To the National President and Chair, John Brumby, Chinese Ambassador – good to see you, to members and senators, former member Craig Emerson, ladies and gentlemen I am delighted to welcome you to Canberra and I applaud the efforts of the Australia China Business Council to deepen the relationship between our two countries.
I also thank the Council for the role they played in ensuring the success of the visit by Premier Li Keqiang in March.
This networking day is a great opportunity for us here in Parliament to meet with stakeholders and experts and share perspectives and opportunities for the further deepening of our mutual engagement.
This bilateral relationship between Australia and China is growing stronger day-by-day. It is multifaceted, although our economic ties are a standout.
In 2015/2016 two way trade in goods and services between our two countries was almost $150 billion. To place these figures in their proper context, more than 22 cents in every dollar of global trade we conducted in that financial year was with China. The stock of Chinese investment in Australia is valued at about $87 billion and foreign direct investment about $40 billion.
As impressive as these numbers might be, there is much more to the bilateral relationship than trade in goods and commodities and our young people are leading the way. For example, in 2016, we welcomed to Australia more than 150,000 Chinese students.
These tens of thousands of students are experiencing our world-leading lifestyle as well as gaining a world class degree.
In return, our universities and students are benefiting enormously. The presence of the tens of thousands of Chinese students is adding greatly to the intellectual debate, diversity and vibrancy of our campuses.
China has also become the number one destination for Australian students studying abroad under our New Colombo Plan. In the four years since we started this program, around 3,500 students have commenced New Colombo Plan placements in China – about a fifth of all our placements.
The New Colombo Plan covers forty countries in the Indian Ocean Asia Pacific. Their experiences in China range from semester-based and short-term study right through to work placements and professional placements as interns in Chinese businesses and entities.
They work in a wide range of fields including law, business, health and the sciences.
There is one outstanding example of collaboration between Australia and China, amongst the many, and this is one available to our undergraduates who take part in the New Colombo Plan – it’s the “ATN Huawei Seeds for the Future project.”
Over three decades, Huawei has emerged as one of the top three smartphone companies and most valuable brands in the world.
Starting later this year, up to 75 New Colombo Plan students from Australian universities will be given the chance to work in Huawei’s world-class R&D and manufacturing facilities.
This will be an extraordinary experience and so valuable for young Australians seeking a career in Information Communications and Technology or in management, business, finance, design and brand management.
Just as education has grown strongly in recent years, tourism is booming between our countries. China is now one of Australia’s fastest growing and highest spending international markets.
More than one million Chinese citizens visited Australia last year, and we are working to ensure that this year - the Australia-China Year of Tourism - will bring more people to our shores – we’re hoping at least 1.4 million more.
In addition, almost half a million Australian tourists visited China last year and the numbers are steadily growing. So there’s a real curiosity amongst our people to learn more about our respective countries.
Australia and China signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding on tourism cooperation in 2016. This MoU supports further growth in the sector by streamlining visa processing and making it easier for more independent travellers from China to come and explore Australia.
I was pleased to inform the Ambassador when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was here in February, that visa applications in Australia can be now completed in Chinese and online.
Interaction between our two countries are deepening in other unexpected ways. In 2016, China became the leading market for Australian book publishing sales, ahead of traditional markets like the UK and the US.
In particular, Australian children's books are extremely popular in China. I am reliably informed that the beautifully illustrated books by Melbourne author Graeme Base have a huge following amongst Chinese children. Many of his books have been translated into Chinese.
When it comes to Australian films, China is our second largest foreign market after the US. Our artists are also forging new connections with Chinese artists.
In the ancient porcelain town of Jingdezhen, a prefecture-level city with a population of less than two million people, Australian artists like Juz Kitson and Ah Xian are working with local artists and artisans to produce intricate ceramic artworks that can be found in exhibitions in Tokyo, London, New York, Singapore and around the world.
Now turning to our national obsession – sport. The Australian Football League played its first ever regular season game in China this year when Port Adelaide Power played the Gold Coast Suns. I understand all of the stadium’s 10,000 seats were sold out, with a worldwide TV audience of over 20 million viewers.
I think these examples of collaboration speak volumes about a relationship between our countries that is far more profound than merely buying from and selling goods to each other.
The connections between Australian and Chinese students, between our entrepreneurs, our artists, our authors, our researchers , our scientists, our tourists, is what a comprehensive relationship is all about.
Government-to-government level, government-to-government engagement, is at a high level and constant. But when our people engage, that’s when countries become friends.
The fact that Australia and China are Comprehensive Strategic Partners is not just about the government-to-government connections, relationships and ties. These interactions and networks between our people, firms, universities and other entities and organisations will allow both countries to develop a genuinely comprehensive relationship which will thrive and flourish and endure.
My final task this morning is to launch the latest Deloitte Access Economics Report on Foreign Direct Investment entitled, ‘Partners in Prosperity: The benefits of Chinese investment in Australia’.
I congratulate ANZ and the Business Council for their vision in commissioning such an important and timely report. Australia needs to invest an amount equal to about one-fifth of our entire GDP each year just to maintain current levels of capital.
The difference between national savings and national investment has averaged around 4 per cent of GDP each year over the past decade, or around $70 billion a year as estimated in 2016. The global competition for capital is intense and capital will go where it is most welcome where it is an attractive destination and where they can secure the best return.
This Report is a timely reminder of the benefits of foreign investment and the ever greater role that Chinese capital will play with respect to ensuring global economic growth and prosperity in the decades ahead. And coming from Western Australia I know that with the peak of the mining boom behind us, foreign investment will help develop other areas of our economy will lead to much greater diversity.
The report looks at specific sectors with potential to benefit from Chinese investment and under the Chinese Australia Free Trade Agreement there is great opportunity for more trade in goods but importantly more trade in services and the health and tourism sectors are two very important pillars.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I know you have much to discuss today. I wish you a day of good conversation, of acquiring new contacts, discussing ways we can deepen this already valuable relationship, a comprehensive relationship, between Australia and China and I have great pleasure in launching the Deloitte Access Economic Report.
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