Senate debates

Thursday, 14 November 2013


Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade — Report — Australia in the Asian Century: towards 2025 — Country strategy

5:43 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I refer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade report Australia in the Asian Century: towards 2025—Country strategy. In particular I want to refer to the country strategy in relation to Japan and then South Korea. Can I start by acknowledging the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, which occurs on 4 December next. Many senators have received an invitation to a reception. Our relationship with Japan is important. Japan is our closest and most mature friend in the region, and the partnership between Japan and Australia is a model for Australia's wider engagement with Asia. Trade with Japan has been the mainstay of our economy for decades and in this day and age, with the focus all on China, China, China, people forget just what a significant part Japan has played in the development of Australia over the last three or four decades.

Japan is our second-largest trading partner and accounts for just under one in four of all export dollars Australia earns, with total goods and services trade amounting to some $71 billion in 2012. Australia is Japan's number one source of coal, iron ore, liquefied natural gas, uranium, beef and dairy products. I mention those in particular as a Queenslander, Mr Acting Deputy President Furner, and you as a Queenslander would understand this: most of those significant exports actually come from the state of Queensland or the Northern Territory or Western Australia.

Japanese investment has been a key to Australia's past economic development and has continued to grow in recent years, almost doubling since 2007 and reaching $126.4 billion in 2012. Japan is currently our third-largest source of foreign investment, after the United States and the United Kingdom. So it is a very significant player and partner with Australia.

I had the privilege of visiting Japan with a parliamentary trade committee just a couple of years ago, and was very, very impressed with the Japanese economy, the Japanese government and the Japanese people. That parliamentary delegation also visited South Korea and I again indicate how important South Korea is to Australia. It is a country that has successfully transformed its economic landscape in the last 50 years from the devastation of that country between 1950 and 1953 in the Korean War. It has now developed into the 12th-largest economy, based on purchasing power parity, with a gross domestic product of some $1.6 trillion.

We have very good relationships with South Korea. Indeed, again, it is a country that is often overlooked in the current China focus of our nation in recent years, but it is important to build on and to recognise that very close relationship. I always mention in every comment I make every time I visit the South Korean embassy that my wife drives a Hyundai motor vehicle—a little Getz. It is one of their cheapest but it is a fabulous little car, and it is typical of the South Korean manufacturing industry these days. They build the biggest ships that ever float to the smallest cars. They are very industrious people.

I was very pleased to see that the new government is focusing on completion of the free trade agreements with both Japan and South Korea. That is important, they have floundered for far too long and I certainly encourage the government to give them the priority that they appear to be giving them. I look forward to a continuation of good relationships between Australia and Japan and South Korea. I seek leave to continue my remarks later. (Time expired)

Leave granted; debate adjourned.