Private Members Business – TPP11
Mr PITT (Hinkler): I congratulate Minister Ciobo for signing off on the TPP after many years of negotiation. And they said it couldn’t be done. But here we are; we’re moving forward. It will be assessed by the JSCOT and hopefully ratified by the parliament later in the year. We’ve got form. We had already signed deals with Japan, South Korea and China, and I think it is appropriate to reflect on just how successful those deals have been and just how successful the TPP will be once it is signed and in place. If we look at those agreements, we can see that, in recent years, agriculture in this country has expanded enormously. They are going pretty damn well, to be honest. They’re having a great time of it. They are a shining star of our economy. In fact, they produced over $60 billion worth of farmgate production, and $48 billion of that was exported. Can we imagine what will happen to regional Australia if we do not continue to open up new trade routes and new opportunities, new areas that our growth products can move into, with the capacity to increase manufacturing, particularly in regional areas, to value-add, to fix the logistics chain?
All these things do one thing and one thing only—that is, build the Australian economy. If we build the Australian economy, we will continue to build jobs, particularly in regional areas, and it’s pretty straightforward. As the Member for Longman said, one in five people in this nation are employed because of trade. More trade for Australia means more jobs, and, the faster we can provide better opportunities to Australian producers, the better off we will be, particularly in regional areas. There is only one interest in this agreement, and that is the national interest. There is no other consideration. We as the parliament must act in the national interest, and we should do that as quickly as possible. This deal has taken some time to put together. Everyone is aware of some of the challenges, particularly around countries which decided they didn’t want to be a part of the TPP, but we have managed to put together a deal which is in this nation’s interest, and we should act on it.
All of us here are always interested in what happens in our electorates; I’m sure you are, Mr Deputy Speaker Buchholz, as the Member for Wright, being an agricultural producer yourself. My region in Hinkler between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay is now the biggest producer of macadamia nuts in this country. As someone who was born there and has lived there most of my life and been involved in agriculture for a long time I have to say that, when it kicked off, I was very surprised by the work that was undertaken. It was expensive; there were long-term returns. But it has been an absolute boon for our region, and nearly all of that product is exported.
We are a nation of just 24 million people. We cannot consume everything that we produce. In fact, I know that any number of our organisations locally are exporting macadamia nuts, particularly to China and South Korea. Right now, they’re going pretty well—they’re going very, very well. South Korea is a great opportunity, and the further that we can expand our trade routes and opportunities, the less risk there is to this country. From when I grew up. as a tradesperson, it’s what’s called belt-and-braces policies. It means that you ensure that you have more than one opportunity, more than one location to send your product to, more than one place you can be shut out of and of course that can shut your business. So the TPP is a great opportunity. It is a boon. It will deliver 18 new free trade agreements between the TPP 11 parties. For Australia, that means new trade agreements with Canada, Mexico and greater market access for Japan, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
In my region, that includes sugar. Sugar has been an absolute basket case in world trade for many years, as we all recognise. But we now have further opportunities for the sugar industry in South Korea and Japan, and this will increase those opportunities in Japan, and also, particularly, if we can get it into Mexico. It is an absolute boon for our sugar growers. As someone who actually grew up in the sugar industry, who spent their entire life in it—through harvesting contracts, milling operations and right through to management—I know these are opportunities for our regional people right up the North Queensland coast. I certainly look forward to those opportunities coming to fruition, because nearly one-quarter of all of Australia’s total exports, worth nearly $88 billion, goes to the TPP 11 countries.
We need to ensure that we continue to trade with those nations and we need to ensure that our producers have the best forward-facing price that we can possibly provide for them. That is why we do trade negotiations. That is why we have trade agreements. That is why we have so many people from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade out in these countries, ensuring they act in this country’s interest.
So we should ensure that the TPP 11 is ratified and that the JSCOT sign off on it. It is a strong deal, it is in the national interest and I absolutely support it. I thank the member for Forde for putting forward this motion for consideration.