Second Reading – Customs Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018
Mr PITT (Hinkler): I rise to speak on the Customs Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018 and the related bill before the House. This government has already negotiated, signed and delivered a number of free trade agreements right around the world with Japan, China, South Korea and Peru. We continue to advance an aggressive trade agenda because on this side of the House we know that trade means jobs. More trade means more jobs. We are a trading nation.
In my contribution today, I want to make this more personal. In particular, I want to talk about some individuals in my electorate: a gentleman by the name of Enio Troiani—better known as ET—David Pickering, Giuseppe Barazza, Rob Zahn, my good friend Leone Aslett and my very good mate Scott Collins. I can see you’re wondering where I’m going here, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, so let me make the link for you. As part of the TPP-11 agreement, we have negotiated a very good outcome for the sugar industry, which for me is personal. This is something that I’ve been involved in for decades. In fact, my family are still harvesting contractors in the Bundaberg region. I have been involved in the sugar industry for as long as I can remember, literally. I was an apprentice and then a tradesperson inside the sugar industry. I’ve worked as an engineer and as a manager. I’ve had all sorts of different positions over many, many years. However, I now find myself in the federal parliament talking about a deal which will be of benefit to them.
Enio Troiani and David Pickering, who was actually a couple years older than me when I started my apprenticeship, were tradesmen. Leone Aslett started her career as a clerk. Giuseppe Barazza was a chemical engineer. Robbie Zahn was a fitter and turner who came through the system, as was Scott Collins. These were local people who took up the opportunity for an apprenticeship, a traineeship or similar positions with Bundaberg Sugar. Enio Troiani is now the general manager for Bundaberg Walkers foundry. David Pickering is the general manager for Bundaberg Sugar. Leone Aslett is the chief financial officer for Bundaberg Sugar. Giuseppe Barazza runs the Bundaberg refinery. Robbie Zahn is the mill manager for Bingera mill, and my good mate Scott Collins is a mill supervisor at that same mill. These were local people who took an opportunity for training and worked their way through the system inside what, at the time, was a large company, with roughly 1,600 employees across 15 different business units operating around the state of Queensland.
Mr Katter interjecting—
Mr PITT: The link is this: these individuals have their jobs because of trade. The sugar industry is overwhelmingly an export industry. Without those exports, these people would not have been able to get a position, pay for their house, pay for their children’s schooling and work their way to some of the top levels of this individual company, Bundaberg Sugar, which is providing jobs in my electorate. It happens because of trade. The TPP-11 will be of great benefit for the sugar industry.
As we continue, if we look at seafood, Urangan Fisheries’ Nicky Schulz is a long-time fisherman in Hervey Bay. He was born there, he lives there, works there and now owns Urangan Fisheries, which is famous for things like Hervey Bay scallops, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta. Australian Ocean King Prawn Company is owned by the Murphy family, who have gone on to develop a slipway in Hervey Bay, doing maintenance for the different ships and boats which progress around the bay area. All of them are involved in exports, and seafood will get a great advantage from this.
But if we do not continue in these opportunities for trade, to do these agreements, to ensure into the future that they are ratcheted down, tied up and locked up, we may find ourselves in the position that others are in. If we look at what is happening between the US and China right now, they are in a trade war, let’s be frank. Australia is protected by agreements like this. We need to build those agreements because, at a personal level, it is a what provides jobs for our people, particularly in the regional centres.
Locally, we’ve had expansions with an organisation called Pacific Tug. Pacific Tug have announced that they will open an operational slipway—
Mr Katter interjecting—
Mr PITT: and a 1,200 tonne ship lift in the town of Bundaberg at the Burnett Heads port. They will have hundreds of employees doing maintenance, using local providers, local skilled tradespeople and individuals from the service industry. They will be able to service the Pacific fleet from this location. Trade allows all of these things to occur. Trade delivers one in five jobs in this country. The stronger our trade position, the better we are as an economy, the better we are as a nation and the more opportunities we have for our people.
What is the alternative? The alternative is the one put up by the Leader of the Opposition. He wants to put the economy into reverse; he wants to jump in the car and go backwards. In fact, he has stated that he doesn’t think the TPP should move forward. He wanted to run away and put up the white flag. He wanted to surrender. We did not take that view. We dropped down a gear, we put the car into four-wheel drive and we charged on, and we have delivered the TPP-11. I acknowledge that the US are not included, but the door is always open.
Mr Katter interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): Order! The member for Kennedy. The member for Hinkler has the call.
Mr PITT: I would say to those in the US who may well be listening: the door is not closed for you. You can obviously come in and join the TPP-11, and I would encourage you to do that. I’m sure Mr Trump is listening very closely to our presentations here in the House today.
As I’ve said, a quarter of our economic growth over the last five years has relied on trade. The last lot of GDP figures are well over three per cent growth. That is an outstanding result for this country. It is the best we have had in many years, and trade is one of the main drivers for that success. We have delivered over a million jobs in the last five years, as we said we would. Trade is a huge component of those opportunities. In my electorate, you only have to look at the macadamia industry. Bundaberg is now the largest producer of macadamia nuts in this country. That was not the case 10 years ago. That market has to go somewhere, and that product has to be sold somewhere. We must recognise that we are a nation of just 25 million people. For those of us who travel overseas—I know many in the chamber take those opportunities—in China, we wouldn’t even be a tier 1 city, or we would only just be a tier 1 city. We effectively have the equivalent of the population of Shanghai, or a little bit more. We cannot sustain all of our operations in this country if we simply close our doors and rely on those opportunities for our local people.
We are a trading nation. We must continue to trade. Regardless of whether you look at agriculture, resources or the coal industry out of Queensland, it is an enormous driver of regional economies and regional jobs. Can I note that the Queensland Labor government absolutely take those opportunities through royalties. I don’t hear any noise from people like Annastacia Palaszczuk about putting away the royalties from coal because it’s just such a terrible word for some of those individuals in the Queensland state government. In my view we should continue to open mines, in particular in the Galilee Basin. The Galilee Basin has the potential to deliver tens of thousands of jobs over the lifetime of the mine. Its potential is enormous. Right now Australia is exporting record levels of its resources. We should continue to use those resources for our benefit. We can continue to sell to the world, but we should use the resources for our benefit, for our people, and for Australians, in particular those who are looking for apprenticeships and traineeships.
I know the now cabinet minister, in a former role, had put forward a plan by this government to deliver 300,000 apprenticeships and traineeships around the country. As a very fortunate recipient of an apprenticeship, I can tell you that it gives you that opportunity to learn and develop skills which you otherwise would not have had. Those are skills that I still use now, even though I find myself here. The process of delivery, the process of planning out a job, of identifying where you need to finish from where you need to start and the steps in between, is an incredibly important part of life, and it can be taught as a skill to an apprentice or a trainee. You don’t have to go to university to be successful in this country.
The TPP-11 will eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs for 11 countries with a combined GDP of more than $13.8 trillion. That $13.8 trillion is an enormous amount of GDP, and we want a part of it. We have the opportunity now, with the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, which we have never had before.
One of the points I would like to make is to thank the team in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I think all members of this House should take that opportunity. There are thousands of public servants who work incredibly hard to deliver these deals, working very long hours. As a former assistant trade minister, I can tell you that you find yourself in some very interesting parts of the world, but, no matter what time of the day or night you open your door to go to work, there is a member of the department standing outside. I thank them for their commitment to our country and for the work that they do. The lead negotiators for these trade deals do it very, very tough. They work incredibly long hours in difficult circumstances because—once again, let’s be frank. What do we want? We want to pinch someone else’s domestic market. What do they want? They want to pinch ours. If that is the starting point for a trade negotiation, we can imagine how this goes.
We have been successful in a balanced outcome which will be of enormous benefit to this country. We continue to fight for our local sugar producers, our seafood producers, our macadamia nuts, our agriculture, our resources and our services.
In my electorate of Hinkler one of the other very important parts of the economy is tourism. For tourism there is no better place in Australia to go—I know I’m biased—than to travel to Hervey Bay or Bundaberg or Childers or Woodgate and see the wealth of opportunities for tourists in that region. It is worth tens of millions of dollars to our region and thousands of jobs. When we get expansion in infrastructure around motels, around opportunities to see the reef, to see the whales, to see the turtles at Mon Repos—I know, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, that you will take the opportunity when you can. The loggerhead turtles nest in very few places around the world, but Mon Repos beach at Bundaberg is one of them. It attracts tourists internationally. It is a world-renowned, environmentally friendly facility, well worth seeing. I will continue to advocate for anyone who wants to come to our region, spend a few dollars, stay a few days and see all of these opportunities.
Trade agreements provide those opportunities, particularly through services arrangements, right across the board. If we look at our arrangements with China, we now have open-skies arrangements into Adelaide, for example. Adelaide is seeing a real benefit from the ability of tourists to travel directly there. It’s not just the capital cities. The regional areas within a two- to three-hour drive get that opportunity as well. These international tourists want to see our regions, and everywhere in Australia is a unique opportunity. Anywhere you go in this great country is a fabulous place to visit. I know that those in South Australia are taking advantage of that. They tell me there’s some great wine down there. We are actually exporting enormous amounts of that now, particularly into China. I know they have a great advantage for our sugar products exported into South Korea. The last time I looked at those numbers we held around 75 per cent of the entire market into South Korea. We have better arrangements now into Japan.
If we look our sugar industry and we look at the world market price right now, it is down to 11.18c a pound in US dollars on the New York Stock Exchange. In recent years that has been above 20. Unfortunately, when I was in the industry it got as low as 4½. However, it is a fluctuating, cyclical industry. Every time that we can sign one of these trade agreements, which gives an advantage to our people in terms of the tariffs and the forward-facing price, that is good for that industry and that is good for the people that they employ.
When we look at the way that this is tied together from agricultural producers and from individuals all the way through the sugar-milling process to the refinery and to the raw export markets, that is jobs. It is jobs at ports, jobs in mills and jobs on farms. It is future training and a future opportunity for our people. The TPP-11 is an incredibly important trade deal and, as I said earlier, the door is still open for the US. The door is still open for the United States, if it wants to join in on the TPP-11.
We are negotiating trade agreements right around the world—for example, with the EU. We’re now talking to the United Kingdom in terms of their Brexit opportunities. I have lots of people in my electorate who recall, with great fondness, the arrangements in the early seventies with Britain, particularly for our wheat exporters, our sugar exporters and our dairy exporters. I’m sure we’re looking to provide those opportunities again. If we are out there delivering better trade opportunities, then we are out there delivering better job and training opportunities and we are improving the future of this country.
I say to those opposite: congratulations on supporting the TPP-11. I know this is a longstanding practice, in terms of trade and foreign affairs, but it’s important, as a nation, that we continue to grow our trade opportunities, because more trade means more jobs and more strength to our arm.