Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth into diversifying Australia's trade and investment

I want to make some brief remarks on this proposed inquiry. I recognise the good faith with which this inquiry is being brought forward. I think many of the issues that have been raised here do deserve examination, and I will come to those. But I do want to briefly put on the record the reasons I won't be supporting this specific inquiry. Some of them go to the substantive issues that have been raised through this debate. I will come back to ones that I think do deserve inquiry and investigation by this parliament and its committees.

As much as I share the concerns of Senator McKim and other contributors to this debate on human rights abuses in China and as much as I also share concerns about developments in Hong Kong, I do think the primary focus of committees of this parliament should be on matters that relate directly to the Australian people and matters relating to Australia. There are other forums to investigate issues of human rights abuses in other nations, and I think we should be a little bit wary of seeking to use our parliamentary committees and processes to, effectively, inquire into other nations. I don't think we would appreciate other countries' parliaments seeking to interfere in our domestic affairs, and we should respect that as a general rule.

In saying that, some very important issues have been raised in this debate which do deserve further examination and which do relate directly to issues that go to our sovereignty and independence, and they should be investigated. In particular, our too heavy reliance on trade with China does deserve examination and inquiry, and we should be seeking to do what we can to diversify and reduce our vulnerability to those markets. To that end, an inquiry is already going on in this parliament. An inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth into diversifying Australia's trade and investment profile is currently underway. It's being chaired by a Nationals colleague of mine, George Christensen, and its terms of reference are very explicit. I won't read them out in full, but the terms of reference of that inquiry go to considering whether Australia is too reliant on one market for exports; the advantages and disadvantages to our national interests; the national economic risk of overreliance on one market; whether Australia is too reliant on foreign investment and, if so, what factors are contributing to this; and many other factors that go exactly to many of the issues that have been raised in this debate.

My colleague George Christensen is doing a very good job, I think, of highlighting these issues. In particular, the inquiry will look at our relationship with China. It is a joint committee, so senators are represented on the committee. Given the importance and the sensitivity of this issue, it is enough to have that inquiry look at these matters at this stage and not proceed with this specific Senate inquiry right now.

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