Mr PASIN (Barker) (10:09): Australia has a proud history as a trading nation. Whether it be primary production, mining or manufactured items, we’ve always punched above our weight, contributing to the high standard of living Australians enjoy. Free trade allows each nation to play to their strengths and specialise according to their competitive advantages. Basic economics tells us that, by producing more of what we’re good at, we improve our productivity and competitiveness, and this of course drives improvement in living standards. Currently, we produce enough food for 75 million people, despite a population of around 26 million, so we export our produce to every corner of the world. Our iron ore and other minerals have allowed other nations the resources to industrialise, lifting millions out of poverty.
Australia’s bilateral relationship with China is an important one, worth $252 billion in two-way trade last year alone. Many producers in my electorate of Barker have benefited from China’s demand for our premium produce. The China free trade agreement has been mutually beneficial, but the recent tariffs, restrictions and anti-Australian sentiment by China is extremely disappointing. The 80 per cent tariff placed on Australian barley has been followed by a 12 per cent tariff on beef and a tariff of up to 207 per cent on Australian wine. Many other industries have been affected, with Chinese importers of Australian goods being told by customs officials not to buy sugar, timber, coal, lobster and copper. The decision to impose a tariff of up to 207 per cent on Australian wine will likely wipe out the $1.2 billion worth of wine exports to China, while decisions around Australian lobster led to 20 tonnes of Australian lobster being stuck on the port at Shanghai’s airport tarmac and created the type of uncertainty that’s crushed that important industry.
I feel for the many producers in my electorate whom I know are suffering because of these baseless decisions to target Australian goods through tariffs and restrictions. Our government has repeatedly put out an olive branch, but that’s been met with silence and provocation. I can’t be more profound in my condemnation of the recent tweet by the Chinese government, which was simply deplorable. The Chinese Communist Party recently published their 14 grievances against Australia that, if fixed, they say, would recover the relationship. These grievances are an attack on our liberal democracy, raising issues with our free press, the banning of Huawei on national security grounds, the reforms of our foreign investment schemes and also individual MPs’ ability to speak out. I’m hopeful that in the future China will re-engage with us and resume our mutually beneficial relationship, but we can never compromise our sovereignty, even in the face of trade threats.