Motion - China Australia Free Trade Agreement
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I want to begin by talking about the important friendship between Australia and China. One of the greatest examples of this is the visit to China earlier this year by 22 Scotch Oakburn College grade 6 students. The children received a personal invitation to visit from China's president, Xi Jinping. Prior to that, the children first met President Xi and his wife, Madame Peng, at Government House in Hobart during a historic visit to Tasmania in November last year. President Xi met the students after being particularly moved by a beautiful letter they had carefully handwritten to him in Chinese.
During his speech to Federal Parliament during that visit to Australia, President Xi spoke about that letter -
Before I embarked on my visit to Australia, my wife and I received letters from 16 pupils of Tasmania's Scotch Oakburn College junior school. They are at the age of 10 or 11, and they each sent me a letter. In their letters, they described Tasmania's unique products and beautiful scenery, and they wrote their letters in Chinese. They mentioned in particular the Tahune AirWalk and Cataract Gorge, and of course, the Tasmanian devil. They also wrote in their letters, if I go to the gorge I could come across beautiful peacock feathers. Their words had filled me with curiosity.
It is extraordinary that beautiful letters, carefully written in Chinese by then-grade 5 students at Scotch Oakburn College in Launceston, could captivate one of the world's most powerful leaders. When the imagery of a peacock walking through the beautiful backdrop of Cataract Gorge, or the thought of cuddling a Tasmanian devil for the first time, captivates President Xi, it reminds us what we have here is special. We have so much to be grateful to the students of Scotch Oakburn. A simple act of kindness has done much to extend the strong friendship between our two nations. The letter the children wrote, and the subsequent visit by President Xi and Madame Peng to Tasmania, and the Scotch Oakburn students' trip to China, reminds us time spent together is at the heart of any good friendship.
There can be no doubt the economic benefits of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will be significant. Speaking at a press conference during his recent visit to my electorate of Launceston, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said, 'The ChinaAustralia Free Trade Agreement alone is already seeing big increases in export orders from Tasmania'. I note the FTA is before the Senate this week but I understand the expectation is it will pass through the Senate.
The agreement has strong support from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, which has its headquarters in Launceston. In a recent article, 'Unity on deal with China a big boon', TFGA President Wayne Johnston says:
We believe it will deliver strong economic growth, including in our own sector. It will see the eventual elimination of tariffs on Australian lamb, beef, horticulture and dairy products to China.
The TFGA believes Tasmania is well placed to benefit from the free trade expansion - through increased production and increased Chinese financial investment here.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge the considerable work being done within the state Government and the Federal Government, particularly the Co-ordinator General John Perry's office in Launceston, to ensure Tasmania gains the maximum benefits from this FTA. I note both the state and Federal governments are organising forums around the state to help local businesses and the community broadly to prepare for the trade opportunities that will open up for our state.
Local government is also leading this effort to help businesses and the wider community to seize on the opportunities resulting from our relationship with China. Recently I attended an excellent briefing about China hosted by the City of Launceston and it was very informative.
The City of Launceston is forging closer ties with China under its Asian engagement policy. The aims of the policy include: assisting and supporting the University of Tasmania to develop education export opportunities; supporting specialist agencies and other stakeholders to research in detail specific projects to present to potential Asian partners; work with government and industry to remove economic barriers; and identify criteria to assess the suitability of bilateral arrangements for sister city relationships.
The City of Launceston is to be congratulated for the energy and commitment with which it is pursuing closer engagement with China. The council's Mayor, Albert van Zetten, General Manager Robert Dobrzynski and Economic Development Officer Bruce Williams were part of a Tasmanian delegation which visited China in September.
Press coverage then and since points to a range of projects being worked on as a result of that visit. Launceston College has signed a memorandum of understanding with Fuzhou Senior High School to share ideas, professional learning, and cultural and education visits. It is also working on a potential partnership with Putien Senior High School.
The City of Launceston says the free trade agreement with China will improve opportunities for a range of Tamar Valley industries including beef, sheep meat and wool. Tasmanian Quality Meats at Longford will be a local beneficiary. Bell Bay Aluminium may directly benefit from the removal of tariffs on products and there may be an opportunity for increased Tasmanian wine exports.
The council adds the free trade agreement will prove important to the University of Tasmania as it seeks to increase its international student intake and that from other local schools such as Launceston College and Scotch Oakburn.
Further, it stands to benefit the local tourism sector.
A Tasmanian success story in China is Launceston- based Bellamy's Organic and I am sure the member for Murchison will expand further on that. The company first exported infant formula to China in 2007. The company says whilst the free trade agreement will have a modest and gradual impact on its industry, any trade agreement giving the brand greater access to new markets can only be a good thing.
I thank the member for Montgomery for her notice of motion. The China Australia Free Trade Agreement is of great importance to Australia, Tasmania and my own electorate of Launceston. I note at the briefing with the Launceston City Council, while they have been to China twice, they said the first time they went to China, it was a much cooler reception but the second time they went to China it was much warmer. Much of the trade between the cities comes down to relationship. They do like to have a good relationship with people with whom they deal. It is very important that friendship and trade go hand in hand.