COMMITTEES - Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee - Report


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:40): With due respect to Senator Hanson-Young, you can see why Australia should be forever grateful that Senator Hanson-Young will never be trade minister. This has been wonderful work by the Australian government and all the other governments involved. I pay particular credit to the former trade minister, Mr Ciobo, who worked very hard on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I know that that good work will be carried on by Senator Birmingham as he takes on this very important role for Australia. Senator Hanson-Young may not be aware but, of course, Australia produces far more agricultural goods than it can ever consume itself. Trade is vital to Australia and our farmers—not the big corporates that Senator Hanson-Young was talking about but the little family businesses that do so well out of Australia's exporting.

I'm particularly pleased with the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it does wonderful things for the beef industry and the sugar industry. Where I come from, in North Queensland, beef and sugar are two of the biggest industries. The town that I live in, Ayr, and Home Hill in the Lower Burdekin area, is one of the premier sugar-producing areas in the world. But, within Australia, we produce far more sugar than we can ever consume and so we have to sell it. We have to trade. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was particularly good to sugar in its terms and conditions.

Rather than being done behind closed doors, as Senator Hanson-Young suggested in her contribution, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was negotiated widely not only between officials from all of the countries involved—and Australian officials did a wonderful job—but also representatives of the small family farms; not the corporate Australians that Senator Hanson-Young would try to confuse people about. Representatives of family sugar farmers in Australia were there at the table working on deals that did so well for Australia and the Australian mum-and-dad industries in the sugar industry.

Similarly, in the beef area, Australia came out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership arrangements in a great position to export even more of the prime quality beef for which it is recognised. We had done a free trade agreement with Japan, Korea and the United States previously. But, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Korea, Japan and other countries—of course, the United States eventually wasn't involved in that—Australia did even better than it had done in the bilateral free trade agreements with some of those other countries. If I recall correctly, under our free trade agreement with Japan, the Japanese tariffs on our beef came down year by year, but slowly, and we were always behind the United States in the amount of tariffs on beef. But the Trans Pacific Partnership changed all that, and the United States and other exporters to Japan jumped. Our tariffs will go down to nil at a much earlier time, which is great news for our meat industry, our beef industry, in Australia. Again, this is not the big corporates that Senator Hanson-Young would have you believe—if anyone took notice of what Senator Hanson-Young said in this particular area. It has been a really great deal for the mum-and-dad cane farms, the family beef properties right throughout northern Australian and other parts of Australia as well. It's been a great deal in any other aspects as well, but I particularly focus on those two.

I can never quite understand why the member of parliament who represents perhaps the biggest sugar-growing areas in Australia and one of the biggest beef-growing areas in Australia—the electorate of Kennedy—continues to oppose free trade agreements and continues to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership. Because if there's one thing that has done so well for the two major industries in his electorate, it's these free trade agreements and yet Mr Katter seems to oppose them at every turn. Some people suggest it's because the ETU, the Electrical Trades Union, pays him a lot of money at election time to campaign and that he is therefore influenced by the ETU and other unions into opposing it. But I can't understand that because his constituents, who he is supposed to represent, do very well out of free trade agreements and particularly out of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

This report from the committee is an important look at what happened with the Trans Pacific Partnership. I wasn't a member of that committee but I am a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which had a very, very close look at the Trans Pacific Partnership and conducted some public inquiries into it. The members of the treaties committee were, like I, individually, very happy with the Trans Pacific Partnership. Senator Hanson-Young seems to have used most of her speech to attack the Labor Party. I, on the other hand, usually do attack the Labor Party but, in relation to the Trans Pacific Partnership, I give credit where credit is due, in spite of some misgivings which I know individual members of the Labor Party have, in spite of misgivings that I know a lot of the unions have—and we know the unions control the Australian Labor Party. But in spite of all that, I think the opposition understood the benefits to Australia from the Trans Pacific Partnership And they were prepared to allow crass political motives to be put aside in Australia's interests. Australia's interests certainly do well in the Trans Pacific Partnership and so, rather than criticising the Labor Party, I think it's to the Labor Party's credit that they put the national interest before their crass political interests or the crass political interests that the Greens political party would have them do. Senator Hanson-Young also couldn't help a final dig about the environment and the Trans Pacific Partnership. I'm not quite sure that she explained how that would happen. But with the Greens political party, it doesn't matter about the facts; it doesn't matter about the data—if you can raise a scare campaign in someone's mind then you achieve something. Of course the Greens political party are noted for the lies that the Greens political party tell about the Great Barrier Reef, to the detriment of the tourist industry and the tens of thousands of people who make their living out of the tourist industry on the Great Barrier Reef. Yet the Greens will continue to tell outright lies about the Great Barrier Reef. Somehow it comes into the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Unfortunately, Senator Hanson-Young didn't have time to explain how that would happen. Certainly, as far as trade is concerned, as far as the interests of Australian farmers and Australian small businesses are concerned, this is a wonderful trade deal. Congratulations to the officials who negotiated it. Congratulations to Minister Ciobo, who played a principal role in getting it underway. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Back to List