SPEECH – Defending the Trans Pacific Partnership

30 November 2016

Senator O’SULLIVAN : I want to make an observation about a trend that seems to be appearing—

Senator Dastyari interjecting

Senator O’SULLIVAN: Senator Dastyari we know, of course, is up for trade. He wants to trade, but only with China! He only wants to trade with China. So we know that we have his support for the China FTA. I know that he is not operating on a large scale—dim sim and spring roll stuff—but nonetheless we do appreciate his contribution. Halal dim sims are going to be the new black in food!

I am seeing a disturbing trend in this Senate. It just so happens that at the moment the Senate seems to have all of the power in government in terms of what will or will not happen. I am seeing a disturbing trend in the exercise of that power by those who sometimes have it—that is particularly Labor and the Greens—with what seems to be a concerted effort to pursue policies and decisions that are impacting negatively on rural Australia, agriculture and those who produce those soft commodities—beef, fibre and food.

I truly want to make a genuine contribution to ask colleagues in the Senate to have regard for some facts. The first fact is that we are a trade exposed nation in agriculture. Well over 70 per cent of what we produce in this country is sold. Given the circumstances of our labour market—and I am not going to reflect on any adjustments required there because the problem with labour market challenges is cheaper labour amongst all of our competitors.

But let me come back to the issue before us—the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership represent around 40 per cent of the GDP, particularly around agriculture, in the world. About 800 million people are within the countries involved in the TPP. Those countries import roughly one-third of the total goods and services exports, worth over $100 billion, from this country.

This has been five years in the drafting and negotiation phase and there had not been one peep about it until we were at the eleventh hour. It amazes me, particularly with the Greens, how they are joining Donald Trump in relation to this question. It was only a week ago that they referred to him as the most dangerous creature on earth. Now what they will do on the national interests of this country is send a clear message to Trump that they join him. On the philosophy of protectionism and not wanting the TPP to occur, they join him. They do not want Australia to engage in this.

For those countries that import around 34 per cent or one-third of the total Australian agricultural exports—and that is based on the most recent figures from 2015—this is going to create the elimination of tariffs, almost 90 per cent of the tariffs involved in trade with these nations. I can tell you that when you get out and about in rural Australia and with the real people on farms who have an interest in this or when you meet with the peak industry bodies—the NFFs and cattle councils of the world, and there are 72 of them who have a real interest up in my home state to do with horticulture and the like—they tell you that they want us to pursue equitable trade agreements as often as we can. They are anxious with this talk that we will pick and choose trade agreements based on two or three issues that are raised in opposition to them.

We all know about sugar. There has really been an argument on recent trade agreements we have done with Korea, Japan and China that sugar has missed out. This particular agreement will give an additional 65,000 tonnes of sugar to the US. So let us just hold the phone on sugar for a moment as I make this contribution. The sugar industry is a major industry in my state of Queensland. It is concentrated almost wholly in the state. Some in this place not only want to prevent that industry from spreading its wings in relation to trade and export opportunities but also want to introduce a sugar tax. I am no economist, but I do not need to be an economist; I am a farmer. I will tell you this: if the TPP does not proceed and if you people are successful in introducing a sugar tax, the sugar industry—which is a fragile industry at the best of times and exposed to world prices—will come to an end. In my home state, 4,500 sugar-farming families, their wives, their husbands, their children, their small communities, their newsagents and their bakers are all going to suffer enormously as a result of the activities of this place in what, it is becoming evident, is anti-agriculture.

Our friends in the Greens come in here in their leather shoes, cotton pants and woollen jumpers, yet they do not want us to run sheep. You would know that, Senator Williams, you are battling it all the time. They do not want us to disturb—

Senator Williams: Absolutely. They produce methane—those naughty sheep!

Senator O’SULLIVAN: You are the only non-Kiwi I know who loves his sheep as much as you do, Senator Williams! The Greens do not want us to disturb a metre of ground to be able to cultivate it for cotton. They do not want us to go down to the river and take another milk bottle full of water out to irrigate the cotton.

Senator Williams: It’s got to go straight out to sea!

Senator O’SULLIVAN: That is right. They want that water to go out into the Great Australian Bight, as I understand their current arguments. They do not want us to expend any fuel that might emit some micronism of carbon—I do not quite understand the whole argument there.

 Senator Hanson-Young is not in her seat, Mr Acting Deputy President, but I will not draw that to your attention. She comes in here in the finest of robes. You are a very well-presented lady, Senator Hanson-Young. Do you know where those robes come from? They do not come out of Myer. They come out of a paddock somewhere near where I live. They come out of a header, they go into a processor, they are processed, and they are turned into that cotton and that wool that you wear. Of course, you think that somehow down at the bottom of the garden there is a little fairy there with a set of knitting needles and that this silk comes from—I do not know where—Nirvana or somewhere and just appears on the end of the knitting needles and makes those beautiful garments that you and your friends in the Greens wear.

We see the resistance. But Senator Williams is one—I am another, and we have many colleagues on this side—who will steadily and continually draw people’s attention back to your resistance and to bring their attention back to what you have to say, the decisions you make that are going to impact on our farmers and pastoralists and those in the small communities who support them—those whose entire lives’ investments are in these small economies around our country. I intend to make it my life’s work to continue to bring to their attention your attitudes and decisions in matters around agriculture—just like the one you made today, Senator Lambie, through you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Just like your decision today. You are going to pull horticulturalists to their knees. Those great cherries from Tasmania will remain on the trees for this year. (Time expired)