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Monday, 30 November 2015
Page: 14081


Mr PASIN (Barker) (15:44): I rise to speak in support of the Export Control Amendment (Quotas) Bill 2015. This is a sensible bill which seeks to streamline the management of our great quota system. This bill delivers a better outcome for the nation and more particularly better outcomes for my constituents—those living within the electorate of Barker, not limited to but principally focused on those primary producers who export overseas.

As it currently stands, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources administers some 33 quotas that save exporters millions of dollars in tariffs each year. Through the use of quotas, Australian farmers are shielded from the costs imposed through that process. Whilst we currently have management frameworks which administer our quota arrangements, the current legislative schemes for quotas are specific to meat and dairy products but are insufficient to address the range of quotas arising under recent free trade agreements. It is this government's position that a comprehensive legislative quota scheme under the Export Control Act 1982 would enable a more secure and flexible legal framework for the implementation of these and any future quotas negotiated in pursuit of export opportunities under the Agricultural Competitiveness white paper.

I have the great privilege of representing an electorate which is home to extensive agricultural and primary industries and so it is comforting to see that a long-term view is being taken to quota administration. It is time that we implement a more efficient and comprehensive legislative framework in this space. Due to the trade deals that this government has secured with China, with Japan, with South Korea—not to mention the recently resolved Trans-Pacific Partnership—the number of such export tariff quotas has increased exponentially. The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement alone has delivered eight new quotas.

This government remains committed to opening up markets and giving Australians the opportunity to grow their prospects through industry and endeavour. The Australian agricultural industry provides hundreds of thousands of jobs across the nation and many thousand in my electorate. The Australian agricultural sector delivers 93 per cent of Australia's domestic food supply and exports some 60 per cent of its produce abroad. Our agricultural exports contribute a whopping $32 billion in income to the national accounts. As we face an increase in the world's population and that of our immediate region, reliance on clean, fresh and healthy Australian agricultural product can only increase. Recognising this opportunity, our government has striven to deliver better trade access and more efficient management systems to facilitate that trade.

Export opportunities for Australian agricultural enterprise continue to expand under our leadership. This government understands that, by getting out of the way of agribusinesses through simplifying compliance and trade management, Australian farmers and producers will go from strength to strength. This bill seeks to deliver a simpler system for the management of quotas and, as ever, less is more when it comes to the management of trade. More room for trade volumes and more access to markets have been achieved by this government, and this progress has delivered greater opportunity to constituents, particularly in my electorate when it comes to exporting their prime produce. Independent economic analysis shows that Australia's free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea together will add $24.4 billion to the Australian economy over the period 2016-2035. Of all agricultural exports, China accounts for 14 per cent of our market and Japan, 13 per cent.

I welcome, as do constituents throughout Barker, the increased demand Beijing and Tokyo have for produce from the Riverland, the Barossa, the South East, the Murraylands and the Mallee—produce which I know is amongst the very best in the world. Barker produces some 50 per cent of the gross value of agricultural production in South Australia, estimated at $2.6 billion. Barker, without question, disproportionality drives the agricultural sector in South Australia; it is endowed with extensive natural resources and it is ideally suited it to the pursuit of agricultural production. Be it beef, lamb, wool, wine, dairy, grain or even wood products, producers across the electorate consistently export significant quantities of very high-quality produce.

As well as being home to a productive and vibrant agricultural industry, the South Coast is also home to a significant fisheries sector with popular wild-catch species including abalone and southern rock-lobster, which are found along the coast. That is to say nothing of the Coorong fishery, which I am sad to say is under attack from the New Zealand fur seal—the quicker we organise a sustainable harvest of that animal in that place, the better. The much sought-after seafood species are found up and down the coast and the seafood industry drives significant economic wealth and opportunity through export. Barker is squarely positioned to make the most of our newly signed free trade agreements.

Whilst the government has made excellent progress in expanding our markets, it is also important for the government now to focus on non-tariff barriers to trade. The new volume of trade with the countries in our region, as well as continued expansion of markets, necessitates the upgrade of our trade mechanisms, and this legislation is a move in that direction. This bill will ensure that Australia administers quotas in a way that: minimises market distortion from quota administration; minimises regulatory intervention and barriers to exporting; optimises the commercial value and use of the quota; ensures consistent, transparent and efficient administration; considers commercial arrangements; and rewards market development. The bill enables the creation of a register of tariff rate quota entitlements. It is intended that this should be accessible to exporters in respect of their own entitlements, much like an exporter might have access to information held in their business financial accounts. There are certain elements of the register which could be made available to all exporters, such as the entities holding quota to facilitate trading in quota entitlements. A list of quota-entitlement holders is currently published on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website for this purpose. Bringing regulation of quotas under the same legislation as other export controls for the same commodities will offer opportunities for synergies in the deployment of staff. It will also enable a consistent approach to the appointment of third parties as authorised officers where permitted by importing countries.

The bill will commence on royal assent except for the repeal of existing regulation of quotas. This allows for all existing quotas to run their course under the current legislative arrangements before being phased out and orders under the new powers commence. The existing legislation governing quotas will be repealed later, on 1 January 2017. The bill complements the government's strategic approach to capturing premium markets outlined in the agricultural competitiveness white paper and builds on the gains we have achieved through the outstanding efforts of Minister Robb in negotiating free trade agreements with our major trading partners. This bill is undoubtedly a good one for farmers and producers across the country but particularly for those resident in Barker. I commend the bill to the House.