Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie said a Productivity Commission hearing held in Melbourne today as part of its inquiry into processed fruit imports reinforced the need for emergency safeguards.
Senator McKenzie attended the hearing, after making written submissions to the Commission earlier this year.
Representatives from the City of Greater Shepparton and Member for Murray Sharman Stone both appeared at the hearing, to draw attention to the effects on the local economy of SPC Ardmona’s decision to slash its fruit intake.
Senator McKenzie said one of the issues raised at the hearing, which was outlined in her submission, was the focus on Australia’s need to be a role model rather than concentrating on the case at hand.
The Commission’s accelerated report admits to applying “a high standard of evidence” to determine the case for provisional safeguard measures, referring to concerns with “the poor quality of some countries” and the need to avoid being “vulnerable to challenge by other nations”.
Senator McKenzie said these concerns should not be grounds for rejecting an application.
‘‘It was disappointing that the Productivity Commission Chairman Peter Harris acknowledged that ‘growers were not considered to be the primary party in this inquiry.’’’
Another issue which was raised was the reliability of the data and methodology used to establish the causal factors in SPC Ardmona’s contract cuts.
‘‘In a case as important as this one, which deals with the future of food manufacturing in this country, the credibility and integrity of data is paramount,’’ Senator McKenzie said.
‘‘I will be pursing this issue with the Commission at Senate Estimates next month.’’
Senator McKenzie emphasised that emergency safeguards were a legitimate mechanism to be used within the international free trade regime.
‘’We should not be afraid of using the tools we have available to give growers a chance to adjust,’’ she said.
‘‘It is possible to promote free trade while also ensuring local industry continues to prosper.’’
Media contact: Kathleen Tonini mob:0400530027