Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister please update the Senate on the importance of the stability and certainty in the government's trade policy, which is creating more exporting businesses and jobs?
I thank Senator Bragg for his question and his passionate advocacy on behalf of Australian businesses and, in particular, exporters. I'm very pleased to inform the Senate that the recent ABS data shows that, over the last year, more than 1,000 additional Australian businesses became exporting businesses of merchandise goods from Australia. That takes the number of Australian businesses exporting to the world to more than 53,000. It is in fact a growth of some 8,200 over the period since our government came to office. That's an 18½ per cent increase in the number of exporting businesses projecting from Australia out to the world, and seizing opportunities.
Although Senator Bragg hails from our largest state, the most significant proportionate increases, pleasingly, come from our smallest states. Tasmania led, with a 17 per cent increase in the number of exporting businesses, and South Australia had close to a 16 per cent increase. The majority of these businesses are small and medium-sized businesses that are getting out into the world and selling Australian goods to the world. In doing so, they're of course supporting Australian jobs. One in five Australian jobs are now trade dependent, and it's estimated that, over the last five years, 240,000 additional jobs that are trade related have been created in Australia. That's because we have more businesses exporting and more businesses out there growing the value of those exports.
In the month of July, Australia posted another record level of exports both for goods, at $34.2 billion, and for services, at $8.4 billion. We also posted our second-highest ever trade surplus as a nation. That's trade surpluses in 27 out of the last 29 months for Australia, or 19 straight monthly trade surpluses now, and a trade surplus for the 2018-19 financial year of $50 billion—all of it fuelled very much by export growth that is creating more opportunities right across Australia.
Indeed, that type of growth in exports which I was speaking about before isn't something we celebrate just for a statistical trade surplus; we celebrate it because the fuelling of record exports is growing Australian businesses. Those businesses are able to employ more Australians. They pay more tax. They fund the services that we rely upon. They help strengthen our budget position. They reduce the reliance of Australians on welfare, because of the job creation activities that are undertaken. Let's take Bega Cheese, a business in rural New South Wales that I was pleased to visit with Senator Bragg recently, benefiting from Australian free trade agreements, or others, like Stormtech, based in South Nowra, who said very clearly that Australia's FTAs provide them with countless benefits and opportunities to distribute their products on the international stage. They are part of so many businesses exporting so much more right across our region thanks to the network of trade agreements that our government has negotiated, creating more opportunities for more businesses to walk through that door and export more Australian goods to the world.
The growth and success we have seen is partly because of the network of trade agreements, but this government is not resting on its laurels; it's looking to expand that network. Critically, before the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties at present are our proposed agreements with Indonesia and with Hong Kong. Under our proposed Indonesian agreement, over 99 per cent of Australia's goods exports will enter Indonesia duty free or under preferential arrangements, and the evidence to JSCOT has widely welcomed that. The National Farmers Federation described it as providing greater certainty for agricultural exporters. The dairy industry said that the Indonesia agreement is worth about $6½ million per annum just on existing exports. That's before they seek to grow the market. The grains industry said it was equivalent to more than 12,000 individual truckloads of Australian grain, which in dollar terms is a new grain feed quota worth over $125 million to Australian farmers. These are real, tangible benefits to our farmers and businesses, and our government is determined to keep opening and creating those opportunities for them.