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Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Page: 7754


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (12:40): New Zealand is our close neighbour, earnest rival and great friend. The rivalry we have in cricket, rugby and netball is legendary and it is mostly friendly and conducted in a manner befitting such noble sports. But it is not just in sport that Australia has close ties with our trans-Tasman neighbour. About half a million New Zealanders live in Australia and 65,000 Australians live in New Zealand. Twenty-three per cent, or $7.2 billion worth, of New Zealand exports end up in Australia. In return, 18 per cent of New Zealand imports originate here. On top of that, there is $6 billion worth of two-way trade in services.

The population of New Zealand is around 4.4 million, or around one-fifth of Austral­ia's, which of course means that Australia's market is a much larger and more encour­aging market for New Zealand. We both have similar histories of reliance on agriculture and, even though Australia has moved further away from this agricultural economic dominance, both nations are key exporters of agricultural products, including food. In this agricultural trade our two nations could be described as natural rivals, producing many similar products. So how do we differentiate our product in Australia, not just compared to New Zealand product but compared to product from around the world? More importantly at this point, how do we ensure that New Zealand produce is exactly that and not rebadged imports?

The Customs Amendment (New Zealand Rules of Origin) Bill before the House purports to set out the rules for determining whether goods are New Zealand-originating goods and therefore eligible for a preferential rate of customs duty under the Customs Tariff Act 1995. However, in the vague laws of international trade such rules always seem open to interpretation and, in spite of the intent in this bill, indeed this seems to be the case in this bill.

There is no greater acknowledgement of the lack of equity and vagaries in trade policy than the failure of the world to deliver, particularly in agriculture, through the DOHA Round of world trade talks. We really do need to ensure that this bill and any others actually enhance real trade in an open, honest and transparent manner. The Aust­ralian community needs to be assured that goods from other countries are not entering Australia branded as a product of New Zealand thanks to a brief stopover, but the bill really does not guarantee that.

Subdivision G of the act:

… sets out when goods are New Zealand originating goods because their last process of manufacture is performed in New Zealand. It is repealed on 1 January 2012.

The bill inserts after subdivision G an extra statement, subdivision GA, which:

… provides that goods are not New Zealand originating goods under this Division merely because of certain operations.

It goes further, in identifying that goods are not New Zealand-originating goods under this division merely because of the following operations:

(a) operations to preserve goods in good condition for the purposes of transport or storage;

(b) disassembly of goods;

(c) affixing of marks, labels or other similar distinguishing signs on goods or their packaging;

(d) packaging, changes to packaging, the breaking up or assembly of packages or presenting goods for transport or sale;

(e) quality control inspections;

(f) any combination of operations referred to in paragraphs (a) to (e).

This suggests that goods that have been repackaged in New Zealand cannot simply be badged as a product of New Zealand and sent at reduced duty to Australia, but it does not really address partially manufactured or processed products made from foreign ingredients. The bill seeks to omit the statement:

Subdivision B provides that goods are New Zealand originating goods if they are wholly obtained in New Zealand or in New Zealand and Australia.

In turn it inserts:

Subdivision B provides that goods are New Zealand originating goods if they are wholly obtained or produced in New Zealand or in New Zealand and Australia.

The government and the minister need to explain the exact impact of that change. I note that when the minister introduced this bill to the parliament on 16 June he explained the process by which these changes were developed but did not explain what outcomes would come about as a result of the amendments. That is something that we as parliamentarians and growers in Australia need to be aware of. The minister's speech of about four full paragraphs did not contain that sort of detail. The minister said in that speech that changes:

… will reduce the administrative burden on businesses, facilitate the eligibility for duty free entry of goods into both markets, and provide greater consistency between the ANZCERTA Rules of Origin and those of other trade agreements negotiated by Australia.

But I ask the minister to explain how the proposed changes will prevent foreign goods entering Australia through New Zealand in that so-called 'grey marketplace'.

I know that much has been said about this grey marketplace and there is quite a bit of information out there about what has gone on. I saw a Today Tonight feature in which they investigated and tracked raw products to factories where they were processed, repackaged and exported. These products were branded with, as they said in this article, the trusty 'made in New Zealand' label. It stated that in the last year—this was 2010—officially 45 per cent was coming from New Zealand, 16 per cent from China and 12 per cent from Canada. China has more than doubled the amount of food it is sending into Australia, but that does not include food it is sending which is processed in New Zealand and then gets sent here. We hear constantly about Australian growers being unable to compete, and it comes as a result of some of this.

I need to know from the minister whether the entry of such goods will be made easier or more difficult with the proposed changes and why. We need explanations that will work in practical terms and we need to know whether any proposed reduction in administration will result in a reduction in accountability. We cannot afford to lower our standards. The other issue relating to this is food labelling. I have raised the accuracy of food labelling in this place on numerous occasions. Products coming through New Zealand to Australia must be adequately and properly labelled. As we hear frequently in this place, the quality of Australian products should not be put at risk.

There is no doubt that the clean, disease-free status of Australian food and produce is absolutely paramount. That is why so many Australians are outraged at the continual undermining of our biosecurity. The govern­ment is not acting on this. The 2009 budget slashed $35.8 million from quarantine and biosecurity and we have seen $58 million slashed from the customs budget. Fewer cargo consignments are inspected and fewer vessels boarded on arrival. In 2011 another $32 million was cut from the operation of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, reducing the capacity of the department to deliver services to Australian agriculture.

The latest example, which we heard today in this chamber, is the recommendation by Biosecurity Australia to abandon adequate protocols to prevent the incursion of serious diseases like fire blight with the importation of New Zealand apples. This comes on the back of the Prime Minister visiting the New Zealand parliament and making an ann­ouncement that we would accept their apples. This was said without the completion of an import risk analysis. So Biosecurity Australia, in my view, has had to try to cut its cloth to fit the Prime Minister's statement. But this is an abandonment of the quarantine principles that have made Australia amongst the cleanest producers of high-quality food in the world. We know that the Beale quarantine and biosecurity review, commis­sioned by Labor, called for many millions more to be spent on AQIS and quarantine to provide real protection for our border. But the government has failed to act and has actually stripped funding.

In relation to the apple imports, 75 per cent of Western Australia's apples and pears are produced in my electorate. So the potential for harm to those growers and to our industry in Western Australia is signific­ant. We know that the biosecurity measures and protocols that we expect, and that are part of what we do on farm in Australia, will be less than those required in the United States. That is what will be applied to the importation of apples from New Zealand. We know that our growers are very concerned about the potential for fire blight, european canker and leaf-curling midge. It only takes that little piece of trash to come in with those apples. When we look at what is being asked of inspectors in New Zealanders, it could come down to as few as one apple in a million being inspected, and those apples could come from a diversity of properties.

We know that fire blight in New Zealand is not a declarable or reportable disease. So how are we going to know which orchards are affected and whether any of those apples will be coming into Australia? We know that the disease can manifest itself in the calyx, so the inspections are particularly important to maintaining our biosecurity. Unfortunate­ly, when you go to New Zealand and see how the industry runs you see that Australia's biosecurity will be in the hands of a backpacker having a great day, every day, picking and packing apples in New Zealand to be sent to Australia. I do not think that is an appropriate place for our biosecurity to rest. I think this is a very serious issue for us in Australia.

The other question that I would ask is: who is going to pay the compensation to a grower who has to get rid of their crop and pull out their trees to deal with fire blight? Who is going to be responsible for that when that comes as a result of fire blight introduced through the importation of New Zealand apples? You can understand the concerns of industry on this issue. We have enjoyed some of the most rigorous bio­security standards, but unfortunately we are now seeing that Biosecurity Australia is being asked—or instructed, I would think—to provide an import risk analysis that reflects the statement the Prime Minister made in the New Zealand parliament. That is simply not good enough. Australia produces some of the best quality food in the world—

Mr Broadbent: The best!

Ms MARINO: and we do tend to take it for granted—the member for McMillan would agree with this—that we can go and buy some of the best quality food in the world in our country. We seem to think that it will be there forever, but it will not be if our biosecurity is put at risk as it is being put at risk now. We take it for granted when we go to buy our fruit and vegetables at the local fruit and vegetable market, or wherever we go, that they are going to be of the quality and standard that we expect and demand and enjoy. I have great faith in our growers, but I am very concerned about the organic growers, because they cannot use strept­omycin. How does an organic grower deal with fire blight in that instance? This has the potential to do a lot of harm and it also affects a whole range of other genera. We know that well. It could well affect the cotoneaster group. There are a whole lot of ornamental pear trees as well, in a whole lot of gardens right around this nation, that could be affected by this.

So this is not a simple issue. Certainly Biosecurity Australia should be applying the utmost rigour to this and not be trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. The debate on this bill covers quite a bit of ground, but it hits on the importance of biosecurity and the types of products coming to Australia, where they emanate from, how they are grown, how they are produced and whether they meet the standards that we in Australia comply with and that give us the opportunity be the producers of some of the best food in the world. This is very important in consideration of this bill, and I put those concerns on the table.