Export Control Amendment (Streamlining Administrative Processes) Bill 2022

I’m very pleased to speak on this today. The coalition, as has been said here today, supports the passage of the Export Control Amendment (Streamlining Administrative Processes) Bill 2022. It sounds very dry. However, the impacts of this are not, and we’ve heard the member before me speak very well about this.

This bill provides that regulatory framework, especially for those agricultural commodities—which is something that, as a dairy farmer from the South West of Western Australia, I’m particularly focused on in this place, constantly. Given that around 70 per cent of our agricultural produce is exported, our farmers do an amazing job in this country. We feed 25 million people with some of the best-quality food in the world, and I’m extraordinarily proud of them. They also produce some fabulous fibre in various ways. That is used around world to produce some amazing-quality products. But we do need to make sure that they’re supported, that the process and industries are supported, that there’s a streamlined, fit for purpose process and that they’re able to operate as efficiently as possible.

The bill that we have in front of us allows the better information management that we’ve seen discussed here today. It will cut administrative red tape—the bane of business, no matter whether you’re a new exporter or an existing exporter—and even across the various sectors and government industries and agencies, just clarifying and streamlining it and making it efficient and effective. That collective information sharing will be done in the right way, securely. That is very important to us all in how this will be managed. The export sector relies on this, and I think we always need to be looking at this to do it better and more efficiently.

I focus constantly on data confidentiality. No matter at what level—business, industry, government or other agencies that are involved—one of the greatest challenges we all collectively face is the protection of confidentiality of information and, for us as farmers and producers and the exporters, a lot of the IP that sits within our businesses that go with that. Across the board there is a genuine need to maintain confidentiality, and in this we will come under ever-increasing pressure and stress from both commercial activities and malicious actors. It’s something that I am very concerned about.

Those safeguards for that information, across this streamlining, need to be very robust and constantly reviewed, because we know that there’s a lot of money to be made and that there’s been a significant bleed of intellectual property across many businesses and entities that sometimes don’t even know it yet, because of the malicious attacks on their information and their sites and other areas. We need to provide this to the countries that we’re dealing with and for DFAT to assist with trade negotiations and the potential for further trade barriers—the non-tariff barriers that we see regularly and have had a lot of experience with in the EU. They’re very cleverly disguised and will continue to be. We’re seeing the latest iteration of some of that now.

This bill needs to keep Australia at the cutting edge globally because we’re often the target, because we are such efficient producers and because the rest of the world—our competitors in markets—is looking for very different ways to actually increase the cost to our producers. We often operate in a very challenging environment, on one of the driest continents, but we produce some of the most amazing products. We have less water, less fertiliser and less land, and we still do it. We’re expected to do it and we do it very well. But, when we look at some of those that we’re hearing with some of our trade deals, who are concerned about Australia’s competitiveness, we are constantly having to be aware of and alert to the intent to undermine Australia’s export capability and the fact that we can deliver globally and produce to the highest quality in the world. That creates a challenge in some other parts of the world and with our competitors in this space.

We have to be on the front line of everything we do, and our Australian farmers have to be efficient, otherwise they’re out of business—and that includes in the export space—because of the high cost of doing business in Australia. Even in infrastructure or whatever you want to do, we are up against layers and layers of red tape and green tape. We are always behind the eight ball and, inevitably, if you’re a price taker in a commodity space, it comes back to you managing your own business even better and often absorbing the extra layers of cost that go with applying the rules and regulations at local, state and federal levels. It’s something that I’m very, very conscious of.

Equally, our agricultural producers have the capacity to help feed the rest of the world when we know there are global shortages of food, especially with the actual content of the food itself. Often there are a lot of interesting parts to food production and if there’s actual nutritional benefit from the food that is being produced. I have confidence that, in Australia, that is what we do, so it is really important that we continue to be able to export high-quality food, fibre and products across the board.

We’ve heard so many instances in this space where there have been challenges, and I hear it from my local exporters as well. The commitment the coalition made to the Regional Accelerator Program and to the Export Market Development Grants Scheme in its last budget would have helped those small to medium businesses in my patch, and in every other part of Australia, to help get into the export market and promote their goods into new markets, which is a real problem. It was a really good program.

When I look at what we achieved in government, I’m proud of us and the free trade agreements that gave our people market access to: Malaysia, Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Peru, Indonesia, the comprehensive Trans- Pacific Partnership, the PACER Plus and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. What a great record, and what great opportunities these have given those who actually do the work and generate the income and the opportunity out wherever they are.

One-fifth of the Australian population produces roughly two-thirds of Australia’s national export earnings. I look at Western Australia and, at the top of the list, you get iron ore and gold and alumina, a lot of which comes out of our part of the world, base metals and wheat. The port of Bunbury in my own electorate had 15-plus million tonnes of export products pass through it in 2022. The silicon that is being used in solar panels is actually manufactured in my part of the world. There’s the fabulous beef from Harvey Beef and V&V Walsh, who export chilled and frozen beef and lamb to China. We have milk and dairy and juices with Harvey Fresh—what a great company!

Then there’s lithium. We have the best hard-rock spodumene at Greenbushes, which is just inside the member for O’Connor’s electorate. It is being manufactured by Albemarle in my part of the world. They will have five trains of production capable very soon, in the next couple of years, and the demand is so great that it’s already forward sold. We also have Talison in that production.

We have Alcoa and South32 exporting through the port. There’s 11-plus million tonnes of alumina going out through the port of Bunbury—just incredible! And it’s done very efficiently, very effectively, and we need to make sure they can continue to do this no matter what the market is. There are mineral sands with Iluka.

There is the fabulous Margaret River and the region’s wine. This is interesting. Margaret River is a standout in the export market. Margaret River is contributing 59 per cent of WA’s bottled wine export value while actually only being two per cent of the national crush. That tells you it’s a recognised international brand. When I’m out and about representing my electorate, people sometimes ask me where I’m from. Because I’m rural and regional, sometimes there is a frown when I talk and so I start at the top of my electorate and work to the bottom. Yarloop; Harvey, where I farm; Bunbury—I start to get a few smiles; Busselton. When I get to Margaret River—bang! That is the international reputation that has been created by a quality product and people marketing a quality Australian and Western Australian product internationally. One of the great challenges, I think, besides biosecurity and the other challenges we face around competition and non-tariff barriers, is that of maintaining our reputation globally as that producer of fine quality. We’re known for clean, green production. That is a reputation we can never, ever afford to give up, so it’s a real challenge for us with what we do.

Something I’m particularly proud of is that we also have the only ocean grown baby abalone, off the tiny town of Augusta, right at the southern end of my electorate. They’re looking at growing this business. This is just a fabulous product. We also see a lot of woodchips going through the port, and we see the grain, as I have mentioned.

We have highly productive farmers using a wonderful South West irrigation system. This system is a gravity fed system that supplies really good quality water to the majority of the system. However, there is one area, the Wellington Dam catchment area, that needs desalination to provide even better quality to the farmers that are on that southern end of that South West irrigation system. I want to see that continue to be supported through the National Water Grid approach, and I want to have that pumped and piped. There are a lot of savings that have been made through piping the northern section. There have been significant reductions in channel losses and efficiencies on farm. It underpins the agricultural sector in the South West and the production of that food.

We’ve got some really wonderful examples. Take carrots and onions. We’ve got a range of people sitting in this room. My shire, Harvey shire, is where 30 per cent of Western Australia’s carrots are grown. A vast amount of these are exported to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Singapore, and that generates about $90 million a year. About 90 per cent of WA’s onions are grown in Harvey shire, and 20 per cent are exported. And it’s about the irrigation water and the access to quality water, always. The slogan for South West irrigation is, ‘Where water flows, food grows.’ There’s nothing more critical than that. There is much more that needs to underpin that that we have supported. That is the basic infrastructure to support the logistics, as well.

There’s just one other I wanted to mention in the two minutes or so I’ve got left. A local earth-moving logistics company, Piacentini & Son, designed and manufactured, in my patch, what’s called the Panther. This is like the old-fashioned low-loader. They call it a float; I call it a low-loader. It will go on to any mine site. It’s got significant hydraulics—it will lift up to 360 tonnes—on what we would call a low-loader. It’s very well balanced. The machine that you would drive or lift on, up to 360 tonnes, has a 2,300-horsepower LeTourneau in the front of it. It is just a remarkable piece of gear, able to be manufactured almost in any size and designed and manufactured in my part of the world using local tradespeople and local apprentices that we helped support in government. What a great result. This is being exported globally out of the port of Bunbury. I’m just so proud of what they have done. This is a cutting-edge piece of equipment and is recognised by those operating globally as such a great piece of gear.

We’ve got some wonderful people who are innovating all of the time in this space, and we need to support them through this type of legislation, which streamlines the process at each end but protects the confidentiality of that information. I’m pleased to support this bill, but I am completely focused, as well, on supporting our exporters, small, medium or large. There are a lot of small businesses quietly exporting, just getting on with their jobs, and looking to have an opportunity to do that in a streamlined way that doesn’t add significant cost to their businesses and to the costs of exporting. Given that we sit in a pretty unique part of the world with some great challenges, a more streamlined approach to this—while protecting their interests and the confidentiality of their information —is really critical to them. I look forward to us protecting that and fostering that and even focusing further on that in the future.