Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019; Second Reading
The Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019 represent an agreement of mutual benefit between Australia and the United Kingdom over a mutual love of a good glass—or more than one glass—of Australian grapes. This love is evidenced by the United Kingdom being Australia's second-largest wine importer by volume. I will just say to all the wine drinkers, wine importers and people who do trade with Australian winemakers in the United Kingdom: thank you very much. The last financial year saw Australia send the equivalent of $27.3 million nine-litre cases of wine to the United Kingdom. It is one of our most notable exports. In 2018, these wine exports were valued at some $2.76 billion, representing a growth of some 20 per cent on the previous year. The United Kingdom is currently Australia's third-largest import market by value, at some $384 million.
In my home state of Western Australia, we are the leading production state for fine wine in Australia. In 2017, Western Australia's bottled exports were valued at some $49.1 million, their highest value in over a decade. I will just note, with your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, that Western Australian wine is also very popular amongst, of course, Western Australians, and it is sometimes popular amongst academics and researchers. With that, I would like to thank Edith Cowan University researcher Stephanie Murphey for her assistance in my office through the Australian National Internships Program and for her assistance in preparing this speech.
The United Kingdom represents the second-biggest market for Western Australia wines. It's ahead of our exports to the US, Singapore and Hong Kong. The United Kingdom's significance in the Australian wine export market highlights that, despite the challenges that will continue to be thrown up as a result of Brexit, smooth trade is essential. Indeed, I think it's not just wine producers who will look at the frictions and ructions that are happening in the United Kingdom on a regular basis—and votes won and lost—and worry: 'What will that mean for my industry?' It's not something that's in our control, but, as the shadow minister just highlighted, it's important that, as much as possible, we deal with these things in a way that allows for a smooth transition and a continuing smooth expansion of trade for Australian exporters.
Of course, trade between the United Kingdom and Australia extends well beyond wine. The United Kingdom is Australia's fifth-largest two-way trading partner, with exports worth $4.9 billion and imports worth $7.3 billion. Our relationship is further strengthened through both countries being strong proponents of fair and free trade. Free trade agreements between Australia and the United Kingdom—and, indeed, globally—can provide more jobs and higher economic growth for Australia, but these trade agreements must be in Australia's national interest. Labor has some clear policies to make sure that we prohibit through legislation any trade agreement that requires us to waive labour market testing, include provisions that require the privatisation of our public services or include any provisions that seek to undermine the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. These are the sorts of things we need to look out for when we are addressing these free trade agreements, which can be in Australia's national interests. But we shouldn't just equate the words 'free trade' with guaranteed Australian interests.
We are only discussing this piece of legislation—it is only before us—because of the intention of the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. The United Kingdom is currently Australia's largest market within the European Union, and I think it's going to be the first of many of these types of legislation that we'll see before us in coming years. Indeed, I think it may be many, many years before all of our legislation has truly caught up with the impact of the United Kingdom's impending, or attempted impending, exit from the European Union.
With a value of $12.1 billion, the United Kingdom is Australia's seventh-largest export market overall and, as I mentioned earlier, it is worth more than any single country in the European Union. Yet, the United Kingdom is not as large as the rest of the European Union in its entirety, if you treat the union as a single market. But what the United Kingdom has provided us with over the years, particularly within that single market, is a familiar cultural base, a familiar language base and a launching pad for many, many Australian businesses to go further into Europe and build their trade capacity.
In talking about alcohol—and I enjoy a good glass of wine—I would note that the United Kingdom is well and truly ahead of Australia when it comes to effective alcohol labelling and consistent standards for labelling about the health impacts of the misuse of alcohol. It's something we might seek to look at further in this place in coming years.
I'll conclude by saying there are many challenges and conversations that will happen as a result of this legislation. When it comes to wine, we will have many more legislative discussions about things that result from Brexit. I think that's inevitably going to lead us to discuss an Australian republic. The citizens of the United Kingdom have outlined their aspirations as a nation. It is probably about time to outline our aspiration—probably a slightly less radical aspiration than the one those in the United Kingdom have outlined—to stand as an Australian republic. It continues to be supported by the people of Australia. It's a discussion that's well due. If we're to continue to have discussions about legislation for the United Kingdom's interests, it's about time we had a discussion about our interests.