House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Questions without Notice


3:03 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment. Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison government's consistent beliefs and policy approach to trade are helping to support regional and rural Australians? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?

3:04 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Nicholls for his question. I know that he knows firsthand the benefits that greater export opportunities bring to the people of his electorate in terms of greater jobs and greater investment. We know that the wealth of our nation has to be built on what we make, what we grow and what we sell. That's why our trade agreements are so very important. They show in real terms to our young farmers that they have a future, that there are further markets out there to sell their goods. They mean that they can exist without being under the thumb and sway of the big supermarkets and without being price takers. They show that there is a future in primary production. They help secure their future in primary production.

In 2019 Australia posted our largest-ever calendar-year trade surplus of $67.6 billion. I know the member for Nicholls was very pleased to hear that. In 2019 Australian goods exports rose 13.4 per cent to a record $391.8 billion, with service exports rising 8.9 per cent to a record $101.1 billion. One of the reasons we've been able to do this is our trade agreements. Take the TPP-11. That has eliminated more than 98 per cent of tariffs in the free trade area, including new reductions on Japan's tariffs on beef, which were as high as 40 per cent, so there are big gains there. On 11 February this year the Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement came into force, which will ultimately eliminate over 99 per cent of all tariffs on Australian goods to Peru. That Peru FTA guaranteed duty-free access for 30,000 tonnes of sugar, which Queensland Sugar said would be filled within the first year, so there are big opportunities there. We have also brought into force the Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement, which will guarantee zero tariffs on Australian goods to Hong Kong.

It's not just the tariffs we're knocking down; it's the non-tariff barriers as well. Take, for example, export protocols in my area. Once upon a time if we wanted to export cherries to China, they had to go into cold storage for weeks, but now that we've negotiated we can get our cherries straight in and for the first time this season our exporters have reported solid growth. We're breaking down barriers and finding new markets. We ask those opposite to join us and support regional and country Australia. We know you have an inner-city green constituency you want to pander to and we know you have problems with the Otis group. We know all of that. Once upon a time you used to dine at the egalitarian restaurants in Chinatown in Sydney, but now it's the hifalutin restaurants of Canberra. Move away from the creme brulee and the fancy restaurants and come and support regional Australia. Don't wind these trade agreements back, because they're benefitting regional Australia.