China Trade

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:19 :02 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Leader of the Government a question about South Australia's economic benefit from trade missions into China.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Recently, there has been a great deal of Labor government fanfare about the upcoming super mission—

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Maher; totally unnecessary! The Hon. Mr Ridgway.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Can we have him tested? I think he has been on something, Mr President—fanfare about the upcoming super mission to China and Hong Kong. It's reported that some 250 people will attend. A number of them, including the minister opposite, are state government members who will be paid for by the taxpayers.

Minister, in 2012, I think you made your first ministerial visit to China. Shortly thereafter, in September 2012, you said that two South Australian produce centres would be open within 18 months, one in Nanping and one in Zhangzhou. In estimates last year, some two years after you made the announcement, the now minister confirmed that neither centre had been completed, so there was no South Australian produce being sold to people in China.

In August that same year, you boasted, minister, that you had signed an MOU with the Fujian government. Again, in estimates last year, the now minister could not confirm that one single Fujian-South Australian business arrangement had been entered into as a result of the MOU nor quantify any dollar value that it had had for South Australian producers.

It is said that the upcoming delegation will engage in targeted activities which ultimately will advantage South Australian companies, institutions and organisations striving for deeper engagement with China. It is difficult for us to presume what outcomes there might be, given that no itinerary has been made available to the opposition.

Certainly, the advice I have gained from other state government officials in places such as Shanghai, where I was last week on a visit, is that these super missions are simply a photo opportunity for the Premier and his ministers and that they are quite frustrated with the amount of work they have to put together. In fact, they often have to run around for the weeks and months before, signing up deals so that there is actually something tangible for the Premier and minister to sign, but the deal has already been done. My questions to the minister are:

1.As a previous minister who has supposedly done some leg work in forming these relations with China and the third most senior member of the state government who is going to attend this super mission, can the minister tell us which MOUs the government is aiming to sign while on this trip?

2.Given the government's track record, of which she has been an active part, of not delivering quantifiable benefits to South Australian producers or to our economy as a whole as a direct result of these trips, and the activities and the associated expenditures that have ensued, how can taxpayers or this parliament have any confidence that the upcoming trip will deliver anything for South Australia that has not already been agreed prior to the minister's and Premier's visit?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers) ( 14:21 :54 ): I thank the honourable member for his question. I find it fascinating that the honourable member can stand there, with the hypocrisy obviously implied by his question, and justify taxpayers paying for his trip to China but no-one else's. Absolute hypocrisy! He has only just returned himself, so you would think that he would fully understand the importance of these international missions. But, no, he can justify taxpayers footing his trip to China, but not mine or anyone else's. It shows such absolute naivety. He clearly doesn't understand the intricacies of being in government, and that's probably because he has never been in government and completely lacks any experience whatsoever. These missions are extremely important for continuing to grow and develop our relationships. China, we know, is—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister is on her feet trying to answer the question. Minister.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: China, we know, has a strong economy and is a very important export market for South Australia. It is important in terms of our food and wine and our other produce and, in relation to my portfolio, it is a key market in terms of international education. China is one of our largest international markets here in South Australia. Indeed, I have spent a great deal of time in China, Malaysia and India, which are also key players in our market. I have spent a great deal of time forging relationships there and progressing opportunities to advance particularly international education here in South Australia. We know that international education contributes a large component to our economy, and there is great potential for that to continue to grow.

For instance, during my recent trip to India and Malaysia, we signed an MOU with the TAR University College, Tunku Abdul Rahman University. That was signed with TAFE SA and it is teaching with one of the institutes there. The MOU provides a great opportunity for TAFE to train Malaysian students and VET teachers, resulting in increased training export activity.

There is also a great opportunity for TAFE SA to provide learning materials, guides and assessments that could be used through licensing arrangements. TARC students and staff could undertake intensive study tours here in South Australia, which they were extremely interested in, and there is an opportunity for train the trainer programs as well.

I also had the opportunity to witness a signing between Kalyani Skills and TAFE SA. Kalyani is an arm of the giant engineering company Bharat Forge Limited. That will see South Australia working with the Kalyani Skills to help develop an industry-ready workforce for India. They have set themselves large training targets for India. They are not able to fulfil those training targets domestically and they are clearly looking for international partnerships to assist them to increase the skilled labour force needs of their country.

TAFE SA's considerable expertise in developing vocational education can help Kalyani Skills to deliver training in areas including engineering, transport, electrical, electronics building and construction. Proposed activities could also include training and assessment resources, guidance and advice to set up frameworks of delivery, teaching and so forth.

I was also pleased to see a partnership commitment between the NSDC here and TAFE SA. The MOU there has the potential to establish a new vocational training college. They are actually planning to build a new vocational college that could train 80,000 students a year within a decade. Obviously, there is a clear opportunity there for TAFE to be able to expand its expertise offshore, and as a result that agreement would have a significant economic impact.

On this side of chamber we do not sit here and whinge about the challenges that we have ahead. We actually get off our tails and get out there and do something about it. These are just a handful. I could go on for the whole of question time outlining the sorts of positive outcomes that I have achieved through these international engagements, some more successful than others. I am very pleased to say that a great deal has been achieved and we continue to develop those relationships and look for opportunities to grow our markets here. Of course, that means jobs here in South Australia, and that is what our aim is.

In terms of this upcoming visit to China, there will be some very important engagements right across the delegations. My itinerary is still being finalised, but I am happy to talk about the details of that once we have been able to finalise them. There will be many exciting announcements, and I look forward to coming here to give information to this place on the successful outcomes that I have been able to bring about during this trip.


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