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Gùng héi faat chōi.
Happy New Year everyone!
This year is the Year of the Dog.
I was born in the Year of the Rat. In 1972. That was a good year for China and Australia.
It was the year Prime Minister Gough Whitlam officially recognised China.
The year before he went to China as Opposition Leader. And that was a big deal.
Whitlam was the first western leader to visit the then largely unrecognised regime.
On that trip he had a famous meeting in the Great Hall of the People with the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.
In that meeting the Chinese Premier told Whitlam “all things develop from small beginnings.”
Those words proved pretty accurate.
47 years later China is now our biggest export market.
Just think about this - a quarter of everything we sell overseas, we sell to one country - and that’s China.
All from a standing start less than half a century ago.
The years ahead could be just as exciting.
Sometime in the next decade China looks set to become the biggest economy in the world.
In the next three years it will become the second biggest consumer market in the world.
But it’s not just China. It’s all of Asia that is rising.
Half the world’s middle class already live here - in our region.
By 2030 two thirds of middle class consumers will be right here - on our door step.
That’s a lot of potential customers. Three billion of them.
Our challenge - Australia’s challenge - is to make the most out of it.
We are not doing that at the moment.
Think about this:
1. Australian companies don’t invest anywhere near enough in Asia - we currently invest more in New Zealand than we do in China, Japan, India and all of Asia combined.
2. Lots of Australians with an Asian background - more than 4 million. It’s an enormous asset. But we are not taking full advantage of it. There are lots of Asian Australians in graduate jobs in the towers around us, but not many in the top jobs.
3. Very few of the board directors and senior executives of our top 200 companies have experience working in Asia.
4. And although a lot of Australians speak an Asian language - that’s because of immigration not education. Not enough students in our schools are learning an Asian language.
We are great at putting resources and agricultural products on ships.
We are good at attracting students and tourists and foreign capital, but we have got a long way to go to really enmesh ourselves in Asia.
That’s what Labor’s Future Asia plan that we announced last year is all about.
There are Australian companies that are taking up the challenge - finding new ways to crack the China market.
One way is Alibaba.
Last year about 65,000 Aussie companies used platforms like T-Mall to sell their products to Chinese companies and consumers.
Another way is what we are here talking about today.
If you are a Chinese consumer and you want Australian made vitamins or baby formula or make up or Ugg boots or almost anything else you have probably been in contact with someone in this room.
The way we trade is changing. Fast.
A great example is Swisse.
A company that started in Melbourne.
They make everything from Vitamin C to Omega 3.
About half of everything they export lands in China.
And until recently you wouldn’t have found one their products on a shelf in a supermarket or a pharmacy in China.
Everything came in via you - the Australian daigou network.
Just get on Weibo or WeChat, make contact, work out what you want, see it, order it, and next thing you know it’s at your door.
What I just described there is an industry now worth almost a billion dollars a year, that has about 12,000 stores and employs about 60-70,000 people.
And it didn’t even exist a few years ago.
Despite all of this ask most Australians what a daigou is and they probably wouldn’t know.
It’s a new industry - hiding in plain sight.
As you know there have been cases where daigous have scooped everything off the shelves in places like Woolies or Coles and Australian consumers haven’t been able to get the products they want.
We can’t let that happen. And hopefully changes in the way the daigou network operates will make sure that’s the case.
The point I want to stress is this - because of you more Australian companies are thinking about how they can become exporters.
And that’s good. We need more Australian companies to be more ambitious and crack the Chinese market.
And the establishment of this Association will help make that happen.
It will help connect more Australian businesses with Australian based daigous.
And that will mean more exports to China and more jobs here at home.
And if those great old leaders Whitlam and Zhou Enlai are up there looking down I think that would make them pretty happy.
Congratulations and I wish you well.
TUESDAY 20 FEBRUARY 2018
MEDIA CONTACT: KORENA FLANAGAN 9790 2466