Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Questions without Notice
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham. The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, says that Labor will renegotiate the worst parts of the TPP once Labor form government. We know from leaked caucus minutes that the member for Shortland, Pat Conroy, said, 'It will be easier to block than to renegotiate later if in government.' Senator Gallacher said, 'There's difficulty in civilising it after it has passed.' Senator McAllister said, 'Amendments won't be good enough after the fact.' Can the minister confirm whether or not it is possible to renegotiate the worst parts of the TPP after it has passed or, indeed, will it have to be withdrawn and started all over again?
I thank Senator Hanson-Young for her question. The point that I would make to Senator Hanson-Young is there is no need to renegotiate the TPP. The TPP is an outstanding agreement that provides sound opportunities for Australian farmers and Australian businesses to be able to increase their opportunities to get into some of the world's largest markets. The TPP will provide, for the first time ever for Australian exporters, preferential access into key markets such as Canada and Mexico, where we currently don't have agreements. The TPP is estimated to provide benefits to the tune of some $15.6 billion to our annual income as Australians by 2030—$15.6 billion! As Senator Cormann rightly says, 'What does that mean for Australian businesses when they can access further markets?' It means they can access more jobs or create more jobs to support higher wages and deliver better opportunities for all Australians.
Of course, the benefits are very clear. The benefits are clear in seeing the complete elimination of tariffs on sheepmeat, on cotton, on seafood, on horticulture, on wine and on manufactured goods. There are large benefits across the board. That of course is why organisations such as the Winemakers' Federation of Australia or the National Farmers' Federation all fully support ratification of the TPP. They support the deal because they recognise that there are benefits to Australian winemakers, to Australian farmers, as indeed to so many business groups. The question you have to ask when you hear the negativity from some—particularly those on the crossbench—is: why don't they listen to Australia's farmers? Why don't they listen to Australia's winemakers? Why don't they listen to the people who create export dollars and export jobs? One in five jobs are supported by export industries in Australia. Why don't they listen to them? (Time expired)
Both the government and the opposition have indicated they'll support the TPP, but Senator Cameron, in leaked caucus minutes, said, 'It's bad economics and bad politics.' Minister, could you answer my original question: can you withdraw; can you renegotiate? How on earth is the Labor Party going to deliver on this promise?
This government wants to ratify, not withdraw. This government wants to see the deal that was carefully negotiated to provide benefits to Australians but, indeed, to all TPP countries, because we want to make sure that we lift the tide for everybody. The Australian Greens will come in here and they will often ask in estimates and elsewhere about international development assistance. We know full well that, through trade activities, millions of people around the world have been lifted out of poverty. We know that the opportunities will be there for other TPP nations such as Vietnam to see strong growth and benefits realised by them having access to other countries and other markets as well. Yes, there will be benefits for Australia, which is why we should pursue the TPP and why we should deliver it as negotiated, but, indeed, there are benefits for other partners as well, and they are benefits you would have thought those on the crossbench would welcome too.
Mr President, you provided confirmation last week that questions ought not to have preamble which is part of debate. That was clearly a question in breach of the standing orders when it comes to the way questions ought to be framed. I would like you to call the senator to order.
Thank you, Senator Cormann. As I indicated, this is a matter I will be addressing in the break to all senators. The standing orders are quite clear: statements of fact must be pertinent to the question. This is not a time for debate. Senator Hanson-Young, I will call upon you to continue that part of the question that you were addressing.
Does the minister agree with Australian workers and Senators Cameron, Singh, Marshall, McAllister, Gallacher and the member for a Batman, Ged Kearney, that Bill Shorten's promise to fix the TPP is nothing but hollow?
As I said, the TPP is a good deal. Whatever promises Mr Shorten makes to his caucus are between him and his caucus. I do know when it comes to the promises that Mr Shorten makes to the Australian people that many of them are very hollow indeed, when you think about the fact that Mr Shorten wants to dig deep into the pockets of the Australian people and tax them more when it comes to their income tax and take the savings of Australian retirees.
Senator Hanson-Young, you're asking the minister for an opinion on a matter of someone else in another place. If you ask a wide question, you get a wide answer. You have reminded the minister of the question. I note he has 30 seconds remaining. Do you wish to add something, Senator Whish-Wilson?
I rise on a point of order of relevance. The question—including the first question—was: is it possible to do this? The minister did not go anywhere near answering it. It would assist us if he would actually answer the question that has been asked.
The minister was being directly relevant on the basis that the question asked was about promises made by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. Clearly the minister was talking about promises—I thought it was an elegant pivot—that the Leader of the Opposition had made in relation to other areas.
May I put forward, Mr President, that you effectively ruled that Senator Hanson-Young made no point of order at all. Then, it is really inappropriate to have another point of order by another Green on a spurious point when the minister hasn't even been able to continue his answer.
I was coming to that. I do grant senators a courtesy, as I did to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Whish-Wilson, in addressing your point of order, it is not an opportunity to simply restate a primary question or a secondary question. The minister was being directly relevant to the third question asked.
Mr President, I noticed during that question from Senator Hanson-Young that the Leader of the Opposition was referred to as Bill Shorten. What do we have to do to get the Greens to refer to people by their proper title in this place and the other place?
You are quite right. That did slip past me. The nature of questions will be addressed in the break, and I will be enforcing the standing orders rather more strictly upon my return, because there has been some slippage about the nature of questions asked. I ask you, Senator Hanson-Young, in the future to use people's appropriate titles.
Thanks, Mr President. We were talking about the hollow promises of Mr Shorten, the hollow promises that come from the hollow man who is Mr Shorten. When it comes to Mr Shorten, my firm advice to the Australian people is not to believe a word he says and certainly not to trust him when he says that he can look after the economy or their money. We know that, when it comes to their money, they will end up paying more for taxes on their income and wages, on their housing, on their savings and on their retirement. Ultimately Australians will be worse off under a Shorten government. (Time expired)