Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought, and Emergency Management. Will the minister update the House on what action the Morrison-McCormack government is taking to expand trade opportunities for our agriculture sector?
I thank the member for Cowper for his question and acknowledge the rich history the Cowper electorate has in the agriculture sector in production and export. The farmers of Cowper understand better than anyone the importance of trade. They understand that we're a nation of 25 million people and we produce enough food for 75 million people. We need to engage with the world. We need to trade with the world. The farmers appreciate and acknowledge the work that this government has done over many years in securing free trade agreements with China, Japan, Korea, Peru, Hong Kong and Indonesia—that little $13.2 trillion marketplace that those opposite said was too hard to crack, the TPP-11. Indonesia comes in on 5 July, and tonight we start our negotiations with the UK.
This morning I was fortunate enough to catch up with the high commissioner. We talked about not only the traditional opportunities in agriculture but also the new opportunities in trade and agriculture—that is, the research and development of technology, allowing the UK to invest in the best agricultural minds of the world right here in Australia to help both production systems and to enrich the production systems at an agriculture product level and at a human capital level. That's why we continue to make sure that we've been giving our producers the opportunity to spread their risk. We've done that in other markets by investing in 21 agriculture counsellors who work in embassies and high commissions around the world. They work at a government-to-government level, trying to reduce technical barriers and get more market access. These can sometimes be the real barriers for our producers to access markets and have a more streamlined export system. We will continue to look at streamlining that system further with investments in technology here in Australia for our exporters to be able to streamline that process. But this could all be in vain, particularly if we don't continue to protect brand Australia.
The federal government is committing $850 million in biosecurity measures. Today, I was proud to introduce a bill that strengthens the message to those international visitors who we welcome and to Australian citizens who travel around the world and come back that we are looking to increase the penalties regarding passenger declaration cards from $420 to $2,520, in today's value, to make sure we continue to send that strong message around biosecurity. This complements the measure that we put in place before the election, where, for the most serious biosecurity breaches, we gave our biosecurity officers the opportunity to cancel the visas on the spot—to send them home and not allow them to reapply for a visa for up to three years. This shows the importance of trade to the agricultural sector and to regional Australia. We're not just protecting but we're also enhancing agricultural trade and regional Australia.