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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4212


Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (16:36): That is one of the most interesting contributions to a debate I have heard in a very long time. It came from an opposition member whose shadow Treasurer could not even find the time to get up here this morning to move a motion that stood in his name because he was too busy doing the numbers to take over the leadership of the opposition and too busy protecting his own job.

The member for Wannon said he does not know what the Minister for Trade is doing overseas. I was mystified, too, because he said the minister was, 'sadly', going to a WTO meeting. Is that nothing to do with trade? I am really surprised, because I was under the belief that the WTO was an organisation that looked at trade and was very much involved in trade, and I would be very sad if Australia's trade minister did not present himself at a WTO meeting. I would be very worried if our trade minister was here in Australia trying to do the numbers just like the Shadow Treasurer is trying to do the numbers to protect himself and shore up his position. It is really a matter that is of great concern to me.

Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, if I could slip over to the legislation: forgive me for saying this, but it actually is not about pink batts. The detail of the legislation has nothing to do with pink batts. Rather, it is about providing certainty for Australia's importers and exporters and ensuring that Australia classifies its goods and commodities in accordance with a harmonised system and in a manner that is consistent with major trading partners. This is about ensuring Australia's trade position, and I am appalled at the contributions I have heard from the opposition in this debate. The Customs Tariff Amendment (2012 Harmonized System Changes) Bill 2011 contains amendments to the Customs Tariff Act. The amendments will implement the changes that have been agreed to because Australia is a signatory to the International Convention on the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System. Reviews of that system take place every five years, and we are implementing changes that have come through the fourth review.

The fourth review was completed in June 2010. Out of that review, some very practical financial and legal changes were recommended, some fairly minor in nature but very important to preserve the existing level of our industry protection and the margins of tariff preference. This is very important for Australia's trading future. It is very important to us from a customs tariff and trading perspective. The changes focus on environmental and social issues that are of global concern. I did not hear anything mentioned in contributions from the opposition about any global concern. I did hear a fleeting reference to the legislation and to putting in place the changes resulting from the review, but there was very little comment on the legislation.

Given the importance of this legislation and that some of the changes relate to ensuring the food security program of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, I can only say that I am extremely disappointed that those on the opposition side just want to play politics, to come here to talk about anything except this exceptionally important piece of legislation that ensures Australia's trading position. This bill will provide certainty for Australian importers and exporters and ensure that Australia classifies its goods and commodities in accordance with the harmonised system and in a manner that is consistent with major trading partners. I will conclude by assuring members of the opposition that the Minister for Trade is out there looking after Australia's trading interests and that is why he is attending the WTO meeting.