It gives me great pleasure to stand and speak on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2015.
I will do my very best to contain my comments to this bill—unlike the good member for Perth, who managed to make 100 per cent of her contribution dedicated to the free trade agreement! I did not hear the words 'Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank' come across her lips once! Nevertheless, I will try to enlighten the House as to the benefits of a bill which I believe has bipartisan support.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2015 enables Australia to become a substantial founding member in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is expected to become operational from late 2015. The bank will boost economic growth, create jobs and promote trade in our region by financing much-needed infrastructure investment, using its authorised capital base of around $100 billion to help address the Asia-Pacific region's acute infrastructure needs, estimated to be around $8 trillion this decade. That is an enormous amount of money that is going to be needed to build wealth in the region.
Can I say in my opening comments how critical this bank set-up is for Australia? We saw that firsthand when China—one of our Asian partners—was doing well, with growth rates of around 13 per cent. Our iron ore, resources, infrastructure and services where we can value-add, like our education services, health services and our food, flourished. But as we saw China come off 13 per cent growth back to where they sit currently at about six per cent, that has had a negative impact on us.
Any economist would share their concern that the long-term sustainability of growth in China at those rates of around 13 per cent was always going to be difficult. We needed to see a correction and a more level long-term average applied to sustainable growth rates in the Chinese market. It just goes to show the point that I want to make: if our Asian partners are doing well and if their lower classes are shifting to their growing middle class then Australia is a beneficiary of that. If Australia is a partner in a project like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank then we will be one of the first to benefit. With the emergence of a growing middle class comes a greater need for protein. We have not only the benefits of the free trade agreement but an extra one million head of cattle will come out of Australia as a result of that free trade agreement, and those on the other side want to say that that is not good for Australia or for Australian jobs.
I beg to differ, and Australia will ultimately be the judge on this. There is a good reason for the member for Perth using the word 'xenophobia' on a number of occasions during her contribution. From the outside, that is what it looks like to anyone looking at how Labor want to address the free trade agreements.
This will create opportunities for the region and Australia by investing in areas such as transport, energy and water infrastructure, ports, logistics, environmental protection, information and communications technology and, as I said earlier, agriculture. We only need to look at some of the current port infrastructure. Some of our Asian partners, like Laos, are not set up for live cattle imports. We are quite happy to partner with them to build those ports to unload cattle. We are quite happy to deal with them to create efficiencies in their resources ports so that when our product gets there we can increase the productivity in those countries, to increase their turnaround times in boat movements. If that means investing in ports, then that is a great investment for Australia to be committed to.
During the GFC, the then government chose to stimulate the economy. We agreed to a stimulus package, but we would have invested the money in far different ways. We would have invested the capital that was needed to stimulate the economy in the very same ways that this global bank is looking to do in Asia—investing in infrastructure; investing in upgrading port facilities, such as at Abbot Point. The capital investments that we would have made would have given the capacity to generate its own income, service its own debt and then, once the debt was paid off, have assets in our country actually deriving revenue and giving a benefit back to the community. As it was, we managed to put pink batts into ceilings and burn 400 houses to the ground. The only thing we stimulated was the building trade, rebuilding homes.
Australia's prosperity and economic growth is tied closely to Asia. A stronger Asian region underpins a stronger Australian economy. Australia will benefit from improved infrastructure throughout the Asian region, which should provide greater opportunities for Australian businesses and increase demand for our services and our commodity exports.
New ports and railways in AIIB member countries, such as India, Indonesia and Korea, will mean that Australian exports can reach new markets or expand existing markets. Our Asian trading partners need strong economies and we need to have strong relationships with them. We are constantly reminded about how we can do immense damage to relationships with trading partners. For example, one phone call can shut down the live cattle trade overnight on the back of one Four Corners program televised here in Australia.
Protein, by way of beef, went from $2 to $7 a kilo in a very short time in Indonesia. There were associated health risks, potentially in the provincial areas, where lack of protein in the diet had substantial community—