Senate debates

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:13 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise in response to the contribution we've just heard from Senator Colbeck and to enhance the comments put on the record today by our fine new Minister for Trade and Tourism, Minister Farrell. Minister Farrell happens to be a good friend of mine. I felt particularly encouraged by his deep knowledge of the wine industry from his own life experience, because I'm sure he'll be out there fighting not only for the wine industry but for all elements of the agricultural industry. It's such a vital part of Australia's economic sense of engagement with the world and the sense of ourselves as a nation. We know that we are critical to the way in which the planet can eat food. Moving around to the world, we know, has been profoundly interrupted by what's going on in the Ukraine. And I know that there are calls on Australia, right now, to step up and interact, in trade, in markets that have been profoundly disrupted not only by that war but also by the supply chain problems that we see as a consequence of the COVID-19 reality.

Trade opportunities for Australians are vitally important to the Australian people, and not only will Senator Farrell be leading the charge on that but I and other members will be new members on that treaty's committee. I find it very disappointing, given how important it is to our economy, that we've had questions that seek to really create a bipartisan view of what should be happening in the area of trade.

On parliamentary delegations, I'm pleased to let people know, as we move around the world we go out as 'team Australia' to fight for our country. It should be the same case with trade negotiations and the establishment of trade deals that benefit the country. It doesn't help our cause that the previous government, now in opposition, are going to moan and bleat about what's going on, right now, when they failed, on their own evidence here before the parliament today, when the India and the UK free trade deals are just sitting there waiting to be implemented.

That's, classically, what we saw with this government—so many failures to show up and do the day job of government that's required, to get on with the hard yards of bringing those agreements to fruition, undertaking the necessary work, through treaties and through good conversation behind the scenes, to bring forward a good outcome for Australia.

As Senator Colbeck said, the India and UK trade deals are just sitting there. The former government allowed them to sit there and failed to manage the processes of the government properly to deliver an advantage to this country. Because of that—for that very common phenomenon that we saw with this previous government of sitting on their hands, waiting for things to get done that they were responsible for, that they failed to enact—we are in a situation where we could be at least six months down the track in advancing the India and UK deals.

Senator Farrell spoke also about his work this morning in meeting with the trade ministers of the delegation from the EU—a bigger market we could not hope to deliver a trade deal with. I'm very pleased that the negotiations are no longer being done by those opposite but by Minister Farrell, who will act in the national interest. I know that he'll do everything he can to diminish the partisan nature of the sort of question that we had today. Bipartisanship in these matters is absolutely critical for the success of this country.

In terms of Australia and our free trade, we do need to have a continuing growth of arrangements put into force. At the moment, we've got 16 free trade agreements in force, and I think we can do much better than that as a Labor government who's willing to talk to the key participants and who's willing to show up in this place, do the work here in the parliament and the work in the sessions in between, where we reach out and we work with business, we work with integrity with our partners across the world, to make sure that we get the very best possible outcomes—not just for agriculture but for entire sectors, right across the Australian economy.

We know that it's critical that trade deals with Asia are further enhanced. I have confidence, once again, in Senator Farrell to make sure that the necessary relationships to make those deals work, to make them stick and to enhance them to the benefit of this nation, will be undertaken—65.2 per cent of Australia's two-way trade is with Asian countries. The fact that China was a major partner of trade worth $251.1 billion—


No comments