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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12050

Dr HENDY (Eden-MonaroAssistant Minister for Productivity) (16:51): I rise in support of the Customs Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2015 and cognate legislation and therefore in support of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Since being elected to office, the coalition government has pursued an aggressive trade and investment agenda aimed at putting in place the best possible settings for business to flourish. This agenda has led to the swift conclusion of three landmark free trade agreements with the major economies of North Asia: Korea, Japan and China. The agreements form a powerful trifecta which will open up many doors across goods, services and investments. Together, these agreements cover countries that account for over 62 per cent of Australia's export market and provide Australian business with access to more than 1.5 billion people. The Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement have entered into force, and we are working hard to ensure that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement comes into effect later this year through this bill.

Tariffs to Korea and Japan have been cut twice already. Among the wide ranging benefits these FTAs are delivering are significant openings for our world-class services sector, which represents 80 per cent of our GDP—services such as health and aged care, tourism and hospitality, financial services, education, construction, engineering, architecture, urban planning and insurance, to name just a few.

In terms of food exports, Australia's high-quality clean, green and safe produce is becoming increasingly popular among Asia's growing middle class, and they are prepared to pay a premium. Australia's dairy products, fruits and vegetables, beef, seafood and wine all command top dollar in Asia, and our FTAs enhance market access in all these areas, with tariffs either eliminated or substantially reduced.

It is also important to note that while the elimination of tariffs into these markets increases our competitiveness when exporting, the removal of tariffs on imports into Australia can result in cheaper inputs for Australian businesses, such as our high-end manufacturers.

This year the coalition government has also worked to lock away new agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, while negotiations with India are also well underway as we work towards an ambitious target to conclude an economic partnership agreement as soon as possible.

A key focus for the government throughout 2015 was to help as many Australian businesses as possible understand the potential benefits of our free trade agreements. This included a series of seminars across the country, the first of which I co-hosted with the Minister for Trade and Investment in my electorate of Eden-Monaro. The reason the trade minister took that series of seminars on the road is because the free trade agreements provide unprecedented access to the regions and some of the world's top markets.

ChAFTA, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, in particular provides unprecedented access to what is already the nation's top overseas agricultural market. That is very important to a rural and regional electorate like mine. China buys more of Australia's agricultural produce than any other country. In the last financial year this market was worth $9 billion to Australian farmers and the broader agricultural sector. I will go through some of those benefits. Under ChAFTA, Australia's beef, sheep and pork farmers will gain from the phased abolition of tariffs of up to 25 per cent while tariffs on all fruit, vegetables and nuts will be eliminated. Eden-Monaro contains one of the most important sheep-grazing districts in the country—not only for wool production but also for breeding programs that the industry acknowledges as being amongst Australia's best. Exports alone were worth $2.9 billion to the national economy in 2013-14. Across the capital region, on the Monaro and the high country, we can look forward to our graziers receiving an Australia-only duty-free quota of 30,000 tonnes of clean wool which will grow by five per cent each year to reach 44,324 tonnes in 2024. This is in addition to the 287,000-tonne existing WTO wool quota already extensively accessed by Australian wool producers in the China market.

Another important benefit for our local community will be the elimination of all tariffs on sheep and goat meat over the next eight years, the elimination of all tariffs on beef over the next nine years, and the elimination of all pork tariffs within four years. In the Bega valley we can look forward to tariffs being progressively abolished for Australia's $13 billion dairy industry, including the rapid elimination of the 15 per cent tariff on infant formula. Similarly, tariffs on most timber products will be removed immediately whilst tariffs on some products, such as bamboo, will be eliminated over four years.

On another part of the South Coast, in the Eurobodalla, we can look forward to the elimination of tariffs on seafood exports within four years. This includes the elimination of the 14 per cent tariff on crabs, oysters, scallops and mussels, and the elimination of the up to eight per cent tariff on prawns. This agreement, together with the increased demand by China's growing middle class for Australia's clean, green, premium produce means the opportunities for future export growth in this market are there for the taking.

The agreement with China not only secures improved market access but also enhances Australia's competitive position by giving our growers and producers an advantage over major competitors such as the United States, Canada and the European Union. But it is not just good news for Eden-Monaro's farmers and graziers. The free trade agreement with China will benefit the entire community through the creation of jobs, economic growth and greater prosperity for all.

With so much to gain from the successful and timely conclusion of ChAFTA, you would think that any right-minded person with an interest in advancing Australia's interests, promoting Australia's prosperity and doing the right thing for the country would support the timely conclusion of the ChAFTA. But enter the CFMEU. We have seen a xenophobic and disgracefully dishonest scare campaign waged by militant unions and led by the discredited CFMEU. To delay the implementation of ChAFTA would amount to economic sabotage and I am very, very pleased and happy that there has been bipartisan agreement in this parliament for these bills.

The tariff cuts scheduled are based on the calendar year, which means that if they come into force this year they will deliver an immediate round of tariff cuts. This will be followed by a second round of tariff cuts on 1 January 2016. This is exceptional news for Eden-Monaro. Let me give another example. Australia's Oyster Coast Ltd is an innovative Australian company based in my electorate of Eden-Monaro. They have a growing international brand and, as an emerging tourist destination stretching from the Shoalhaven to Eden on the New South Wales South Coast, Australia's oyster coast region is unique. Its growers produce three premium oyster species—the indigenous Sydney rock oyster, the rare Angasi flat oyster and the Pacific oyster—with strong year-round production. Each estuary is a unique ecosystem producing oysters of different taste and appeal. Through this newly-launched company, farmers from eight estuaries from the Shoalhaven to the Victorian border are benefiting from overseas sales while concentrating on what they do best: growing and harvesting the world's best oysters. Representatives of the company went to China in August to explore further export opportunities. They attended the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Food Expo and conducted the company launch in Guangzhou. I received a briefing from Mr David Trebeck, who is the chairman of Australia's Oyster Coast Pty Ltd, on his return from China recently. David conveyed to me the very positive outcomes of the launch. Australia's Oyster Coast confirmed short-term sales with expectations of sales tripling within three months. At the food Expo in Hong Kong Australia's Oyster Coast achieved great prominence, to the point where the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council CEO stated that it was 'the highlight of the expo.'

The existing tariffs on this sector will be eliminated under the China free trade agreement over three consecutive years. The resulting price reduction will be disproportionately influential in making our product more competitive vis-a-vis the current market leader, France—'the importance of which it is hard to overstate,' as David said. I have been working closely with this company and recently had a look at how oysters are prepared for market in both Batemans Bay and Narooma. Within 30 hours of harvest, Clyde River oysters from Batemans Bay can be in restaurants throughout Asia—faster than their rivals in France. The reductions in tariffs with the China free trade agreement will be particularly important to the Australian Oyster Coast. That is just one example in my electorate of where the agreement will be particularly valuable. In conclusion, with the three Asian agreements concluded and others on the horizon, there has never been a better time to be in Australian business looking to widen trade horizons abroad. I commend the bills to the House.