Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Support for Infrastructure Financing) Bill 2019; Second Reading
It is important to reiterate the importance of the relationship this country has with our Pacific nations and some of the failures of the current government, but I do acknowledge that we are supportive of this bill. We will see what happens in the Senate inquiry. The relationship is very important to the people in my electorate, and that's what I am talking about when I am talking about the agricultural visa. You might like to say that it is bit of foreign aid to have people like the Niueans come and pick strawberries in my electorate and then send that money back home to their country. I think it's very, very relevant. Maybe the member is a little bit offended by what I've said because it is actually true. But we then look at the backpacker tax, which does has significant implications for some of those workers. That was an issue where this government failed to address the labour shortages in a lot of regional Australia, and some of those are National Party seats, would you believe. Anyway.
We'll go now to the cuts to foreign aid where this government has cut $11 billion. That's a direct impact on the people on those islands. That aid went directly to the Pacific. This is another policy failure—proof, yet again, that this government does not take the Pacific or its people seriously at all. The Pacific will be a core business for Labor. As I said before, we announced some policy and then the government followed late last year. For starters, we will tackle climate change, because we don't believe the earth is flat and we do acknowledge that it is a significant issue of great concern to the people in the Pacific. We welcome the fact that the government has woken up and mirrored our plans in this bill, as I said before, which is important, and I think that's very relevant. Labor has a plan to create a government-funded infrastructure bank for the Pacific to drive investment in the region. New Zealand is already doing this. It's a bit sad when we have to follow our friends from over the ditch, but that's what happens when you act very, very slowly. The United States has passed the BUILD Act. This will establish a development finance corporation called International Development Finance Corporation. A similar body exists in the UK. They will invest solely in Africa and Asia. The international community is acting, and it is welcome that this government is again following.
Labor also welcomes the Australian benefits test that forms part of this bill. This test means any alliance provided by Efic must have a benefit to Australia or a person conducting business in Australia. I just note some of the businesses in my state, those in advanced manufacturing, who can play a critical role in some of the infrastructure building in the Pacific, whether it be through renewable energy generation, with new technology that we can assist Pacific Islanders with, and, of course, addressing climate change. This test means that any loans provided by Efic must have a benefit to those people, which is really important for our own business. Labor will reposition Australia in its rightful place as a friend to the Pacific. In all those examples I mentioned before, we do have some groundwork to make up to re-establish the important partnership that we have. We will enhance security and prosperity in the region. This government can't do it because of their inaction and inability to accept climate change, which our Pacific friends so desperately need us to act on. This proposed legislation is welcome. We will be supporting it, but if the other side were genuine they would also join Labor by making a genuine effort to address climate change.