Thursday, 5 December 2019
Matters of Public Importance
I got over the line; that's the main thing! We all know that. I'm here and, while I'm here, I've been expanding Australia's interests overseas through trade, supporting Australia through trade agreements that have been absolutely life-changing for our exporting industries. They are agreements like the TPP-11, which is for 11 countries around the Pacific. Just recently I have been involved in the implementation and the support that came through this House for the Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Peru free trade agreements. Seventy per cent of our exports now are through free trade agreements—agreements that give our exporters a benefit over our competitors. Money is going into everyday Australians' pockets.
Our exports continue to grow and are expected to reach a record $470 billion in 2018-19, up from $307 billion six years ago. We've posted for the 2018-19 financial year a record yearly trade surplus of $49.89 billion, which is more than three times larger than the previous record. Australia now has a current account surplus for the first time since 1975.
But we do have a plan for the future—a plan for Australians, as someone who proudly looks after regional Australia; a plan for Australians who live in the regions. We are decentralising government. We are putting the people who serve communities in those communities. It doesn't mean we're moving whole departments. Members in the Canberra area don't need to be in a state of high anxiety. To have someone who works for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority living in Menindee? You can't tell me that that's not a good idea. People that are working for the infrastructure department and building the Inland Rail living in Moree? Those are jobs right across regional Australia. Commonwealth employees will be working with the communities and the people that they are serving.
We have some massive infrastructure projects in our $100 billion pipeline. The Inland Rail, a project that's close to my heart, a project the member opposite would have heard about 12 years ago listening to my first speech here, where I mentioned my support for the Inland Rail. If you go out into western New South Wales now, you will find hundreds of people now laying rails, earthworks—all the work associated with Inland Rail. It is creating not only 16,000 jobs through construction but an opportunity to build a corridor of commerce right through western New South Wales, into Victoria and up into Queensland, giving an opportunity for those communities to have connection not only to Melbourne and Brisbane. Every capital city in Australia, for the first time in the history of this country, will be connected by a standard-gauge rail. It is taking trucks off the road, saving on greenhouse gases and making it safer on our highways. This is a transformational project.
It's important that we represent and we support all aspects such as more doctors to the bush. We're developing and implementing a strategy for a remedy so that more medical professionals will be encouraged to go work in regional areas and to find out that working there is an advantage. It is a positive prospect for your future; it is not a second-class opportunity. We will continue to implement those policies. Next week I have the privilege of turning the first sod on the first of the projects for the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network, a $74 million project that will train end to end medical professionals in regional areas so that they will service regional areas.
This government is delivering. It does support all Australians and will continue to do so into the future. (Time expired)