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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13937


Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (16:58): Like the minister, I'm fortunate to be following straight on from the valedictory speech of Wayne Swan—I'm going to name him, and I know you'll forgive me for that—the member for Lilley. He has made an outstanding contribution here over a very long period of time, as the minister indicated, at the highest levels. I just wanted to spend a couple of seconds on the polar opposite of that and make the point that the member for Lilley has continued to make a contribution from the back bench. It's a reminder to all who come to this place that it is more than possible to do just that. When I say that, I think of the member for Melbourne Ports, who has served on the back bench here for almost two decades and has made an outstanding contribution. He's really influenced government policy from the back benches and has made a very significant contribution. Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, I thank you for your indulgence.

The Wine Australia Amendment (Trade with United Kingdom) Bill 2019 is a rushed bill for good reason. It's a bill that is uncontroversial but borne by great controversy. That controversy is the events that we see continuously unfolding in the United Kingdom as they grapple with that very unfortunate decision by the people of that country that they no longer wanted to be part of the European Union. I fear that this will be the first of many issues we will find ourselves dealing with in this place as a consequence of the UK's inability to tackle that decision properly and to find outcomes that are acceptable to the people of the United Kingdom and, indeed, to the people of the broader European union.

As the minister said—well, I think he said!—on 29 March the United Kingdom informed the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union, officially triggering article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. As a result, it is anticipated that the UK will no longer be a member of the EU after 29 March this year. So the bill makes minor amendments to the Wine Australia Act and the Wine Australia Regulations to ensure that the UK continues to be treated as an agreement country for the purposes of this act. In other words, we need to ensure that our agreement with the European Union on wine extends to the United Kingdom if they no longer are part of the European Union.

So it's a very important bill but, again, in the terms of the hurly-burly of this place it's a non-controversial bill and one which we, of course, support very strongly. And no-one will be surprised to see me at the dispatch box talking about it. That is for two reasons: firstly, I'm the relevant portfolio shadow minister. And, of course, I represent the finest wineries in the world, without question! I know that there will be those in this place—

Mr Gorman interjecting

Mr FITZGIBBON: And some are coughing fakely as I speak! Some will have other views, but we do have the oldest vines in this country, planted by James Busby in the 1820s. We have been a pioneering region and we remain a very significant region in this country. Of course, the area is synonymous with the names Drayton, Tyrell, Tulloch and many more. We are a significant exporter of our product, and my own region stands to benefit from this tidy up that we'll do in this place today.

I had cause to ring Bruce Tyrell yesterday, just to reassure myself that everything in this bill is what the industry would hope might be in this bill. He said, 'Yes, I confirm that.' He said, 'Mate, we just want everything to stay the same.' I suppose the government might care to take that as a compliment! I don't know, but they want everything to stay the same. So we certainly support the measure.

Again, I fear that we will be back on many occasions, depending on how Brexit pans out. I had the great joy of having a private dinner last night with the EU ambassador here and the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan—a great Irishman. I have Irish descent on both sides, I might say, so I had a wonderful conversation with Phil Hogan. We spent all of our night talking about three things, really. I took the opportunity to protest about geographic indicators, and Prosecco in particular, and I had a bit of a jab at him on high-quality beef quotas in the European Union, as people would expect me to do. But we spent the balance of our time talking about two things: obviously, Brexit and the challenges it poses for the European community, the UK and, indeed, the rest of the world, and the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the ripples that are shaking our economies around the world. We are entering into difficult times, I suspect, in international trade terms and, indeed, in international relationship terms. I think it's very nice to see us here today agreeing on something that relates to that, because I think the best way—and I suppose this picks up on the theme offered by the member for Lilley—and that our response to all these turbulent waters will be strongest if the major parties can find common ground on these issues. I thank the House.