Senator for Victoria

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Speech: FTA with China passes parliament

Monday, 9 November 2015

Speech: FTA with China passes parliament

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (13:24): I too rise to put on record my views, my support and my praise for the Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, for delivering, in race week, the trifecta of free trade agreements into the Senate.

I thank the Labor Party for getting behind regional jobs right across regional Australia by agreeing to support the Customs Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2015 and the associated bill through the Senate.

Currently, China is our biggest market. It has a population of 1.4 billion, which is soon to be a lot greater with the recent lifting of the one-child policy. It has an increasing middle class and economic growth of seven per cent. This, indeed, is a market of untold opportunity. I am so excited that our nation, as a key exporter of quality agricultural products, quality financial services and exceptional educational services, will now be able to access that market in similar ways, and expanded ways, to our cousins from New Zealand. China is the largest importer of agricultural food and fish in the world, at $119 billion in 2014, so there is an incredible opportunity for our agricultural producers. Ratifying the agreement now is so important. It is so important that this bill goes through the Senate.

When the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria spoke in the wake of the CFMEU's Aussie jobs scare campaign that has been running over the last couple of months around the Chinese free trade agreement, the UDV were very concerned that any delay in this agreement would cost Aussie jobs. It would cost the industry, they estimated, $300 million just in 2016. That is a lot of employees, a lot of growth potential and a lot of potential flow-on benefits outside of that. I touched briefly on the CFMEU's absolutely shameful campaign around Aussie jobs which completely muddied the water on this issue. This free trade agreement, like the ones that have gone before it, would deliver jobs en masse right throughout our economy, but what is important to note is that it is regional Australia where those jobs would most keenly be felt. The CFMEU—aside from their forestry division; I will give them credit—could not give a rat's about jobs in regional Australia, and that is why they chose to go hard, in a very xenophobic way, against the Chinese free trade agreement. So I thank the Labor Party for embracing the jobs potential that this agreement brings to our economy and to our future. It sets regional Australia up for the future.

Peter Tuohey, the fabulous President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, extolled the benefits of the Chinese free trade agreement to the great ag state of Victoria. I have to disagree with Senator Macdonald about where the prime benefits of this agreement flow because they flow to the dairy industry, and the great state of dairying of this country is Victoria. The greatest export off the Melbourne ports every single day is Murray-Goulburn produce heading out to those markets across the world. Estimates are that the first year of this agreement will see over 700 jobs being created in the Victorian dairy industry. That is incredibly exciting. During the campaign by the dairy industry to get the China free trade agreement through, a fabulous north-eastern dairy farmer, Dianne Bowles, was very up-front about what this agreement would mean to her and to her family's business, which milks over 200 cows in north-east Victoria, and to potential business security.

Farmers have to battle floods, they have to battle droughts and they sometimes have to battle uncertain commodity markets, but having this sort of market opportunity available, particularly to dairy and horticulture, gives them the security and stability that they really need at the moment.

Currently, Victoria exports more than $4.15 billion worth of goods to China, and that includes almost $3 billion worth of agriculture—very exciting.

I touched on dairy. This is what it actually means for dairy: that tariffs of up 20 per cent will be eliminated progressively on milk powders, ice cream, liquid milk, cream, cheese, butter et cetera. The value of the Australian product in that market cannot be overstated. The fact that it is produced within Australia, with our supply chain quality assurance, means that Chinese consumers can go to the shelf and buy their infant formula and their dairy product—indeed, they can buy their horticultural product—and be assured that these products are safe to consume and safe to feed their families. Middle-class parents—especially mothers—in China are absolutely enamoured, if you will, with Australian product, and we are looking forward to putting more and more of it on the supermarket shelves in Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu—you name it, we'll be there.

As to benefits to Victoria, there are benefits for horticulture, obviously. Eighty per cent of the national pear crop is grown in the Goulburn Valley; we do some decent apples and we are very good at wine grapes. All of those industries stand to benefit as a result of this agreement.

I will be brief because I know we have other things to do today. I am very, very proud of our government. I am extremely proud of our trade minister for delivering an agreement that the EU would love to have and that the US would love to have. We have been able to deliver it, not only for our agricultural industries but obviously for our educational and financial service providers as well. But agriculture is the big winner out of this agreement, and that means regional jobs in communities right around regional Australia. We are very excited, and we look forward to delivering on its potential.

© Senator Bridget McKenzie 2014 | Authorised by Senator Bridget McKenzie, National Party of Australia, Bendigo Victoria 3550
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