proportion of Australian exporting SMEs has doubled in the past two years alone. There are now approximately 3,815 Australian exporters selling to China, some 1,800 selling to India, 425 selling to Brazil and almost 300 selling their products or services to the Russian Federation.

It is critical for those of us in the parliament who believe very strongly in Australia’s export success and believe that trade has an impact on the lives of everyday Australians to get out there and promote opportunities for Australian businesses and Australian companies. I certainly value that opportunity as a member of the parliament. It is vital that we advance the cause of globalisation in the world and that we talk about the positive benefits of globalisation, while acknowledging that it can have some detrimental impacts. It is our job as governments of the day, whatever the political flavour, at the state and federal level to try to minimise the negatives that come out of globalisation. One of the difficulties we have is that there is not enough globalisation in the developing economies of the world. We must do all we can to promote access to the wealthy markets of Europe and the US for businesses and people in the poorer countries that want to trade with the world.

I will end my remarks—and allow my colleague the member for Bowman, from Queensland, to say a few words—by saying that the ideals of free trade and national sovereignty are not mutually exclusive, as some would say. Trade is vital to the prosperity of Australians. Trade is vital to the economic success of the people of Ryan. I will continue to call upon the Australian government to promote the successful conclusion of the Doha development round. This is absolutely fundamental to raising the living standards in the economies of the developing world.


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