House debates

Tuesday, 2 February 2021


Export Control Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading

5:50 pm

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

This is the first piece of legislation that I have spoken on since having this portfolio. I want to say how excited and thrilled I am to be the shadow minister for agriculture. I'm really looking forward to this. I know that agriculture is a critical part of our national economy. In my home state, and even in my own electorate, it is a critical part of the economy. I know how important it is to local producers to be able to get their product picked by workers and to get their product to market. We know from what we've seen from this government to date that there are some things they absolutely haven't got right when it comes to that.

The Export Control Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020 makes amendments to the Export Control Act 2020 to support the implementation of the new export control framework. The act commences at a time fixed by proclamation or on 28 March this year. But isn't it extraordinary that, almost a year into this new control framework, the government is already amending its own legislation? It says a lot about this government. They talk about things a lot and say they're doing all this stuff and, in reality, things take forever to get done and are not done properly.

This act will be supported by the Export Control Rules. In particular, this bill is proposing the following amendments. It is seeking to clarify the circumstances where a fit and proper person test is required for an application to vary a registration of an establishment or to approve an alteration of an establishment. It enables the rules to prescribe circumstances where the secretary may approve or refuse to approve a notice of intention to export prescribed goods. It provides the secretary with the power to prescribe requirements in the rules for determining whether to issue or to refuse to issue an export permit. It enables the rules to modify how certain provisions in the Export Control Act 2020 and the Administrative Tribunals Act 1975 apply to reviewable decisions for tariff rate quotas. It enables the rules to apply matters contained in any instrument of a foreign country that sets out, or provides a method for calculating, the tariff rate quota for the importation of a kind of goods into that country.

The bill will also support the implementation of the new export control framework, as I said, and Australia's agricultural industry and stakeholders. The government has stated that this bill has no financial impact on it or on the budget. It seems extraordinary to me that, if that is the case, these changes have taken so long. It seems to take this government forever, not just in this portfolio but in every portfolio, to get things done.

I also want to raise some concerns that we have on this side in relation to the government's failures in agriculture. The minister, the member for Maranoa, has promised us two things during the global pandemic—that is, an agricultural workers code and, of course, 22,000 overseas workers to come and assist in getting product off the farms. The question is: during this global pandemic, has he achieved these two commitments from the government in relation to agriculture? Of course, he has not. He's failed to deliver on both of these vital issues. After scrambling together a code, at the behest of the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, the state and territory chief health officers rejected the minister's half-baked agricultural workers code. Despite chief health officers' concerns, the Prime Minister and the minister rammed it through national cabinet and then called foul when the states and territories refused to incorporate the code into their health orders.

We know that this is how the government works. They go along to national cabinet, and we know that the states and territories are really controlling the agenda, but the Prime Minister thinks he is. The Prime Minister makes all these announcements and, of course, it's the premiers who are doing all of the work. It appears that the minister has ignored his state and territory colleagues, and, indeed, the health professionals, in relation to this. When his state and territory colleagues were calling to try and find workable solutions, the minister for agriculture did not engage. If this is leadership on behalf of our farmers, I think we all know how that's going to end. Farmers are clearly doing everything on their own with their state and territory leaders.

Then, in October last year, we had the minister proudly claiming that he had 22,000 vetted, work-ready workers ready to come to Australia to help get our produce off our farms. We've heard in the last week that $42 million in crop losses to date are due to labour shortages. Farmers are obviously asking themselves, 'Where are these workers that the minister promised?' With produce being left to rot on farms across the country because of labour shortages, how is this government doing its job? Where is the minister? The minister promised that these workers were ready to go, and clearly they were not.

For far too long, what we've seen from the government and the minister is obfuscation, with their trying to blame the states and territories. We know that some of the states and territories have indeed brought workers to Australia, and some of them are trying still. We had the member for Nicholls in a 90-second statement before question time today trying to blame the Victorian Premier for the fact that produce is rotting on farms in Victoria, when it's clearly the federal government's responsibility. They are responsible for seasonal worker programs and they are responsible for quarantine systems, and they have been for more than a hundred years. How can it possibly be the Premier's fault that these workers are not available to assist in getting produce off the farms? It clearly is the Commonwealth's responsibility, and the minister needs to take responsibility for his failures. If he really has these workers ready to go, if they're really there, why is the government not doing something about having a national scheme for quarantining them so they can get produce off the farms? We all know why—because it's too hard. The government don't really want to do it.

The minister needs to come clean and say why he is shirking his responsibilities when it comes to ensuring that there are enough workers to get the produce off our farms. Indeed, we would not have accepted a subpar workers code that the health officers rejected, and the minister would be working to get a national approach to get the produce off our farms if he were serious. In fact, my colleague, the former shadow minister for agriculture, the member for Chifley, wrote to the minister last month about this very issue.

It is a crisis. It's another workforce crisis that the government are ignoring. They talk all the time about how there are jobs available for those that want to work. The Prime Minister said, 'If you have a go, you get a go.' If you want a job, you can get a job. We know that farmers want to give people work. We know that people want to work. Indeed, a lot of people around the country are going out to help farmers pick their produce. But the government is not doing enough and it is not taking up its proper role in this.

We know that the COVID pandemic has seen a shortage of 26,000 workers across Australian farms. We know that the government has been aware for some time that this would happen. We know that the government is aware of the structural issues in trying to get seasonal workers on farms. We know about previous issues with the underpayment of workers. We know what a difficult issue this is. But the government has had eight years to fix it. The government has had eight years to address the structural issues in this program. As I said before, the fact that the National Lost Crop Register indicates that labour shortfalls are now responsible for $42 million in crop losses is not good. How can it possibly be acceptable? Here we have fine produce—fruit, veggies, cherries, berries, all sorts of great produce—that Australian farmers have worked tirelessly to get to this point, and now they're seeing it rot. It is completely unacceptable, and this government needs to take some responsibility for that.

As I said, the government knew, prior to the pandemic, that there were structural problems with the workforce. They knew that it was overly reliant on migrant workers. They knew as soon as they closed the borders that we would have an issue and they have not done anywhere near enough about it. We've seen, in recent weeks and months, the states and territories scrambling to make up for the federal government's lack of action. That is what we are seeing today in Australia. It's clear that the federal government is constitutionally responsible, as I said, as it has been for more than 100 years. The government is responsible for our borders, it's responsible for our seasonal worker program and it's responsible for quarantine. Why is the government not doing its job? We on this side of the House say to the government: 'You need to fix this and you need to fix it quickly. This cannot go on.' It absolutely cannot go on. The government and the minister need to get serious about this and do better.

Labor has said that we'll be supporting this bill, but, clearly, there's a lot more work to be done from the government when it comes to dealing with the worker shortage. We also know that, of course, when it comes to agricultural legislation, as I've said, some of it has sat around for years. This government is very slow to act when it comes to the reforms that are necessary to ensure that we get as much produce to market as quickly as possible and support this industry in Australia. So I move as an amendment:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes the Coalition Government's continued failure to prioritise agriculture legislation and its inaction to address the agriculture workforce shortage."

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the amendment seconded?

6:00 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Franklin has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. If it suits the House, I'll state the question in the form that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

6:01 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about the Export Control Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, we are a major exporting nation, and this bill is very important to help the machinery of export industries flourish. I hope it doesn't end up clogging up the works, but the intent is there to streamline things and to give exporters certainty. And we certainly have, in agriculture, a wish to export our food and produce—processed, unprocessed, raw and live—to feed millions of people around the world, both in Asia and in distant quarters like North America and even Europe.

The amendments to the Export Control Act streamline and consolidate existing port controls, and they come into force on 28 March this year. Why are there amendments? It is because there are issues that have been identified since the original act passed through the royal assent process in March 2020. There will be five amendments, and I'll just outline them before I say a few words. First of all, the fit-and-proper-person test is applied when there are variations to the exporting facility or the holder of the licence. It also gives greater flexibility in the notice of intention to export, which is a process one has to go through. If you have an export licence, you have to apply to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and it then will become a registered notice of intent to export, which gives both the department and the exporter the certainty that the process is at a certain stage. There were a lot of third parties who were intervening on the export of certain products—usually live—and you could have the situation where animals were on a boat and then an injunction turned up. So it gives certainty to the exporter, and it also gives certainty to the process.

The other thing is that the bill will give guidance in relation to the approval of export permits. People on both sides of the House realise that we have struck many free trade agreements, which have quotas on what we can export into the recipient countries. Those quotas—what is allowed and what tariffs would be due—under those free trade agreements will be much more certainly defined. It gives the secretary of the department the legislative clarity to facilitate that process.

The bill also contains rules or legislative instruments that the secretary can use to modify other acts that might be involved in challenging it, like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. It also clarifies and facilitates the certificate generation so that everything is laid out—it's there for everyone to see—and there'll be no ambiguity. As you would appreciate, some of these free trade agreements have gradual increases and changes in quota over time. The amendments to this act will also facilitate the export quota certificates that need to be adjusted as details of the free trade agreements that have already been struck come into force.

There are certain things in this act which I'll put on the record that I queried but it appears that it has been discussed, commented on, and exposure drafts have been put out. But there is vested in these changes ever-increasing mounts of regulatory control to the secretary of the department as opposed to the minister responsible for the act, and that is a global concern that I have about many of the legislative processes coming through this House. There appears to be a shift away from legislation into regulation but the legislative instruments in this case will be decided upon by the departmental secretary.

I mentioned we are an exporting nation. We do have a long record in this government of trying to facilitate and increase our exports. Everyone in the agricultural industry knows that we produce far more food and fibre than we, as a nation of 26 million people, will ever consume. In fact, about three-quarters of what we grow and produce goes to export. We feed not billions of people but we are feeding, as well as our 25 million people, depending on the product and the harvest, enough for 60 million or 70 million more people. Trade and exports mean jobs in Australia.

We in Australia support our neighbours with their nutrition. A lot of them can't grow protein as well as we can because their climate and their vegetation don't suit broadacre cropping. Through our live meat and live sheep trade, we supply animal protein not only to the Middle East but to our near neighbours to the north. We want to grow all our export industries, hence this bill. The government have also put a lot of funds into increasing exports. I just want to put on the record what we've been trying to do in a policy sense and in fiscal support for our exporters. We have, in the last budget, allocated $328 million to modernise our trading environment, and this legislation is part of that. A single, digital one-stop shop fast-tracking goods to international markets is a goal that these funds will be used towards.

The government wants to reduce other red tape where possible. We also want to have streamlined plant export services giving farmers quicker, easier and cheaper access, and there's $10 million allocated to programs with that in mind. The government has also done a lot for agribusinesses to expand their markets and their reach into foreign markets with an expansion program. During the COVID crisis, a lot of this planned-for expansion was potentially frozen in limbo, so we allocated $669 million to address air freight shortages and disrupted supply chains for both agricultural and fishery exports. The International Freight Assistance Mechanism has kept a lot of those exports going.

We've also set aside funds to enhance our competitiveness in the horticultural sector. We've got another package for small exporters, with $6.14 million set aside to assist small exporters. We have tried to reduce the impact of non-tariff measures by funding industry based analysis. So not only have we put legislative processes in place to streamline things; we've backed those processes with hard dollars to help our exporters. There are 2,000 agrifood exporters through the Austrade led accelerator program. That is going to deliver dividends for many years. I think that, after COVID, our Export Market Development Grants scheme will need to be refreshed, because a lot of people will have to re-establish their markets. Though it's not part of this bill or the announcements in the last budget, I think it's something that we need to look at.

This is an important bill. It doesn't have the most comprehensive amendments, but they're all important. If they function in the way they're intended, it will give a lot more certainty to our exporters of live produce, fresh food and all the other food and fibre that we export to our neighbours and nations around the world. I commend the bill to the House.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lyne. I call the other lion in the chamber. I think we have a pride!

6:11 pm

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Lyons! Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman. The Export Control Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020 is a pretty technical bill. Members can read the details at their leisure, and I point to the shadow minister, who gave a very good precis of it. In a nutshell, it's intended to ensure that Australia has the regulatory settings needed to grow exports and drive higher productivity, something that we'd all like to see. This bill will give some certainty to our farmers and the wider agricultural export industry, which have suffered some pretty big whacks under the incompetent management of this government.

Labor does understand the value of our regions and our farmers. That's why we support the National Farmers Federation's goal to grow the value of agricultural products to $100 billion by 2030. It's a goal the government shares, but which, frankly, it is not doing enough to advance. Members can learn more about that tomorrow afternoon when I deliver the dissenting report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources inquiry.

An honourable member: I'll be here for that.

Thank you. In my home state of Tasmania, agricultural production is worth $1.6 billion annually. It's a sector that directly employs about five per cent of my state's workforce. Farmers are used to dealing with uncertainty all the time in all manner of ways, but they should be able to rely on stable export governance. As the shadow minister quite rightly pointed out, we're just months down the track from this legislation having been passed in the House, and they're already amending it. This is a government that simply can't get the details right the first time. Whether it's the NBN—it doesn't matter what it is, they stuff it up and they have to come back and fix it up. How about, for a change, doing it right the first time?

Farmers have been doing it tough in recent times, thanks to the deteriorating relationship with China, which has resulted in bans and delays, and, of course, the impacts of COVID on global supply chains. There's no doubt that Australia's exports need to get back on track. Labor understands that increasing the value of our agricultural exports is not only a matter of quantity but also a matter of quality. This is especially important in Tasmania. We have built a strong reputation tied to our pristine environment and the excellent products that come from it. Whether it's fruit, vegetables, nuts, seafood, beef, lamb, cheese, beer or spirits, Tasmanian produce sits at the top of the wish list for many buyers around the world. It's vital that our export rules do not get in the way of Tasmania maximising its potential global reach. I know that many Tasmanian producers are trading in bespoke goods in niche industries or are more than holding their own on the world stage in massive sectors such as whiskey and wool. Tasmanian producers are constantly making a clean sweep of national and international awards for excellence. It is the protection of quality that the bill does seek to address. It's vital that we ensure that our agricultural exports maintain the pedigree that is associated with the Australian brand.

A well-regulated export market is the backbone of Australian agricultural production and trade. This bill should ensure that export regulation can adapt to the increased agricultural production we seek while also ensuring quality controls remain in place. By giving more flexibility and clarity to the new regulatory framework the bill will allow our agricultural export industry to be administered with a renewed and modern policy that seeks to boost exports in line with our goals. It's important that our exporters are assessed as fit and proper persons so we know they can best represent Australia through global trade. These amendments seek to clarify this.

Regional communities have faced extreme challenges over the past 12 months. From fire and floods we dived straight into the economic maelstrom of the pandemic. All of it came at the same time as relations with our biggest export partner hit historic new lows. This legislation is a step in the right direction, but there is so much more work that needs to be done to make the most of Australian agriculture.

For this government RMs, moleskins and akubras are part of the uniform, but it is a skin-deep commitment to the country. There's a pinstriped suit under every checked shirt. Those on that side of the parliament are on the side of the banks, not the bush. Farmers don't need talking points from the minister; they need action. Real legislation on agriculture has been sitting on a shelf for more than a year. In October the minister said, 'The government will need to be clear eyed about the task ahead of us.' That was four months ago. What has happened since? What was he even talking about? It was just a meaningless word salad from the government.

Farmers and regional communities are paying the price of the government's failure to show leadership and manage difficult relationships. This bill is at least a start, but in the scheme of things it's a minor set of changes. There is a backlog of agricultural legislation that needs to be brought on and debated and there are ongoing issues in the agricultural industry that need to be addressed. My Labor Party colleagues and I are looking forward to helping our farmers grow agriculture to $100 billion. This bill is a small step in the right direction, but there is not much to show for seven years on the government leather.

Farmers and regional communities deserve better. That brings us to the shadow minister's second reading amendment. You would have to be living under a rock to not notice the crisis facing many of our farmers in their battle to get fruit off the vines and vegetables out of the ground this year. This was an entirely foreseeable problem. Labor and farmers were warning the government in March last year. It was foreseeable that we would need workers on site. As the quarantining measures started to come in and the lockdowns started around the world we could see in March last year that we would need measures in place to ensure that there would be workers to pick the fruit and get the vegetables out.

We on this side make no bones of it. We would much prefer to see Australian workers doing this work—absolutely—but we know the reality is that to date most of the work is done by overseas workers, whether they are backpackers on visas or seasonal workers from the Pacific. The holiday-maker visas have pretty much dried up, for obvious reasons we don't need to go into here, but there was scope for the government to get its act together over the year to make sure that the seasonal program could run. All it had to do was talk to its state ministers, talk to the Pacific nations, make sure there were flights ready, make sure there were quarantine facilities ready and make sure that the workers could get here and be appropriately quarantined so that they could get out onto the farms. It was a pretty simple process for a national government to manage, and they absolutely stuffed it up every step of the way. They left it far too late, despite warning after warning about the need to get workers on the ground. They absolutely messed it up.

Now, as the shadow minister said, there is $43 million of food rotting in the ground as a result. We hear reports of farmers unable to get the labour they need and just turning it back over. It's the most expensive green manure you will ever see. It was entirely foreseeable, and they could have fixed it, but they absolutely stuffed it up. And, of course, what we've seen from the member for Nicholls today and the minister and the government more generally is they're just trying to duckshove this onto the states, onto the premiers. They're blaming the premiers and the national cabinet, never taking any responsibility themselves, for the fact that, under the Constitution, this government is responsible for quarantine. There should be a national scheme, and there should be national quarantine. The Prime Minister should be taking the lead. Instead he sits back and takes all the credit when things go right but none of the responsibility. It's an absolute disgrace.

I fully support the shadow minister's second reading amendment. I think, frankly, if the National Party in this place have any guts, they will support the second reading amendment too. They are supposed to be the party for farmers and regional communities, and the shadow minister's second reading amendment goes straight to the heart of the issues they are meant to be representing in this parliament. The fact is that this government has utterly failed the farmers of this nation by not managing to ensure that we have enough seasonal workers to do the work.

6:21 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's great to be to be here to talk on an issue which is so close to my heart, which is obviously the Export Control Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020, and also to talk about the live cattle and live sheep trades. I remember the time when the ban on live cattle was brought about by the Labor Party. As the shadow minister for water, of all things, I went out and did a press conference. I said: 'This is ridiculous. It's going to absolutely bite us on the backside. We've got to get out of this position as quickly as possible. This will be disastrous for the industry.' To be frank and to be honest, the first call I got was from Tony Abbott, and he wasn't happy with me. Nonetheless, the greater wisdom that resides within the coalition and the Liberal Party said: 'No, we're actually on the right path. We've got to stand by this. We've got to make the hard decision to bring a logical outcome for something which is one of the most vital industries for northern Australia.'

Once upon a time you could buy a place for nothing in an area like Broome, and, if you mustered cattle, you'd probably pay for it with that. Now you can go up there, and it's professional. You can see every beast that goes on—$1,500. Also, it goes beyond that. I went up there, and I was talking to people at the pound at Broome. The Indigenous families, the Aboriginal families—we call them Aboriginal families, because they want to be called Aboriginal—that are working—

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source


An opposition member interjecting

Wideranging? I thought you said 'wide hating'.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for New England won't be distracted by the interjections, and the interjections will cease.

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

These also give so much opportunity. I remember talking to another senior Aboriginal person up in the Cape, and he said: 'We, for the first time, have got on our feet. We're actually making a serious dollar. We're actually making money. And then, for once in our lives when we're getting ahead, you shut us down.' It was wrong. I'd like to also now commend the Labor Party for seeing around that corner. That's important. But the next step is the live sheep trade. We can't close the live sheep trade down. It's the same thing. It's just—

An opposition member: It's not the same.

It is exactly the same thing. You can't just arbitrarily go and decide to shut down sections of regional Australia because you have some sort of philosophical problem with them. The issues with the live sheep trade are just another permeation and combination of what you wish to do to with the live cattle trade, and then you'll go on to the transport industry and others, and we just can't do that.

Our greatest advantage in Australia is in agriculture. That is where we can really get ahead. It's not just farmers on farms; it's all the people associated with it. In the myriad of industries, from computer programmers to biomathematicians, to vets, to mechanics, to everything that goes with it—the construction and development of abattoirs, all this—you need an industry that is making money across every section of it. There's always going to be a place for processed beef, processed lamb and processed mutton, and there's always going to be a place for the live cattle and sheep trades. They work hand in glove, and if you try to force an industry to go in a certain direction that it can't go then it's clumsy and it doesn't work.

AACo—God bless their cotton socks—spent a huge amount of money building an abattoir in the north, and it fell over. It just didn't work. That's been the case so many times, but people have always thought the great opportunity for an abattoir in the north is going to work. It doesn't work. You can't get consistency of supply and you can't get the finished product in the form that's required to make it stack up financially. They just put them into mothballs. So you need the live cattle and sheep trades.

I remember once with the live sheep trade you got three bucks for wethers, maybe—the ones that are called broken mouth or cast for age. You bring them in for three bucks or two bucks. They basically give them away. The price of their skins is what they're worth. Now, they're $100, $120, $80. There's real money. What that's doing is bringing people back onto the farm, bringing farm workers back, giving you the capacity to pay a wage to someone that you mightn't have had the capacity to pay for before, and that's actually allowing people on the land to go and do the things that other people do—to make some money so they can renovate their kitchen and buy a new car, not a second-hand car, and go on holidays. You say it's glib. It's not. It's the reality. That's the sort of quality of life that people want, and now they're getting it. So this export control amendment is vitally important in making sure that we continue on. It's great to see the new shadow minister for agriculture here: congratulations, it's an incredibly important portfolio. I hope that if this is possibly an election year that we see the structure of an agricultural policy that you can actually go out into the country and give us curry about, so people go: 'Oh, I don't know. Labor Party policy—probably. It's a good policy. It's worthwhile considering it.' I actually want that. I actually want the shadow minister for agriculture to be asking us umpteen questions about agriculture and to be absolutely strident and absolutely acerbic across the details, because that makes agriculture in our nation better. It makes it better.

An opposition member interjecting

Yes, but we don't want just a free ride in the park. We want to make sure we have a real debate. And I want to see the Labor members from regional areas asking the hard questions on agriculture, because that is good for our nation. So often, for us, agriculture is just seen as a free kick. It's like you're never going to get a question on it. They don't really care about it. And, when you do hear from them, it'll be more driven from the philosophical views of an inner-urban electorate than from the views of regional Australia. Maybe the new shadow minister will turn that around, and I hope that she does. I wish her many, many questions in question time.

If we go back to what we're actually doing, we're investing about $330 million in agricultural export systems to modernise Australia's trading environment and lead a strong economic recovery. About $222 million of these is to transform our export systems, including contributing to a single digital one-stop shop fast tracking goods for international markets. When working in international markets, there's got to be that capacity to work quickly and be able to deliver to your destination without an excessive bureaucracy. That's both on our side and their side.

What we have to do in Australia is also make sure that we build up our trading relationships with our old customers but our good customers in the Middle East. If you're in agriculture, you're going to learn a lot about the Middle East. If you're in agriculture, you're going to learn about Saudi Arabia and you're going to learn about Kuwait and Bahrain and Jordan, because that's where a lot of our product goes, and you're going to see how important they feel we are in their lives. It's going to be important when dealing with that.

We need to make sure these markets are strong—China's an incredibly important market for us, vitally important—but we've got to have a contingency plan in case things don't go as well as we wish. That contingency plan, of course, goes back to other solid markets, such as Indonesia. As we know, we supply Indonesia with so much of the protein content for the sustenance of people, especially those in Jakarta. They have bakso balls—the meatball in their standard dish—and we supply the meat. Of course, when the live cattle trade shut down, the meat went, and they were not happy. We created a really bad name for ourselves when we did that. We've got to make sure we don't do that again. There were some suggestions that they, a Muslim country, replaced some of the meat with pork—not consciously by a producer of pork, but people were ripping them off by creating substitutes that were going into that marketplace. We have got to be the great, strong, diligent and reliable supplier of protein into these markets. A piece of legislation like this is not going to get the ratings tonight; they're not going to be playing it. But it's vitally important to the job we need to do.

Australia, by reason of COVID and the financial liabilities we now have before us, is going to need to make every post a winner to try and make this economy hum in such a way that we can start getting on top of the debt. It won't matter who's in power, whether it's us or the Labor Party; we're going to have to target balancing the books because that means repaying the debt. Therefore, every opportunity you get to make a buck, you've got to take it, and you've got to grab it with both hands and run as hard as you can. Agriculture is one of the areas where you're going to do it. What we've got to remove from agriculture are some of these nonsensical, inept value statements that there are moral crops and immoral crops. Somehow, cotton is an immoral crop. Ridiculous! It's a crop that makes money. If they made money out of asparagus, they'd grow asparagus. Somehow, there's something is wrong with rice. It's ridiculous. We're going to somehow moralise ourselves out of the live sheep and cattle market. It's ridiculous. You can't do that. You've got to make a dollar wherever you can find it and run as hard as you can to do it. One of the interesting things we might be able to create in our nation, and this should be a goal for all of us—

An honourable member interjecting

I'm trying to help you out with some ideas! We should have a massive, internationally based agricultural company. We don't have one. We've got BHP, which is one of the big miners. We've even got Atlassian, which is not bad, obviously, in the software area. The United States has Apple and Google. Apple's size is about $2 trillion, but, in historical terms, it's not even nearly as big as the Dutch East India Company, which, in today's terms, was about $8 trillion and had its own army. But, in Australia, and this is odd, we don't have a massive agricultural player, like JBS from Brazil or Conagra from the United States. We should have one. We should be working out how—

An honourable member interjecting

This is for you, shadow minister, to take up. This is where you challenge us in question time. Where you come forward and say, 'How are you going to do it?' You create the debate and make us sweat.

It would be a shame, if this is an election year, for us not to have a strong debate on agriculture. We want it as much as you, especially me and the member for Boothby because we come from agricultural families and we want to make sure that this is right at the front. I can see the member for Wright there—you've still got yourself a little block, haven't you? Yes, there you go. This is important. So this Export Control Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020 gives us capacity to also talk about agriculture in general—to talk about how important the live cattle and sheep trade is and how important it is to make sure we streamline our export opportunities, and to show that the government is fair dinkum about this with substantial investment in this space, and to challenge the Labor Party, with the best intentions at heart, that we should have, in this chamber, serious debate about our agriculture and what the next step is, to lay down some ideas as to our policy objectives and to see that one of the ways you could judge that is in such things as making sure that Australia is the seedbed of a major international agricultural company, like other nations have—even New Zealand, God bless their cotton socks! They've got Fonterra, a major player, and I know the good members from Tasmania would understand all about that and how that works, because they're a big player, obviously, in Australian agriculture, especially in the dairy game.

An honourable member interjecting

But Gunns wasn't quite big enough, mate. It wasn't a big player—not like the multiple-hundred-billion-dollar space where they've got to be. Maybe in the future, as we go forward in this year of the parliament, we can see that debate and, if we have that debate, in that section you're going to get an awful lot of interest from regional people, and they're going to tune into question time in a way that will probably be a lot more engaged than in the past.

6:36 pm

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I acknowledge all the speakers who've made a contribution to this debate. Agriculture is and has been a cornerstone of our economy, particularly through the COVID period, where the resource and agriculture sectors both held their own. I acknowledge all of those exporters in my electorate who will benefit from this, in the Lockyer Valley and the Fassifern Valley—one of the seven most fertile valleys in the world, where we produce vegetables that go all around the country.

The Export Control Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020 is required to amend parts of the Export Control Act 2020. The bill addresses issues identified since the Export Control Act 2020 received royal assent on 6 March 2020, following consultation with key industry stakeholders. The bill will clarify the circumstances where a fit and proper person test is required for an application to vary a registration of an establishment, or to approve an alteration of an establishment. It will enable the secretary to make rules to enable notice of intent to export a consignment of prescribed goods to be approved or refused. Furthermore, the bill will modify how certain provisions apply to the reviewable decisions of the tariff rate quotas and enable the secretary to make rules to prescribe requirements for determining whether to ensure an export permit. The bill will also clarify which instrument may be incorporated into the framework to calculate the tariff rate quota for those particular goods. The bill will also support implementation of the new export control framework and minimise the administrative burden for Australian agricultural export industries and stakeholders. The bill will support the initiative of the Morrison-McCormack government to bust congestion in regulation and ensure that agricultural industries come out firing after the threat of coronavirus has passed our nation.

I table an amendment to the explanatory memorandum, in response to a request by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, providing additional information about the bill. With that, I commend the bill to the House.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Franklin has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. If it suits the House, I will state the question in the form that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.