Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Questions without Notice
Thank you, Senator Henderson. The widespread benefits for Australian farmers, businesses and investors are a step closer with the enabling legislation for major trade deals with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru passing through parliament yesterday. There are about 85,700 farming families working hard right across the length and breadth of Australia to produce safe, high-quality food and fibre for the world. Each of our farmers grows enough food to feed 600 people. That's more than 50 million mums, dads, kids and grandparents here and around the world.
Our export focus is great for consumers around the world but, more importantly, it's great for our farmers and our regional communities here in Australia. Trade and our free trade breakthroughs give Australian businesses, including our farmers, access to markets many times the size here at home and an opportunity for their businesses to grow.
When we came to office, 27 per cent of Australia's two-way trade was covered by trade agreements. Today, 70 per cent of our trade is covered by FTAs, and our ambition doesn't stop there. We're looking to increase that number to around 90 per cent by 2022.
The passage of the bill yesterday was a demonstration of our government's focus on increasing market access for our farmers. The Indonesian agreement will allow 99 per cent of Australian goods to enter Indonesia duty-free or with significantly improved preferential arrangements. That is great for red meat, live cattle, grains, dairy, horticultural products and sugar. Under the agreement with Peru, we've achieved significant new access to one of South America's fastest-growing economies, particularly for dairy, rice and sorghum being free from tariffs, with new quotas. And there are similar outcomes for Hong Kong.
There has been a lot of talk in this chamber about support for farmers. There's no greater support for farmers than giving them access to markets around the world to sell their produce.
Australian farmers are world leaders when it comes to exporting and developing new markets. Our agricultural production is around $60 billion a year, and we export $45 billion worth of that. Our farmers rely on their exports for their livelihood. The Australian dairy council—and I know you're a big supporter of the dairy industry, Senator Henderson—supports finalising trade agreements, because they recognise that more and better access to markets is good for our dairy farmers. It's how they get a competitive price for their premium product. There's high demand around the world for safe, nutritious dairy products in international markets, and we need to capitalise on that.
Free trade agreements preferentially reduce the cost barriers to selling overseas and help us to get that product to people who need it. Just one example is the Chinese free trade agreement. Fifteen per cent tariff on infant formula—tick; already gone. Ten to 19 per cent tariff on ice cream—already gone. Elimination of 15 per cent tariff on liquid milk— (Time expired)
A strong economy means we can give our farmers the support they need while they wait for the rains to come, but it also means we're able to focus on increasing and improving market access. You cannot come into this place and claim to support our farmers if you do not support free trade agreements and increasing market access for their products. It is a mistake to think that a country like ours, where we export 70 per cent of what we produce, is somehow going to have a vibrant agricultural sector while we fail to sign up to free trade agreements and increased market access. The enabling legislation—
Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting—
And today I am hosting an agribusiness strategic roundtable to grow our market access with our farmers to India. It's a market too big to ignore. Its food consumption is going to double by 2050. And India is somewhere we want to get our product— (Time expired)