09 December 2020

This bill, the Wine Australia Amendment (Label Directory) Bill 2019, is timely, as wine producers and exporters across this country have been slapped with eye-watering antidumping duties of up to 212 per cent on their very fine exports to China. These tariffs are a result of unfair and unsubstantiated claims of the dumping of cheap Australian wine into China, a claim that has been refuted by experts around the world. As we all know, on average Australian wine is among the most expensive available in China.

Labor is deeply concerned about Australia's rapidly deteriorating trading relationship with China. We know the Australian wine industry has long benefited from a productive and respectful relationship with that country. Australian wine exports to China were worth $1.1 billion in the year to 30 June, according to Wine Australia figures.

In the midst of a crisis, the agriculture minister, sadly, has not been able to get in contact with his counterpart in the entire time he has held that role. The same might be said for the minister who is reported to be the hopeful next trade minister, the current Minister for Education, who also has not reached out to his counterpart in China, their minister for education—which seems shocking, given the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students who are entrusted to this country for their education.

Back onto the wine. That the agriculture minister is not able to speak to his counterpart certainly doesn't bode well for our significant wine industry in this country. It is in the interests of both China and Australia to have a productive trading relationship. It is important that the government show leadership on managing this relationship at this critical time. Producers, quite frankly, feel abandoned by this government, and that is what they have told me. The message they are getting is: 'Look, it might be a bit rough right now. Pack up your wine crates and perhaps think about sending them somewhere else,' or: 'Here, look at these agreements. We've got for you about 14 ratified FTAs', as if that means a winemaker can suddenly change overnight where those creates of wine are going. This is simply not possible. To think that it is just demonstrates that the government is entirely out of touch with how a trading relationship works.

Australian producers across all industries spend years—literally years; most of them decades—building relationships with importers in those destination countries. Those are decades of on-the-ground relationships to make sure that they are trusted, that the right price is paid, that the people who want the product get the product and they get the product that they want. You cannot turn on the tap of demand for Australian goods. You have to work at it. It's not like walking up to a tap and getting a glass of water. It takes time, hard work, commitment and dedication, and it is what this government has failed to do.

Labor is concerned that the threat to wine exports follows China's technical suspension of imports and its boycotts of other Australian exports such as red meat—now lamb—coal, international education and tourism, cotton, sugar, timber, seafood and wheat as well as the imposition of 80 per cent tariffs on Australian barley exports to China—most of which ships, of course, from my electorate of Brand, from the CBH silos that have been there for many years. Like with barley, the assertion that Australian wine producers are dumping their product into the Chinese market is simply ludicrous. In fact, as Jeff Wilson of the Perth USAsia Centre has rightly pointed out, data shows that Australian wine gets a much higher price in China than in other top export markets.

But we really shouldn't be too surprised by this. We know that the government has been at loggerheads with China for some time, especially since the foreign minister needed an announcement and decided to make an announcement on a television program on a Sunday morning, calling for officials like weapons inspectors to go into another nation to look for the reasons for the emergence of the COVID virus. Labor does support an international inquiry into the origins of the virus. It's a very important scientific inquiry that is required for, quite frankly, the benefit of the whole world. We all want to know how this happened so we can prevent it happening again. But to turn it into an announcement for political purposes—again, on a Sunday morning program—is just inexplicable.

I return to discussion about the wine industry. It's long benefited from a productive and respectful relationship with China. Australian wine exports, as I've said, are worth $1.1 billion, and I agree that winemakers should spread their risk and diversify their export markets. Unfortunately, a lack of leadership from the government on the diversification issue has left a policy vacuum, leaving business, stressed from bushfires and drought as well as a pandemic, to pick up the pieces.

As we know, this government is ready to sit back and shift the blame rather than show leadership. We've heard the catchphrases, the get-out-of-jail-free cards—'This is a state issue'; 'I don't accept the premise of your question'; 'Could someone else do that, please'—not to mention the minister for agriculture's extraordinary statement: 'The government has provided up to 14 free trade agreements around the world so you can go and spread your risk. Access one of those.' That's patently absurd. You do not access the benefit of FTAs simply by packing up your wine on a crate and sending it off to some unknown destination. You have to apply to access an FTA, and even before you would want to do that you have to have the relationships on the ground even to have buyers. It's not as if you can go to a signing ceremony for one of these FTAs and expect that, magically, there will be a market for you to sell into.

Given the current state of play with our trading relationship with China, the Prime Minister and the cabinet are now demanding export diversification. Well, it's seven years too late. I found it a bit rich when the government itself commissioned a report aimed at building our economic relationship with India and let it sit there in the PMO, simply gathering dust. In fact, it has been entirely shelved. Two years ago, the former Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary, Peter Varghese AO, handed a landmark 500-page report to the government with 90 recommendations on how to improve our trade and investment relationship with India. Would anyone like to guess how many recommendations have been implemented?


MADELEINE KING MP: One. That's one out of 90. I thank the member for Bruce. He's read the report; I know he's read the report. I've read the report, but no-one in the government seems to have done so.

An honourable member interjecting—

MADELEINE KING MP: Impressive? It's not impressive at all. There were 90 recommendations. One out of 90 is just over one per cent. It's a report that was issued 2½ years ago and this is all they've managed to do. And now they call for export diversification. Well, I ask: what have the government been doing? What have they been doing? It seems like it is: job done, feet up, get on a Zoom, put a couple of flags behind yourself and then pop it out on Instagram.

The Varghese report found that no single market over the next 20 years would offer more growth opportunities for Australia than India in areas as diverse as education, agriculture, energy, resources, tourism, health care, financial services, infrastructure, science and sport. As Varghese said, 'The opportunities will not fall into our lap.' Now, here's a tip for the government: that wasn't one of the recommendations; that was a warning. If you do sit back and accept a report such as this and then do nothing about it, the opportunities will not fall into our lap. You have to go and work and get it done. You have to start implementing recommendations. He even identified 20 priorities. He made the list shorter. It's a road map. They paid for the work; the government paid $1.5 million for this report. I think it's good value for money, quite frankly. It's an excellent report. The true waste is that they haven't looked at it. They haven't read it. They haven't even sought to implement, beyond one, any of the 90 recommendations. It was intended as a blueprint to boost our economic ties with India and to diversify our trading relationships, but it was buried upon its release in 2018 and it has gone nowhere. In fact, early this year the government admitted to Senate estimates that it had done remarkably little. That's where we found the confirmation that only one of the 90 recommendations had been looked at.

Underlying the Morrison government's failure to deliver on this plan to boost Australia's economic ties with India is fresh trade data showing India's share of our exports has fallen to a 17-year low. Official data released earlier this year underscored the dangers of the government's lax approach to India and its longer-term failure to adequately seek to diversify Australia's trading economy. According to the ABS, India's share of Australia's merchandise exports fell to $10.98 billion over the 12 months to 30 June. That's 32 per cent below the 2018 level, when Mr Varghese released his report. It's getting worse and worse. There is a blueprint. You haven't used it. In the meantime, our trade with India gets worse. India's share of Australia's total merchandise exports is now below two per cent. That's the lowest level since 2003. Meanwhile, China's share of Australian exports has risen to a record 48.8 per cent, highlighting our heavy reliance on a single trader and probably demonstrating the laziness of the government.

Tomorrow, the long-awaited Australia economic strategy report will be launched, led by respected ambassador Anil Wadhwa. This is a response from the Indian government to the Australian government's Varghese report. The Indian government is responding to a report that this government has entirely failed to implement or to even seek to implement. It has put it on the shelf. Frankly, this is embarrassing. I know the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment is speaking at this launch. How he will explain his failure to adopt the Varghese report, in light of Ambassador Wadhwa's report, will be, frankly, a sight to see. Obviously, I'm not invited to the launch. I wish I were. I know people who will be there and I really look forward to the report. I have met with Ambassador Wadhwa. He has high hopes for the continuing relationship between Australia and India and high hopes for our trade relationship, but I'm afraid he might be met with stony silence from a government that has refused to accept its own advice.

I will conclude shortly. I will just briefly mention Peel Estate, one of the vineyards in my electorate of Brand, which was established in 1979. As you might know, Mr Deputy Speaker Rick Wilson, being a Western Australian, Peel Estate has the oldest sangiovese vines in Western Australia; that is true. They make fine wine. They have magnificent evenings there on a Sunday—the jazz evenings. I regularly visit Will Nairn and his fantastic vineyard down at Karnup, in the south of the city of Rockingham. It is a hidden treasure of the electorate of Brand. They don't export. They're a smaller vineyard. Western Australian vineyards don't export to China as much as our South Australian friends do, so they are not as affected at this time, but those that do are very greatly affected by the very unfortunate tariffs that are imposed on their product.

I urge the government to take its feet off the table and start the hard work of the true national effort that is required to diversify. It takes years and years. It takes every minister thinking every day about what they can do in their portfolio to truly diversify what we export and who we export to. I thank the House.