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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6294


Senator REYNOLDS (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Home Affairs) (10:49): Yes, I can. There are a number of elements to that support. One of the points I'd make is that the Pacific region continues to experience significant social, economic and environmental challenges. We all in this place acknowledge that. Distance and weak infrastructure make international trade expensive, and small domestic markets and narrow production bases mean that countries rely on their internal economies for growth and for consumption. While PACER Plus provides the framework for regional trade and economic integration, dedicated assistance is absolutely critical to addressing barriers in signatory countries and to unlocking the Pacific's ability to partake in a global market.

The PACER Plus Readiness Package—which I think the Greens senators who spoke earlier clearly hadn't even read, or understood what was there—is absolutely vital to providing those benefits. The readiness package is that Australia and New Zealand will provide joint funding packages of $8 million for readiness activities. This is to assist signatories from other nations to ratify their PACER Plus agreements and also, as we've said, other agreements—for example, through the WTO framework.

The support that we're providing in this bill is for things like, firstly, legislative drafting to assist signatories to review and update relevant laws and regulations in their own countries. Secondly, there is Customs modernisation and harmonisation, implementation of up-to-date tariff codes and transposition of schedules. Those sound a little bureaucratic but are vitally important for small nations to be able to do. Each signatory will be able to implement the latest version of the internationally recognised systems known as the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding Systems. Again, it sounds very bureaucratic and technical, but for these nations to engage fully in the World Trade Organisation and also in other FTAs this has to be done.

We're also providing support to those nations as they require. There is training on notification requirements, including helping governments and private sectors to meet PACER Plus obligations around transparency. We're providing funding support for public outreach and stakeholder engagement, and also for revenue planning and mitigation to help signatories manage any impact on their government revenue associated with tariff reduction, as discussed earlier.

As part of PACER Plus, Australia's commitment to an aid-for-trade funding target is for 20 per cent of its official ODA budget in the Pacific. This target complements the party's own trade related initiatives to increase economic growth, to generate jobs and to increase living standards in each and every one of these Pacific nations. As I said, they're challenged by distance, by size and also by having very small agencies which need to be able to deal with those issues.

I will leave you with two examples. The first one is agricultural export development. The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program helps Pacific exporters meet the quarantine standards and other market access requirements of their trading partners. Again, it is very practical and very development focused assistance to enable these countries to engage in the international trading market. The second example is trade facilitation export and promotion and investment. Australia has increased funding to the Oceania Customs Organisation to help to strengthen Pacific Customs administrations, and will continue our longstanding support for Pacific trade and investment. It provides high-quality export facilitation investment and tourism promotion services across the region.

My final comment to this chamber is that I wholeheartedly endorse PACER Plus and the enabling legislation. This is a good thing. I'd conclude by, again, thanking the Labor Party for their engagement and their support for this very important bill to enable the PACER Plus program. Thank you.

Bills agreed to.

Bills reported without amendments; report adopted.