Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 11 Hansard (23 September) . .
I strongly urge all those in this place to support my amendment, to support the free trade agreement, to support labour market testing and to support our sister city relationship. Then we can move forward positively and send a signal to our federal colleagues that this is too important to play politics with, that we value the strength of our relationship with Beijing and we value free trade between our two countries through this agreement, but we also support Australian jobs.
MRS JONES (Molonglo) (3.45): I am pleased to add my voice to the motion brought forward by Mr Smyth today and to confirm the importance of the sister city relationship between Canberra and Beijing, and the great importance of ongoing trade relationships between our countries and our cities. I hope that those opposite today will continue to recognise the importance of this relationship and will support the motion, as they obviously have agreed to do.
The sister city relationship was formalised on 14 September 2000 by then ACT Liberal Chief Minister Kate Carnell and the Mayor of Beijing, Mr Liu Qi. I note that my colleague Brendan Smyth, as he mentioned, is the only remaining member here in the Assembly who voted in favour of this original agreement. Good on you, Mr Smyth! It was an agreement that showed great foresight for the importance to both Australia and China as China is now Australia's biggest trading partner, mainly due to China's strong demand for Australian iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas.
China is Australia's largest export market for both goods and services, accounting for nearly a third of Australia's total exports and a growing source of foreign investment. Exports to China, along with policy settings put in place in the Howard-Costello years, helped Australia escape the worst effects of the global economic downturn and the GFC.
Locally, it is estimated that over 6,500 residents of the ACT were born in China and almost 15,000 residents of the ACT had either a mother or father or both parents born in China. The growth in Chinese born people residing in the ACT was the third-fastest group, according to the 2011 census. Mandarin is the most common language spoken by all people speaking a language other than English at home, followed closely by Cantonese.
There are nearly 11,000 Chinese language speakers resident in the ACT. We have a bilingual Chinese-Australian early childhood centre in Mawson. So it is very clear to see that our long affiliation with China has benefited Canberra. Our outstanding universities and education facilities, including the now top 20 ranked ANU, are huge attractions to the approximately 5½ thousand international students who come to Canberra from China to study and to build a future.
The cultural contribution from the Chinese community across Canberra has been significant, including the generous gift of a limestone statue of the Chinese philosopher Confucius in Woolley Street, Dickson in 2010 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the sister city agreement between Canberra and Beijing. The statue came from Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius.
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