Tuesday, 4 December 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham. Minister, how are the free trade agreements delivered by the Liberal-National government creating benefits for Australian businesses, farmers, producers and exporters? How do these agreements help to create the strong economy that allows the government to deliver essential services without raising taxes?
I thank Senator Bushby for his question and his strong advocacy on behalf of all Australian businesses—but particularly Tasmanian businesses—to be able to increase their exports. Indeed, there is great news today from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the release of their balance of payments update. What we've learnt today is:
The balance on goods and services surplus in the September quarter 2018 was $6,607 million, a rise of $2,704 million. Exports of goods and services rose $3,390 million …
That means that Australian exports are up by close to $3.4 billion in terms of sales from our country and our surplus position in terms of our trade is getting stronger, all of it helped and driven by the fact that our government has increased access for Australian businesses to be able to sell their goods to the world. Where and how are we seeing that growth occur? For example, in China, where one of our free trade agreements was struck, we saw exports grow by 22 per cent last year. Exports of milk powder and skincare products more than doubled. Nickel exports more than quadrupled. Exports of lobster or table grapes grew some eightfold.
What does this strong export growth mean? It means more revenue for Australian businesses, more jobs for Australian employees and better wages for Australian employees. And what does that mean? That means, of course, those businesses, those people with jobs and those people with better jobs are paying more tax. More tax means more revenue for investment in essential services such as health, education and welfare that our government delivers. And, because we've got more exports and more revenue coming from those exports, that means we can deliver those services without the need for the higher taxes that those opposite have planned for Australians if they were to go— (Time expired)
Can the minister inform the Senate how the government is supporting small and medium enterprise export opportunities, and how this contributes to building a stronger economy that delivers essential services without the need to raise taxes?
Indeed, we are working hard to ensure that small and medium businesses can take advantage of our free trade agreements and be at the forefront of this export growth that we're seeing across so much of Australian industry. Ashgrove, for example, in Senator Bushby's home state of Tasmania—one of Australia's largest, family-owned dairy operations—have welcomed the fact that our trade agreements allow them to access new markets with lower prices, in terms of what they can sell or higher margins, because they no longer face the types of tariff barriers that were there.
We're giving practical assistance to small and medium businesses too. In this year's budget, we announced the $20 million Small and Medium Enterprises Export Hubs to assist small businesses in breaking down barriers to export markets. We've continued to ensure that the Export Market Development Grants Scheme, which had funding savaged by those opposite, has been supported by over $60 million of additional funding by our government—all of it helping to fuel our farmers and our businesses to sell more Australian goods to the world.
As I said at the outset, by selling more goods and services to the world—it's pretty simple economics which you'd hope that those opposite understood, but they don't seem to. By selling more and by exporting more, Australian businesses are paying more tax and there is more revenue out of that higher revenue pool from those exports.
That allows us to invest more in goods and services and to bring the budget back to balance, and to do it all without the types of tax hikes that those opposite have planned for the Australian economy. Those opposite will see Australian wage payers paying higher taxes, Australian retirees paying higher taxes, Australians who want to buy an investment property paying higher taxes, Australians who are renting paying higher rentals and Australians paying higher rates on their electricity bills. All of that, of course, will compound to see a less competitive Australian economy in the future, whereas our policies have delivered greater strength for Australian exporters, greater sales and greater revenue: a virtuous cycle which allows us to keep taxes low—to drive them down—and still balance the budget and invest in key services. (Time expired)