Monday, 30 November 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID 19: Economy
[by video link] I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your understanding. I understand we've now got that sorted. I also thank the House for their support and cooperation in enabling me to join you in this way today. I'm doing this because of isolation, as most Australians would know. That isolation was brought about by the fact that we had the opportunity very recently for me to visit Tokyo and be the first national leader to meet with the new Prime Minister of Japan, having had that first discussion with him soon after his elevation to Prime Minister. That bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Suga in Japan marked a new level in the relationship between Australia and Japan, in both pursuing defence agreements between our two countries and also engaging on important economic issues, in particular, lower emissions technology, particularly in the area of hydrogen production. The first shipment is due to leave Australia very shortly. Hydrogen is one of those key emissions-reducing fuels which enable us to realise our ambitions for a lower emissions future and net zero emissions as soon as possible, as we discussed, and the many other technology partnerships we have, which will bring about great economic opportunities for Australia.
Beyond that, our engagement with the region over the last few weeks has seen us engage with the East Asia Summit, APEC and the G20, of course, and, most recently, we have had the first of our annual dialogues with the European Union. We were able to pursue those same issues around lower emissions and, importantly, the EU free trade agreement, which, together with the UK free trade agreement, is the next big step in further broadening the trade opportunities for Australians. That has already risen to 70 per cent of our two-way trade, up from 26 per cent when we first came to office, broadening those trade opportunities.
But we are living in a more uncertain world. We are living in a world where there is great uncertainty that has been created by the pandemic and also the re-emergence of tensions across the globe. Our opportunity to engage in regional forums like the East Asia Summit, where we candidly addressed the issues—whether it's the rule of law when it comes to oceans or, indeed, reaching a new RCEP agreement—a new trade agreement—involving 15 of the economies in our region, a new economic opportunity, a new community of economics in our region, which hopefully provides the basis for greater cooperation within the region and for dealing with any tensions. That was followed through in our work with the G20, of course, and the APEC summit, where Australia has always been a positive contributor. This work helps make Australia safe. It helps make Australia more prosperous. I'm fortunate that the House has extended to me this cooperation today to enable me to participate as a result of our involvement in those many issues.