Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019; Second Reading
I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Just before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the long service of the member for Lilley at the highest levels of the Australian government and congratulate him on a very long and distinguished record of service to Australia.
The Australian government has been working assiduously to protect and promote our market access and other trade interests within the UK and EU in the lead up to Brexit. This extends to the wine industry, where the Australian government must provide certainty, as market and vintage planning arrangements can be made years in advance before a product is available and ready to export.
The UK is Australia's top wine export market by volume and third largest market by value. It is therefore vital that we ensure the continuity of trade with the UK, regardless of their Brexit arrangements. Trade in wine between Australia and the UK is currently facilitated by the Agreement between Australia and the European Community on Trade in Wine. This agreement is given effect in Australian law and by the Wine Australia Act 2013. The proposed UK-EU withdrawal agreement envisages a Brexit transition period during which obligations stemming from EU third country agreements will continue to apply to the UK.
This bill introduces amendments to the Wine Australia Act to ensure that Australia's wine trade with the UK continues to be covered by the act during any Brexit transition period, consistent with the terms of the withdrawal agreement. Specifically, the bill will amend the definition of 'EC country' in the act to include the UK during a Brexit transition period. The government tabled last year the Agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom on trade in wine, which was signed between Australia and the UK in London last month. This new wine trade agreement with the UK is part of our preparations for a no-deal Brexit whereby the UK leaves the EU without a transition period or other measures in place.
In the event of a deal or no-deal Brexit, the combined efforts of this legislative amendment and our new agreement with the UK will ensure our wine industry can continue to export to the UK post-Brexit. These measures will ensure the continued facilitation of trade in wine between Australia and the UK and a mutually beneficial trade relationship, whatever shape Brexit takes.
Like the minister, I'm fortunate to be following straight on from the valedictory speech of Wayne Swan—I'm going to name him, and I know you'll forgive me for that—the member for Lilley. He has made an outstanding contribution here over a very long period of time, as the minister indicated, at the highest levels. I just wanted to spend a couple of seconds on the polar opposite of that and make the point that the member for Lilley has continued to make a contribution from the back bench. It's a reminder to all who come to this place that it is more than possible to do just that. When I say that, I think of the member for Melbourne Ports, who has served on the back bench here for almost two decades and has made an outstanding contribution. He's really influenced government policy from the back benches and has made a very significant contribution. Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, I thank you for your indulgence.
The Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019 is a rushed bill for good reason. It's a bill that is uncontroversial but borne by great controversy. That controversy is the events that we see continuously unfolding in the United Kingdom as they grapple with that very unfortunate decision by the people of that country that they no longer wanted to be part of the European Union. I fear that this will be the first of many issues we will find ourselves dealing with in this place as a consequence of the UK's inability to tackle that decision properly and to find outcomes that are acceptable to the people of the United Kingdom and, indeed, to the people of the broader European union.
As the minister said—well, I think he said!—on 29 March the United Kingdom informed the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union, officially triggering article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. As a result, it is anticipated that the UK will no longer be a member of the EU after 29 March this year. So the bill makes minor amendments to the Wine Australia Act and the Wine Australia Regulations to ensure that the UK continues to be treated as an agreement country for the purposes of this act. In other words, we need to ensure that our agreement with the European Union on wine extends to the United Kingdom if they no longer are part of the European Union.
So it's a very important bill but, again, in the terms of the hurly-burly of this place it's a noncontroversial bill and one which we, of course, support very strongly. And no-one will be surprised to see me at the dispatch box talking about it. That is for two reasons: firstly, I'm the relevant portfolio shadow minister. And, of course, I represent the finest wineries in the world, without question! I know that there will be those in this place—
Mr Gorman interjecting—
And some are coughing fakely as I speak! Some will have other views, but we do have the oldest vines in this country, planted by James Busby in the 1820s. We have been a pioneering region and we remain a very significant region in this country. Of course, the area is synonymous with the names Drayton, Tyrell, Tulloch and many more. We are a significant exporter of our product, and my own region stands to benefit from this tidy up that we'll do in this place today.
I had cause to ring Bruce Tyrell yesterday, just to reassure myself that everything in this bill is what the industry would hope might be in this bill. He said, 'Yes, I confirm that.' He said, 'Mate, we just want everything to stay the same.' I suppose the government might care to take that as a compliment! I don't know, but they want everything to stay the same. So we certainly support the measure.
Again, I fear that we will be back on many occasions, depending on how Brexit pans out. I had the great joy of having a private dinner last night with the EU ambassador here and the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan—a great Irishman. I have Irish descent on both sides, I might say, so I had a wonderful conversation with Phil Hogan. We spent all of our night talking about three things, really. I took the opportunity to protest about geographic indicators, and Prosecco in particular, and I had a bit of a jab at him on high-quality beef quotas in the European Union, as people would expect me to do. But we spent the balance of our time talking about two things: obviously, Brexit and the challenges it poses for the European community, the UK and, indeed, the rest of the world, and the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the ripples that are shaking our economies around the world. We are entering into difficult times, I suspect, in international trade terms and, indeed, in international relationship terms. I think it's very nice to see us here today agreeing on something that relates to that, because I think the best way—and I suppose this picks up on the theme offered by the member for Lilley—and that our response to all these turbulent waters will be strongest if the major parties can find common ground on these issues. I thank the House.
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.
I'm glad to be able to stand and speak about the Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019, even though it's non-controversial, because it does give me a chance to talk about wine exports and what they mean for regional electorates like my own. It also gives me the chance to raise, again, the challenges we have with one of our very popular varieties, which is only grown for prosecco. Prosecco has become a bit of a hit and is currently taking off in the UK, but our growers and winemakers have hit a bit of a hurdle. An area in Italy has decided to rename the region Prosecco and, like Champagne, is claiming that Australian winemakers can no longer use that name for the variety on their labelling. That of course would be disastrous for our local wine industry.
When you meet the King Valley winemakers you find they are passionate about their history. They are passionate about their wine but also about their wine history. They imported this particular grape variety, and it said on the importation papers 'prosecco variety'. They've won this dispute at the WTO and in every other economic forum, but now we have the Italians trying to be quite cheeky and push for this in the Australia-EU free trade negotiations. I hope the government are being true to their word and continuing to stand on the side of the Australian winemakers to try to stop that happening. It's not necessarily going to hurt the local industry. The real impact, we believe, is not going to be felt locally—although people may get a bit confused if we lose the name. The growers' biggest concern is about potential future exports to the UK.
This matter is relevant to where we're at in this debate, because it gives us the chance, again, to talk about the importance of having a government that advocates for all producers, for all exporters, when it comes to free trade agreements. The UK, like Australia, has a great racing culture and racing industry. Just as prosecco has been the flavour of the season for a couple of spring racing carnivals, it's believed that it will take off in a similar way in the United Kingdom, and we hope for, and wish our growers, the best of luck when it comes to that.
Of course, it's not just the Italian varieties that are now grown and bottled in Australia that are doing well. We have the opportunity to export many of our wine grapes and the winemaking story that goes with them. In my electorate of Bendigo, in central Victoria, we have more wineries than schools—more winemakers than schools. In each little nook and corner of Heathcote you are likely to bump into a shiraz grower and winemaker, and all of them have their own stories.
To the south, we have the Macedon Ranges. Many who have been to the Virgin Club may recall the fantastic Hurley flat pinot, another great wine and one that deserves recognition for what they have been able to achieve in the Macedon Ranges. As you work through the Macedon Ranges towards Castlemaine and Mount Alexander there's another great winemaking region in Harcourt. Throughout Malden there are winemakers, and then you move onto Bendigo and Heathcote. It's a great shiraz country, but it's increasingly diversifying and moving with climate change and focusing on different varieties.
This is another reason that we need to continue to invest in building our export industries. Our winemakers are innovative and are adapting. They are changing varieties that they are planting to adapt to changing weather conditions. Just a few weeks ago, I was at a Sutton Grange winery and they talked us through the history of the varieties on their vineyard and how they were changing because the climate was changing. The impact of climate change on our wine regions in Australia will be disastrous if our winemakers don't adapt, and they are. I was talking to winemakers in the Yarra Valley, who are now purchasing land in Tasmania because they believe that Tasmania may be the only place left in Australia that will be cold enough to grow pinot noir grapes. I know that there are many people in this place who might be alarmed to hear that, being pinot noir fans. But that's the reality if we don't get on top of and tackle climate change in a real and meaningful way.
The stats stand out for themselves about the growing importance of wine industry exports to the Australian economy. In 2015-16,1.6 million tonnes of grapes were produced into wine in Australia. We have over 3,230 wine farms in Australia. Many of those are small family-run operations—small boutique wineries—but there are some larger wineries and winemaking regions. Treasury, as people know, is one of the big ones, and there's Penfolds in South Australia. In fact, South Australia is the largest producer of wine grapes, making up 51 per cent of the total production in 2015-16. These are industries that also employ thousands of workers, particularly in the big states like South Australia.
It's important to note that 41 per cent of Australian wine is currently exported to the United States and China. But there is a hope among the winemakers that, because of the different varieties that we have and the different quirky stories of our winemakers, the UK exports could increase. So the amendment before us may seem minor today, but it has the potential to give us real opportunity as our winemakers start to sell into the United Kingdom.
One thing we do need to note is the way in which our winemakers are increasingly value adding to their produce. They are not just making wine these days; many of them are also producing their own preserves and their own olive oil. One in my area has even started his own sparkling wine. Our winemakers are working with our apple growers to produce sparkling apple wine, sparkling cider and sparkling apple juice.
The real innovation that occurs in the wine industry does occur at the farm. But, if we are true and want to see a growth in wine exports, one of the things we must also focus on is ensuring we have the skills required in the industry. Far too often when you are in wine regions you hear that people wanting a career in wine struggle to be able to enrol in a course that is close by. There are fewer and fewer TAFEs offering winemaking as a course today and fewer and fewer opportunities for people to be able to study this particular pathway, which is disappointing, knowing that people are converting to drinking wine and wine has become a big part of our culture. It doesn't matter who you talk to in the industry, whether it be the restaurant owner, the AHA or the pub on the corner, a lot of people within the hospitality industry now recognise the important role that wine plays. We must continue to invest in the skills and in the industry if we are going to have the ability to produce exports into countries like the UK.
As one of the previous speakers mentioned, this is one of the first minor amendments in relation to the Brexit that we expect will happen in the UK. We don't quite know where that's going, particularly after reading in the media in the last 24 hours about the future of Brexit. There's probably going to be lots and lots of these bills coming forward when we deal with the UK exiting the EU. We need to make sure that we are continuing to put Australia's best foot forward. We need to make sure that we're getting the best deal, particularly when it comes to wine. It's a value-added crop. It's a crop that we know is supported by a number of small businesses. It's a real opportunity for us going forward.
I do want to acknowledge that some of the money has started to flow in relation to the $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package. A few winemakers in regional Victoria have spoken about how they have been able to tap into that. However, in some of our areas, they are disappointed that they missed out. It's a bit hard to define the Pyrenees and Central Victoria all as one wine region. It's just not possible. There is some work to do within the industry to make sure that we are properly defining our wine areas. There are areas within areas. Whilst we talk about the top 10, it's important not to forget the smaller ones.
Two-thirds of our wine is exported to the value of $2.4 billion a year, and that will continue to grow. The industry contributes $40 billion to our economy and employs 170,000 people, from the people working on the vineyards, to the people working at the cellar doors, to the wine sellers, and so on and so forth. It is an important industry for us, and one we need to continue to support.
In my concluding remarks, I do wish to encourage the government, with this amendment, to continue to engage in aggressive way to support our wine varieties and wine that is going into the UK. We have a real opportunity to establish a market for our smaller producers. They have missed out on the boom in China, because their wine the just not cheap enough for China. That is a real missed opportunity number of our small winemakers. When the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement was done, we were concerned that the small winemakers would miss out—and they have.
There are reverse trade missions, where Chinese merchants come out and speak to the winemakers. But, of course, they just kind of say, 'We want it for 4c a litre. We want all of the wine that you produce in a year.' For the winemakers in Victoria, that's just not what they produce. They are boutique winemakers; they have a story behind their wine. When you go to the cellar door you meet the winemaker and you meet the owner of the business—they are the same person—and they have a great story behind what they produce. If you are in an area like Heathcote, in every winery that you go to, the wine is different. Even though it's grown in the same soil, it's different because of the way in which the winemaker has made that particular variety.
I would urge the government, with these discussion that are going on, to think about the smaller producers, to think about how we can better tell their story and to think about how we can market many small winemakers into the UK market, as opposed to what we tried to do in China, which was about being big and having bulk. It was great for the big guys in the industry, but not great for the little guys in the industry.
I'm pleased to follow the member for Bendigo in speaking on the Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019. As the member for Bendigo quite rightly pointed out a moment ago, the wine industry is very important to the Australian economy. I will quote some of the statistics that the member for Bendigo also quoted in her address to the House. Australia is among the top 10 wine-growing countries in the world. We have some 3,230 farms across Australia, with some 6,250 actual grape growers involved through the ownership and management of those farms. There are 2,468 wineries in this country. That, in itself, speaks volumes for the importance of the wine industry, because each one of those wineries not only employs people directly in the winery and buys grapes from the wine growers but is involved in its own research and development of new and better wines. The industry contributes over $40 billion to the Australian economy and employs 172,000 people across the country, with exports worth $2.4 billion each year.
The importance of this legislation is that the UK, which is at the heart of what this amendment is all about, is Australia's third-largest wine importer, with wine imports of about $371 million each year. So, given that the UK, because of its exit from the European Union in just over a month's time, will be in a difficult situation with respect to the agreements that we have with both Europe and the United Kingdom, it's important that the market in the UK remain open and that we are able to continue to trade unencumbered with the UK. It's important for the UK, for their consumers, obviously, who clearly like Australian wine, but it is also very important for the Australian producers who export to the UK.
As the member for Bendigo quite rightly pointed out, Australia produces some of the best wines in the world. Indeed, so much so that the Europeans feel threatened by the quality of Australian wines. Again, as the member for Bendigo alluded to in her remarks, many of the European countries are now trying to prevent Australian winemakers from using names for wines that have been traditionally used for decades and decades—all because they know that it will impact on the European sales, and that buyers may be looking to buy from Australia rather than Europe. My view is that that might work in the short-term, but, ultimately, wine consumers know a good wine when they drink it, and they will inevitably go back to the better product, if it's made.
This particular legislation is critical to South Australia. It's critical to South Australia, the state I represent, because South Australia produces some 51 per cent of the total wine production of this country. Across the state we have regions such as the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills, the south-east and Limestone Coast, Kangaroo Island, the Fleurieu Peninsula and the Riverland region, which are all famous for their wine producing and winemaking.
All of those regions are affected, like every region across Australia, by many, many risks. Whether it is weather, climate change or change in rainfall patterns and the like, the fact is, if you're a farmer in this country, there are indeed risks. This legislation clearly seeks to avoid one risk, and that is the risk of having the doorway to the United Kingdom market closed on us. It's an attempt to ensure that it remains open.
Of course, if we are dealing with risks, then for South Australia and, indeed, for all winemakers in this country, the biggest risk is climate change and weather pattern changes, and, particularly for South Australia, the management of the Murray-Darling Basin. In fact, what's loosely referred to as the Riverland region accounts for most of the wine production in Australia. So, indeed, the whole Murray-Darling Basin is important with respect to the wine industry of this country. But it is particularly important for South Australia, because the Riverland region of South Australia is one of the largest winegrowing regions we have in the state. For the Riverland region, its dependency on the Murray River and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is absolutely critical.
We know, as a result of what we have seen in the Darling River in recent weeks, that the Murray-Darling Basin is in crisis. We saw tens of thousands—perhaps millions—of fish dying in that system. We've also had independent reports from a number of different bodies that have highlighted, once again, that the basin is getting to a crisis point, in the same way that it was at the end of the drought period between 1998 and 2007.
But one of the reasons why the basin is in crisis is that following the basin agreement of 2012, which Labor brought together at the time under the leadership of Minister Burke, it seems that this government has abandoned that Murray-Darling Basin Plan and that through negligence, mismanagement, incompetence or simple bungling by coalition ministers since 2013 we now have a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that needs serious and urgent attention. This is so much so that the South Australian government, under the previous Labor administration, led by Jay Weatherill, ordered a royal commission into the basin.
The causes of what we're dealing with right now with respect to the Basin Plan are many, and I accept that, whether it's climate change, overallocation of water, water theft, the damming up of water before it gets into the river system itself, therefore limiting inflows, or simply general mismanagement, all contribute to the crisis that we're now facing. Climate change, of course, is one of the issues that coalition members seem to want to ignore. As far as the coalition members go, climate change has had no effect on the basin inflow at all. The truth is that it has had a serious effect. And we've also seen the issues with respect to the theft of water conveniently pushed to one side by this coalition government.
The royal commission that was ordered by the South Australian government handed down its report only last month. It's a report, from memory, of about 780 pages. I might advise the House that I've pretty much read every page of it. Having done that, I have to say that Bret Walker, who was the commissioner who headed the commission itself, has done an outstanding job in identifying the causes of the current malaise within the Murray-Darling Basin. What's even more concerning, with respect to that malaise, is that the incoming South Australian Marshall government has chosen—
Thank you. As I was saying, one of the critical risks is to ensure that our winegrowers are able to grow the very grapes that they're growing so that we can have the wine that we can then export overseas. I was making the point that it is very disappointing that the current South Australia Liberal government, led by Steven Marshall, is trying to discredit the royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin system, which went to the heart of ensuring the viability of farmers within the system and, in particular, that the winegrowers in the South Australians Riverland are able to continue their operations.
Of course, there will be other opportunities where I can talk about the Murray-Darling Basin and the royal commission in South Australia, but it does go to the heart of ensuring that our winegrowers are able to remain viable. In particular, it is also deeply concerning when the South Australian state minister for water, David Speirs, came in for personal criticism by Commissioner Bret Walker in his report. His incompetence and agreement to measures which do nothing to ensure the sustainability of the Murray-Darling Basin water are things that ought to be condemned, and will be condemned, by all South Australians.
It is true that we are dealing with a measure relating to trade, and it is also true that this trade depends on contracts. And those contracts, in most cases, will depend on the ability to supply. Therefore, once again, the ability to supply arises from the ability of our wine farmers to grow the grapes and then our winemakers to produce the wine. These matters are indeed all linked.
Labor will support this amendment, of course, because we want to support our wine industry. As I said earlier on, it's an industry that matters to our country, and to our state of South Australia, where I come from. As with all trade agreements, however, this also highlights some of the concerns that we have often flagged in terms of the limitations that are sometimes placed on countries once we enter into direct agreements with one country or another. The importance, however, is that we are able to maintain a doorway to those markets and that we're able to continue to supply the United Kingdom.
Lastly, I'll say this about the importance of this legislation to the wine industry in Australia: the United Kingdom is a country that we have, over the years, always maintained a close relationship with. I believe that, regardless of whether the United Kingdom remains part of the European Union in one form or another or it doesn't, it will always be a country that we would want to trade with. Not only do we have many people in this country who originated from the United Kingdom—good links with the country—but we also have, I believe, a degree of friendship and closeness with that country that we would not want to see lost. Therefore, if this legislation is going to help us maintain that, I believe it's a step in the right direction. I understand that this needs to be done before 29 March because of the urgency involved. For those reasons, I speak in support of this legislation.
I'm certainly pleased to sum up the Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019. This bill facilitates the continued trade in wine between Australia and United Kingdom in the event of a Brexit transition period. The trade in wine between Australian and the UK is currently facilitated by the agreement between Australia and the European Community on trade and wine. This wine agreement will cease to apply to wine trade between Australia and the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, or at the end of any Brexit transition period. The bill amends the definition of an EC country in the Wine Australia Act 2013 to include the UK during a Brexit transition period. This will ensure the beneficial conditions for wine trade continue to apply between Australia and the UK during a Brexit transition period.
It's certainly an important bill. It's important to Australia's wine exporters as well as the wine industry more broadly. It's important that the parliament supports continued market access and trade relationships that enable our wine industry to grow. I would note that, having had the privilege of serving as Australia's trade minister, we had a lot of very constructive conversations with the EU and the UK. In particular, my then counterpart Dr Fox and I were pleased that Australia was, in fact, the very first country with whom the UK formed a joint working group to look at the nature of our trade relationship post-Brexit and that we have had an officials-level working group, which has been in place now coming up to two or three years and is doing very important work.
I'd also note, of course, that we have a large number of trade agreements that it's taken the Liberal and National government to put in place. I heard comments from opposition speakers talking about the relevance of these trade deals, but I would note that it's only been under this government that we've been able to put in place the market access that has seen a profound boost in Australia's wine exports. We, as a government, were able to put in place the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the Japan-Australia free trade agreement and the free trade agreement with South Korea. We were able to put in place the additional Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Singapore in terms of its subsequent iteration. The work that we did on the comprehensive and progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership made sure I was able to lock that in on behalf of Australia. The work we did put in place the Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement. We were able to include negotiations around the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. We were able to commence negotiations for an FTA with the European Union as well as work with the Pacific Alliance countries of Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Peru. All of these are in place or underway because of the work of the Liberal-National government. I would highlight to opposition members who spoke in relation to this bill that Labor was frankly unable to start and conclude any deals when they were in office for six years. They did not commence and conclude a single trade deal in that six-year period, and yet in the six-year period that we've been in government I just outlined a very comprehensive list.
What does all this mean? It means that we've been able to give Australia's wine producers incredible market access—so much so now that China is our single largest export market for Australian wine. I would remind opposition members that it was until one minute to midnight when Labor suddenly reversed their position. The Australian Labor Party were campaigning under the guise of, of course, the union movement against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The Labor Party was opposed to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement until one minute to midnight, and then they suddenly had a conversion on the road to Damascus, so to speak. So Australians can know full well that the incredible market access that we have had to markets like China, Japan, Korea, Peru, Singapore and, in time, the European Union are all a direct consequence of the Liberal-National government.
I also note comments made by, for example, the member for Bendigo and others in relation to graphic indicators. I think it's a terrific shame that the Australian Labor Party is seeking to spook Australia's exporters, and in particular our wine exporters. There can be no doubt that there are elements of the European Union—certain stakeholders and constituencies—which have sought to establish a claim around geographic indicators. It's hardly new. Australia has worked in a comprehensive and constructive way with the European Union historically. For example, we agreed to have a geographic indicator around champagne and saw the creation of an entirely new category in Australia of sparkling wine. Just because we have done that historically doesn't mean that we'll do it in the future and doesn't mean we'll do it as part of this FTA. It demonstrates the bona fides of Australia in these negotiations. It's precisely the reason why it's taken a Liberal-National government to be able to approach with maturity and a highly evolved trade negotiation team that have been able to talk to these issues through and work in a constructive way.
Ultimately, we know this is about boosting Australian exports, which in turn boosts Australian jobs. For all of those reasons, I'm certainly very pleased that the Labor Party is perhaps begrudgingly supporting this amendment. I'm very pleased that we will continue to see very strong exports of wine from Australia to the UK. I commend the bill to the House.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.