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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1724

Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) (09:32): The member for Oxley was going really well; I was in furious agreement with him until the last 10 seconds. He missed by so little, but he made some really good points. I will leave aside his comments on investment in the clean energy sector, which we have to remove because we pledged at the election to remove the carbon tax and associated spending—a commitment we made because it was a job destroying tax and an economy-wide crippler. I think Labor needs to get on board with us and allow us to carry out our mandate. The member for Oxley talked about a fair go for our manufacturing industries, a fair go for our citrus growing industries and our agricultural sector—those last two especially affecting the Riverina, the electorate I represent in New South Wales. He talked about Australia's ability to dig holes and export resources, and I would like to think that he meant things apart from mineral wealth, because our agricultural wealth will hold us in good stead as the mineral sector flatlines, which, unfortunately, it is doing at the moment. Agricultural wealth is going to make this country great again. Food security, food availability and our ability to feed the world will be the greatest moral challenges in the next 50 years and beyond.

The member for Oxley talked about the malicious behaviour of other countries towards Australia, contravening the World Trade Organization treaties and how we need to do whatever we can to protect ourselves from such behaviour. He talked about Australian farmers needing to ensure quality, productivity and innovation. With those things in place price should come, though that is not necessarily so, because Australian farmers are price takers not price makers. Therein lies the big problem. Dumping is the act of charging a lower price for like goods in an international market than is charged for the same good in a domestic market for consumption in the exporter's home market of the exporter. It is often referred to as selling at less than normal value on the same level of trade in the general course of business. Under World Trade Organization agreements, dumping is condemned by governments that are party to those WTO agreements, but those agreements do not always bind growers and manufacturers who want to get rid off excess product and even stored product. Such activity leads to countries like Australia being hurt.

I listened very carefully to the member for Oxley say this legislation will not necessarily be the panacea to fix this worldwide problem. He is right, because it is sometimes very difficult to stop importers dumping their goods in Australia. You have to prove that they are sending in the goods at a cheaper price than it cost to produce them and to prove the imports are killing domestic producers. Australia plays by the rules, but, unfortunately, other countries do not. Manufacturers and growers in other countries do not pay by the rules. We need to protect our domestic markets and our farmers and manufacturers. Sometimes we spend a lot of time just talking in this place. I do acknowledge the work of the previous government did in this area, and every time these measures came before the House I spoke on them. I am sure you did too, Mr Second Deputy Speaker, because I know how important agriculture and manufacturing are in your electorate. I know the good work that you did on the Murray-Darling Basin inquiry to bring about a better outcome for our farmers. They are the ones who get hit hardest when illegal dumping happens on our shores.

In our August 2013 policy to boost the competitiveness of Australian manufacturing, the coalition said it was determined to bolster Australia's antidumping system. This legislation is doing just that. We want Australian businesses to have access to an effective antidumping system to ensure that they are not unfairly injured or dumped upon by subsidised imports. It is important that this legislation passes, and I am certainly pleased that the Labor opposition is getting on board with us in this respect. I do acknowledge the work that the previous government did in this space.

A genuine level playing field is needed to keep our economy strong and to provide greater certainty for business, but we know that there is never really going to be a genuine level playing field. We hear about it so often and we talk about it so often. In an ideal world it would exist, but in the real world in which we live it just does not happen. That is why we need good policies and good legislation, such as this bill, to ensure that we get as close as possible to a level playing field for our manufacturers, for our farmers.

This bill implements the first step in the government's plan to bolster the antidumping system by permitting the Anti-Dumping Commission to transfer to the Department of Industry. I know the good work that they have been doing in the first months of the coalition's stewardship, and I know the good work that they will do in the future under the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, who is at the table. The object of this bill is to align responsibility for antidumping matters with responsibility for Australian manufacturing, including agricultural growers—citrus growers, certainly those in the Riverina.

The Anti-Dumping Commission will benefit from the considerable knowledge and experience in the Industry portfolio. Industry has made this country great, as the previous member acknowledged, and industry will continue to make this country great. We in this House need to put in place parameters to ensure that we remain competitive, to ensure that we are able to make the necessary investments in research and development and to ensure that we provide as close to a level playing field for our manufacturers and for our growers that we can to enable them to be the best that they can be.

The government will be implementing a range of complementary reforms to give effect to our remaining antidumping election commitments. We, the coalition, mean what we say, and we are doing what we said we would do before the election, and that is important. All too often people get very cynical about governments going into an election campaign saying things, promising others and not delivering. Through this antidumping legislation we are going to carry out what we said we would do prior to the election. I am glad that Labor agrees and is on board. We acknowledge that people on the other side recognise the important work that industry performs. Again, I recognise the important work that Labor did in this space. These reforms will further enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the antidumping system and will assist Australian manufacturers and producers who are severely injured by dumped and subsidised imports.

Just about every day I get an email from a Griffith citrus grower by the name of Bart Brighenti. He is a good fellow. When he is not producing wonderful oranges and other citrus products in the marvellous area of Griffith in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, he is tapping away on his computer sending emails to senators and members outlining how they can strengthen antidumping laws and what we should be doing to try to get as close as possible to a level playing field. He is on an advisory group I have which talks about agriculture and about what we can do to enhance the situation of the growers in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area is a very important part of the world. You have been there, Mr Second Deputy Speaker, and I know that you have seen what a great job they do, not just on behalf of the Riverina and the state of New South Wales but indeed on behalf of the nation. The amount of produce that comes out of that area is truly phenomenal. They will continue to be able to produce at such high levels if they get good antidumping legislation and certainly if they get good, sensible water policy.

One of Bart Brighenti's recent emails talked about the ability of farmers to strengthen their businesses. He talked about—I almost hate to bring it up; I hope you do not mind, but I am going to digress—the carbon tax and the costs it imposes on farmers and the food manufacturing industry. It is a crippling cost on the industry, and it is important that it is removed. He talked about the cost impact on electricity prices of subsidising renewable energy and the cost of electricity in running efficient irrigation systems. Because of the higher power costs, many irrigators turned off their electrical systems and put their diesel generators back on to get their irrigation systems flowing. That defeats the whole purpose of putting in place measures to lower greenhouse emissions, but they had to do it because it comes down to cost. They cannot spend more on growing the food than they are going to receive from exporting it. The difference in electricity prices in the country and the city is significant. The cost of power is the same but the infrastructure costs are very different, as Bart Brighenti pointed out.

To keep Australian growers competitive, they need more and better export market access for all commodities. Again, that is where this important legislation comes into play. Bart Brighenti says that bureaucrats need a greater understanding of market access negotiations and they need to be better at it. He says that we need relationships to get trade deals done, but we send a different bureaucrat each time. That is really crippling for Australian industry. There are no key performance indicators for bureaucrats to get good deals done. In farming, if you do not get the job done, if you do not reach your KPIs, you do not make money. If you do not make profit, you do not have the ability to grow food and get it out the door so that you can bring money back in. Bart says that, because their backside is not on the line, there is no incentive for bureaucrats. He is right. These good farmers in Griffith and elsewhere in the Riverina and Australia are the ones with the dirt under their fingernails and the sweat on their brows. They get in and do a great job on behalf of our nation. I do not think they are fully appreciated. I do not think their work is acknowledged highly enough, certainly not in this place.

It really disappoints me when union officials such as Paul Howes talk about the fact that there is no need for ma-and-pa farmers into the future and that we should get on board with America, with their large-scale and wide-scale farming practices. How insulting for the farmers who help grow this nation. How insulting for the farmers who struggle with antidumping and struggle with the lack of effectiveness of antidumping regimes. How insulting for farmers who went out to Griffith and parts of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area 100 years ago when it was nothing more than a desolate plain, nothing more than an arid, barren wasteland. They turned it into a veritable garden of Eden. They turned it into one of the largest food bowls in Australia. How insulting to hear somebody who you could almost call an Australian leader—and certainly a union leader—come out and say that there is no need for ma-and-pa farmers. No wonder they were so irate. No wonder my incoming emails has increased in volume over the past few days, with people asking, 'Why would he make a comment like that? What is going to be said in response?' I am glad that the Minister for Agriculture made such strident remarks against those ridiculous comments, because they were ridiculous. I am sure you would acknowledge that too, Deputy Speaker Mitchell—not that I am trying to put you on the spot.

But this is important. Farmers are important. Certainly ensuring that they get the very best value for the hard work that they contribute and the very highest price for their product is important. That is why I commend this bill to the House. I am pleased that the Labor opposition are getting on board with it. I am glad that we have not got a Green in the House chirping away about how damaging this might be to our international relations or the environment or something else. I am sure that we as the major parties in this place—the Nationals, the Liberals and Labor—are all on board with it because we recognise the important role farmers play. We recognise the important role that manufacturers play. We also recognise the importance of ensuring that Australia is protected from other countries and other players who do not play properly in this space on dumping matters.