Australia Strikes Free Trade Agreement With South Korea (KAFTA)

Australia has concluded a Free Trade Agreement with the Republic of Korea, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced today.

South Korea is Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner and third-largest goods export market.

The KAFTA agreement will eliminate tariffs on major exports to Korea, such as beef, wheat, dairy, sugar, wine, seafood, grapes, cherries and mangoes. It will open up new markets in education, telecommunications, financial accounting and the law.

Opposition Bill Shorten has welcomed the agreement.

Details of Australia’s trading arrangements with Korea are shown below.

Parliamentary statements by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

  • Listen to Abbott (2m)

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  • Listen to Shorten (2m)

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Abbott

ABBOTT: I am pleased to inform the House that the Minister for Trade and Investment has successfully concluded negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea is Australia’s third largest export market. Under this agreement, tariffs will be eliminated on Australia’s major exports to Korea, and there will be significant new market openings in services and investment. Tariffs will be eliminated on items such as beef, wheat, dairy, sugar, wine, seafood, grapes, cherries and mangoes. Beef tariffs, I am pleased to say, will be completely phased out over 15 years, which will restore Australia’s competitive position in this key market. Australian automotive suppliers will benefit from the immediate removal of tariffs, as will the wine industry. The free trade agreement will provide new market opportunities for Australian services in education, telecommunications, financial accounting and the law. [Read more...]


Hockey And Robb Release Liberal Party Election Costings

Two days before the federal election, the Liberal Party has released its election costings.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey and Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb held a 22-minute press conference in Melbourne to announce a further $9 billion in budget savings.

Hockey

The centrepiece of the costings is a $4.5 billion cut in the growth of foreign aid that will be used to fund infrastructure.

“We are going to cut the growth in foreign aid,” Hockey said. “We can only afford to be generous to other nations if we have a stable budget at home.”

On infrastructure, “we are going for growth while living within our means,” Robb said.

The Coalition has released an 8-page document showing the fiscal impact of Coalition policies over the 4-year budget estimates.

Hockey was perspiring profusely as he announced the costings. The duo took only a handful of questions. The announcement came the day after the election advertising ban came into force and an hour after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s National Press Club appearance. Canberra press gallery journalists were not in attendance.

  • Listen to Hockey and Robb (22m)

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  • Download the Coalition’s costings document (PDF)



Tony Abbott Responds To Mid-Year Budget Update

Tony Abbott has described the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook as a “crisis mini-budget.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey and Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb, Abbott claimed there is now no buffer against international economic problems because of the incompetence of the government.

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  • Watch the press conference:

Transcript of joint press conference with Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey and Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb.

TONY ABBOTT: Today the Government has finally admitted what the Coalition has been saying for months. Namely, there is a crisis in Europe, there is a global economic slowdown and it will impact on Australia. I want to make the fundamental point that this is a government which is imperilling our ability to respond to this global problem. It is imperilling our ability to respond to this very serious set of international economic numbers.

This is a government which is making a bad situation worse with its new taxes and with its continuing waste. There is no good time to introduce bad taxes but this is the worst possible time to be introducing a carbon tax and a mining tax which are going to damage Australia’s international competitiveness. [Read more...]


Swan Releases MYEFO: Budget Surplus Shaved

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has released the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). It forecasts an increased budget deficit for 2011-12 and a small surplus in 2012-13.

Key points from MYEFO:

  • 2011-12 budget deficit has increased to $37 billion from the budget forecast of $23 billion.
  • The budget surplus for 2012-13 has been downgraded from $3.5 billion to $1.5 billion.
  • Deteriorating economic conditions have cut $20 billion from revenue over the four-year forward estimates.
  • Additional savings of $11.5 billion over four years have been announced.
  • The baby bonus has been cut from $5400 to $5000.
  • A 2.5% efficiency dividend, on top of an existing 1.5%, will produce savings across government departments of $1.5 billion.
  • The federal and High Courts, and cultural institutions such as the Australian War Memorial have been been protected from cuts.
  • There will be a crackdown on living away from home tax concessions, an increase in the eligibility age for the dependent spouse offset.
  • Gross Domestic Product is now forecast to grow by 3.25%, down from 4.25%.
  • Unemployment is expected to be 5.5% in 2011-12 and 2012-13, slightly up on budget forecasts.

[Read more...]


A Flurry of Activity – and it’s only January 7

The federal government and opposition have been busy today, even though it is only the first week of January.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been in Western Australia where she held a press conference about the education tax rebate and other issues.

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Back on the east coast, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, and the shadow Finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, held a press conference to explain the coalition’s policy on investigating the construction of new dams. Abbott claimed that with two Sydney Harbours worth of water flowing past Rockhampton each day it’s time for a re-think on water management policy.

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The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, also held a press conference to announce the government’s response to the November 11 High Court decision on judicial review of asylum seeker applications.

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Back in Western Australia, Gillard and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, announced the government’s National Ports Strategy at Kwinana.

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It is unusual for so many political announcements to occur at this time of year. This reflects the government’s minority status in Parliament and the desire of the Opposition to maintain political pressure on the government.


Brendan Nelson Elected Liberal Party Leader In Close Vote

Brendan Nelson, Leader of the OppositionBrendan Nelson has been elected leader of the Liberal Party, defeating Malcolm Turnbull by 45 votes to 42.

Julie Bishop, the outgoing Education Minister, has been elected deputy leader. Sky News reports that she garnered 44 votes, Andrew Robb 25 and Christopher Pyne 18.

Bishop holds the seat of Curtin in Western Australia, the only state to withstand the swing to the ALP in Saturday’s election.

The election of Nelson and Bishop marks the first time in decades that the Liberal Party’s leaders do not include a Victorian.

  • Listen to Peter Costello Announce the Leaders:

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Nelson Appoints Turnbull Shadow Treasurer, Supports Kyoto Ratification

Nov 29 – 3.10pm – The newly-elected Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, has appointed Malcolm Turnbull Shadow Treasurer. Nelson also offered support for the ratification of the Kyoto treaty.

Giving his first press conference since defeating Turnbull 45-42 earlier today, Nelson spoke of his Labor-oriented family background and the role education played in his life.

He said he wanted to discuss the future of federal intervention in Northern Territory aboriginal communities with the incoming prime minister, Kevin Rudd. Nelson’s deputy, Julie Bishop, will be the shadow minister for Industrial Relations.

Within hours of Nelson’s elevation to the Liberal leadership, the ALP had NelsonFacts online.

  • Listen to the Press Conference held by Brendan Nelson and Julie Bishop:

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  • Listen to Malcolm Turnbull’s reaction to the Liberal leadership election:

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Abbott Withdraws From Liberal Leadership Contest

The outgoing Health Minister, Tony Abbott, has withdrawn from the Liberal Party leadership ballot on Thursday.

Malcolm Turnbull and Brendan Nelson will contest the position with Turnbull looking more likely to win.

The deputy’s position is a three-way contest between Andrew Robb, Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne.