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Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Page: 12099


Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (20:26): Today is one that is particularly important for Gilmore, and many living in the region are unaware of the large leap of change that has taken place. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will come into force before the end of the year—we hope—after a compromise deal was finally struck between the federal government and the opposition. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today spoke in the House and declared that this was a 'historic trade deal', that this was the beginning of exciting times in Australia. For the opposition to move to a compromise on such a great opportunity is seriously worthy of note.

There has been a great deal of misunderstanding around the potential benefits of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. For growers, service providers and manufacturers in Australia, we have a domestic market of around 23 million people. If those growers, providers and manufacturers want to thrive and prosper, there is now a market door opening to the aspirational Chinese, who have income to spend. And there is predicted to be 1.3 billion people within the next decade who will become consumers. Already, since 2007, the relationship between imported goods to Australia from China and exports to China has changed drastically, with significant growth in our exports. With this agreement, that trend of export growth has considerable potential to increase exponentially.

Initially, the confusion around workforce conditions and 457 visas caused a media and union backlash, giving rise to phone complaints, union members stalking me in the electorate, and tradespeople being genuinely worried about their future employment potential. A number of revisions to these rules have been put on the table for negotiation, and with bipartisan support we now have these incorporated. Some aspects were in the wording, which could have been interpreted more loosely, but the intent of the agreement has remained unchanged.

I was always reassured that mandatory labour market testing was to be applied to investor facilitation agreements or projects over $150 million, that base pay threshold for 457 visa workers were to be firmly adhered to and that strict licensing conditions would be imposed for trades men and women looking to come to Australia. In addition, in one of my briefings I was assured that the 457 visa applications would be reviewed in light of specified skills lists and compared with the demand in the chosen destination in Australia. If the applicant had not done such an analysis, then the application would be refused. This was of particular concern for plumbers and electricians. I can fully understand this, as our tradespeople are generally much better trained than those coming from other nations. Andrew Robb, Minister for Trade, has said:

We should now be on track to be able to have an exchange of letters with the Chinese before the end of the year.

If ChAFTA is passed by the Senate in 2015, before the end of this year, then two rounds of tariff cuts will take place, one late this year and then immediately after 1 January 1 2016. That is a double bonus for Australian exporters.

There are industries in Gilmore that are just waiting in the wings for this agreement to pass through legislation. Let me describe a few. The first is about a baby product developed by a local mum whose child's skin was supersensitive. She sold to a local manufacturer, and the following is from their website, with a beautiful changing photo slide banner showing babies from all over the world:

Cherub Rubs wants the best for you and your baby … naturally.

Our products are FULLY CERTIFIED ORGANIC—not just a couple of organic ingredients, but more than 95% of all the ingredients in the majority of our range are certified organic. The entire range is manufactured under strict organic standards in a certified organic manufacturing facility.

This year Cherub Rubs is being recognised in the upcoming Premier's New South Wales Export Awards. The product is already hitting the mark in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, is about to establish in Thailand and is looking forward to the signing of the ChAFTA. One of the part owners is NowChem, and the director John Lamont told me:

The China free trade agreement is a positive opportunity to create more jobs, especially for Nowra Chemicals, a regional employer.

This will allow access to a large market of consumers who want to buy high quality goods and services.

The Chinese market is one that is growing in affluence. People there wish to access to the same cosmetics and beauty products available in Australia. Goods made and manufactured in a market they can trust for quality.

With the low Australian dollar, Australian Manufacturers are able to pay higher local wages and compete for high value innovative products in this growing and developing market.

The only issue facing many manufacturers is the decline in manufacturing due to poor government policy, such as a carbon tax, rather than an emissions trading scheme. That made many people review their manufacturing in Australia.

For those remaining, the current low interest rate climate is an excellent time to re-tool, re-invest and take manufacturing forward in Australia.

We have a significant agricultural base in Gilmore, so the change in tariffs in this agreement has the potential to be a game changer: growth, production and jobs. What more could we ask in an area of extremely high unemployment?

Whilst some of our vineyards are boutique in size, there are others, also having medal-winning wines, who could benefit from the change in tariff, with 14 to 20 per cent tariffs eliminated over four years. We have many wonderful wine-making enterprises: Crooked River Wines, Yarrawa Estate, Kangaroo Valley Estate, Roselea Vineyard, Jasper Valley Wines, Silos Estate, Wileys Creek, Mountain Ridge Wines, Coolangatta Estate, Two Figs Winery, Cambewarra Estate, Lyrebird Ridge Organic Winery, Cupitt's Winery, Kladis Winery, Fern Gully Winery and Bawley Vale Estate. I have a fairly large electorate, so it is quite a spread. Together they have received more than 1,000 national and international awards.

Our local bus company, Nowra Coaches, is already a unique service exporter in Gilmore. They sell holiday packages to Chinese visitors. They invested in a Chinese-language website and currently have more than 10 Chinese-based travel agents selling their holidays back here in Australia. The owner has told me there is a pent-up demand to see Australia. We have yet to cater to their accommodation model to maximise the potential of this aspect of trade between our nations.

Gilmore is home to Australia's Oyster Coast. It is a proud company that is now exporting premium-grade fresh oysters to China, building on the company's earlier export success in Hong Kong and Singapore. It will gain from the elimination of the 14 per cent tariff in the next four years. Forty-five of Australia's leading oyster growers are shareholders in the new company, operating across eight estuaries from Shoalhaven Heads to Eden.

Australia's Oyster Coast region is unique as it produces three varieties of premium oysters, including the Sydney rock oyster, the rare Angasi 'flat oyster' and the popular Pacific oyster. These oysters are grown under rigorous environmental management systems in some of the world's cleanest waters by passionate oyster growers with generations of experience. These oyster growers include the Greenwell Point oyster farmers Brian and Barry Allen, Jim Wild, Steve Newnham, Jess Zealand in Shoalhaven Heads and Mark Ralston in Batemans Bay.

Australia's Oyster Coast had their beginnings recently and launched the concept just two years ago with a fantastic photographic display and oyster tasting in this very house. It is a great example of the hard work and fantastic outcome. They have developed a sustainable and fast supply chain so the delivery of oysters to customers can take place within 30 hours of the oysters being harvested. This means that oysters that were growing in the estuaries in Gilmore one morning can be presented for dinner service at a restaurant in Asia the next day. They can do nothing but grow further with this China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Ulladulla Fishermen's Co-op Society may also be able to gain market share as a result of the ChAFTA. They have a great reputation and already export, but the potential can be increased.

We have a new enterprise in Bomaderry, Argyle Prestige Meats. They employ locals. They have great potential to grow, and they may now explore export options, knowing that the tariffs on beef to China will be eliminated over the next nine years. That may sound like a long time, but markets take a while to develop, trust needs to be built up, and over that time market share can be gradually increased to coincide with the reduced tariff.

Another industry that already exports but can increase markedly is the supply of veterinary products. One local company, Pharmplex, is located in Milton, and it manufactures supplements to treat sheep, goats, cattle, deer, alpacas and camels. There is enormous potential for it—more jobs and more growth. I am very pleased about that.

In Gilmore, the Shoalhaven Business Chamber has a stunning record of achievement, celebrating local businesses. This year the standout winner was Stormtech. This company has designed a unique shower drain system, one that runs parallel to the wall or the door rather than a grate in the middle. It is suitable for those with a disability. It can fit to existing plumbing and is qualified for Standards Australia and certified internationally. The drains are in high demand already for international hotel construction, and the company is already an exporter. The potential for this company is pretty awesome.

Finally we have the most iconic industry of all for the South Coast. It is there for all to see as visitors and residents alike travel in the Illawarra and the Shoalhaven: our wonderful dairy industry. In the region, including the highlands, we have 121 dairies. They have been doing it tough over the last few years. Low milk prices have made economic survival difficult. There are about 300 people currently employed in Gilmore in dairy, and that has huge potential to grow. With tariffs of up to 20 per cent being eliminated within the next four to 11 years, this industry can make up for some of its lost revenue. Our milk products are certainly in demand. In our local region the dairy revenue is over $60 million. That is a lot of milk produced each year. It is a hard industry—it is tough getting up so early to milk those cows in the morning—but some of our visionary farmers developed the South Coast Dairy and are in the process of expanding their production capacity. They are perfectly positioned to utilise the change in the trade arrangements with China.

I commend all our producers, our manufacturers, our innovators and our creators. They all put a bit of risk out there when they put their investments online, but this change in the market in China will assist so many in Gilmore to build their businesses, to find employment and to feel part of our national growth and participate in life rather than just surviving the process of living.