I will make a brief opening statement and then accept questions relating to the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. The 2017-18 budget is designed to enhance Australia’s national security and economic prosperity at an uncertain and highly dynamic time in world affairs. Australia’s strong international engagement is essential to our economic and strategic interests, creating more and better-paying jobs and keeping Australians safe.
In addition to bolstering the resourcing of our key foreign national security agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Turnbull government has allocated $231.2 million to maintain our diplomatic presence in Iraq and Afghanistan for a further two years. These overseas posts play an important role in supporting our defence and counterterrorism efforts, contributing to global, regional and, importantly, domestic security. Our continued representation will facilitate Australia’s engagement with alliance partners and support our humanitarian and capacity-building efforts, which are so vital. This budget also takes important steps to further strengthen our engagement within the Indo-Pacific region at a time of heightened geopolitical uncertainty. When we came to government, we began a program of expansion in Australia’s diplomatic footprints—the biggest such expansion undertaken in over 40 years. With 10 new missions planned across seven continents, we are creating new opportunities for engagement and new opportunities for Australia.
In 2017-18, Australia will also deliver an aid program worth $3.9 billion, making us the 13th largest donor of official development assistance in the OECD. Over 90 per cent of our overseas development assistance will be spent in the Indo-Pacific region as we focus on our neighbourhood, where our national interests are most concentrated and where we can make the biggest difference. We will make investments aimed at delivering sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction and regional stability, with a continued focus on improving the lives of women and girls. We will contribute $55 million to the Gender Equality Fund to strengthen gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in our region. We will continue our efforts to improve the efficacy of our aid investments, with a focus on private sector partnerships and a commitment to innovation rather than arbitrary spending targets. We will also increase our humanitarian assistance, with funding of around $400 million in 2017-18, an increase of $60 million. This is a deliberate strategy to focus on the expanding humanitarian crises that we see around the world.
The government’s commitment to open markets and a rules-based international trading system continues to drive growth in the Australian economy. In 2016, Australia’s net goods and services exports contributed 1.4 percentage points to our 2.4 per cent annual growth in real GDP, and we expect to see our export sector continue its strong performance. In 2017-18, the government will continue our efforts to build on our trifecta of free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea by seeking more opportunities for Australian businesses abroad, which means more investment and more job opportunities for Australians at home. A country does not become wealthy by selling to itself. We need to continue to conclude agreements, and we are focusing on Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru. We are launching negotiations with the European Union and continuing to pursue the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, RCEP, which covers almost half the world’s population, and that is not forgetting our ongoing work to capture the benefits of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
We recognise the importance of tourism in creating jobs and sustaining many small businesses. Tourism Australia will continue to receive record funding. As a result of our efforts, international tourists are staying longer and spending more when they visit Australia. During the last year, tourists from across the globe spent almost $40 billion on 262 million visitor nights. Recognising the need to support Australians affected by the devastation of Cyclone Debbie, particularly the region’s vital tourism industry, the government was swift to act, with a joint $10 million tourism recovery package. This package includes new international marketing for the region.
The Turnbull government will continue to back Australians at home and overseas for the growth and prosperity of our nation. The 2017-18 budget enhances security and prosperity for all Australians.
Chamber Federation Chamber on 15/06/2017 Item Federation Chamber – BILLS – Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2017-2018 – Consideration in Detail Speaker: Bishop, Julie, MP Transcript used for reporting news