Senate debates

Monday, 25 November 2019

Bills

Customs Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019, Customs Tariff Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019; Second Reading

6:02 pm

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

While the proposed ISDS provisions may not be perfect, if these agreements are not ratified, Australia will be objectively worse off with regard to ISDS given the status of the current BITs. Upon entering into the Peru and Hong Kong agreements, the outdated BITs with those countries will be terminated. However, IA-CEPA has no such clause. This means that the IA-CEPA will initially co-exist alongside the BIT for the two sets of investment and ISDS provisions in force.

Why the BIT with Indonesia was not negotiated out is unknown, as negotiations remain confidential. But I am hopeful that further agreement can be found by Australia and Indonesia to terminate the existing BIT, and I expect that this will be advanced by the government as a priority. Labor's shadow minister has recently written to the minister, requesting the cancellation of the existing BIT upon entry into force of IA-CEPA.

The government is yet to produce economic modelling for free trade agreements considered by the parliament. Following the efforts of Labor members, JSCOT has also recommended the use of independent economic modelling to inform the drafting, negotiation and consultation processes for future FTAs. We'll continue to pressure the government to produce this economic modelling for future FTAs, because we know how important it is and how long it has been called for. While successive coalition governments have ignored previous recommendations of this nature, it is in good faith that we accept that this will change and that this issue will now have ongoing bipartisan support.

On an issue that was of significant concern to the trade union movement, IA-CEPA foreshadows a future resolution within three years of an agreement with Indonesia on the movement of natural persons, including contractual services supplies. I want to acknowledge the genuine concerns raised during JSCOT hearings by the union movement and put on the record that Labor members of JSCOT did try to amend the additional comments of the report in acknowledgement of these issues. Regrettably, this didn't get the committee's support. But I assure those concerned that Labor will continue to maintain pressure on the government to ensure that future agreements meet these requirements.

On the issue of market testing, Labor asserts that labour market testing should be applied within all trade agreements negotiated by Australia. Currently, IA-CEPA only waives labour market testing for intracorporate transferees. This is already an obligation under WTO rules, of which both Indonesia and Australia are signatories. There has been a lack of clarity provided in the IA-CEPA text about future agreements on the movement of people for work related reasons in other industries, and we believe that it is necessary that further clarity is provided in this regard, as it has been a key concern raised by the trade union movement and other elements of civil society. The government must ensure now that it will not undermine labour market testing and skills assessments by making side agreements with Indonesia that would not need to be formalised through the treaty-making process.

Another matter raised during JSCOT's consideration of the Hong Kong agreement was the continuing political uncertainty and instability in Hong Kong. This instability is, of course, of great concern to me and to many in this chamber because we agree that people have a right to protest peacefully. Labor has urged all parties to find a peaceful resolution that is consistent with the 'one country, two systems' arrangement currently in place with the People's Republic of China. My Labor colleagues and I ensured that JSCOT's report acknowledged concerns about the political situation in Hong Kong, and that was the right thing to do. The concerns raised throughout JSCOT's consideration of these agreements and the concerns raised by the union movement and some of my Labor colleagues are genuine. I acknowledge them in my remarks today, and I acknowledge that they come from a position of putting the interests of working people first.

Yet ultimately, on the whole, these agreements provide opportunities for Australia. They provide opportunities for growth, for productivity and for jobs. These are opportunities that are so greatly needed in my home state of South Australia, and they are opportunities that I support. Australia is an export nation. On average, Australian businesses that export hire 23 per cent more staff, pay 11 per cent higher wages and have labour productivity 13 per cent higher than nonexporters. One in five Australians is employed in trade related employment. Australian household incomes are estimated to be on average around $8,500 higher as a result of opening up new markets through trade. China is our largest economic partner, with trade worth $183 billion, including a third of Australia's total exports. However, we cannot rely on this market alone. It is imperative that we start to diversify towards other growing Asian markets.

This is particularly crucial from a South Australian perspective with regard to our education and goods exports. The three agreements that are the subject of these bills present particular opportunities for South Australia, and they come at a most critical time. According to a Business SA William Buck survey of business expectations, business confidence hit record lows in South Australia in the three months to the end of September. Business SA chief executive Martin Haese blames South Australia's high unemployment, interest rate cuts, land tax uncertainty, geopolitical tensions and ongoing high utility costs for the fall. Mr Haese has called on the state government to double down on exports growth to negate the current trend South Australia finds itself in. South Australian exports have declined 18 per cent over the last 12 months. With our population continuing to decline by national standards, greater access to international markets will be needed to ensure my state's continued prosperity. SA's exports to Indonesia are forecast to skyrocket to more than $1 billion as a result of IA-CEPA. South Australians here in this chamber will know that exports had crashed to just $290 million in 2018, down from $718 million in 2011. As I have already canvassed in my remarks, wheat, beef, sheep and citrus farmers will benefit, along with dairy producers.

More than anything, the opportunities provided by IA-CEPA in education will simply build on the great work South Australian universities are already undertaking in Indonesia. For example, the University of South Australia has already developed collaborative partnerships with a number of their Indonesian counterparts. In 2015-16, UniSA's School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences delivered a customised version of the Graduate Certificate in Data Science to senior public servants from Indonesia as part of the Australian government's international development program. UniSA, along with the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, as well as South Australian VET providers, will now be provided with greater opportunities to own and to operate educational facilities in Indonesia. The economic and social benefits of this to South Australia cannot be overstated. As I have already said today, education is South Australia's greatest service export. I want to see my state continue to reap the economic benefits of its growth.

I will be supporting this bill. I'm supporting it, because I'm on the side of jobs. I'm on the side of greater opportunities for working people. I am on the side of economic growth and opportunity for my home state of South Australia. There are jobs across our wine, transport, education, agriculture and service industries in trade. Trade agreements open up markets. They open up opportunities—opportunities that wouldn't and couldn't exist under protectionism and that wouldn't exist if we stood by and let other countries benefit from trade agreements whilst we stood on the sidelines and watched opportunity go by. Yes, there is room for improvement, certainly, in how these agreements are drafted and consulted upon, and there have been genuine concerns raised about some of the content of these agreements. But ultimately what is within these agreements stands to benefit working people. These agreements stand to benefit South Australia, and my state cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. We cannot afford to sit idle. We can never let opportunities for growth and for jobs to pass us by. All three of these agreements present significant opportunities—significant jobs—to my state. These are opportunities which I thoroughly and wholly support.

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