Free trade with China is a natural step for agriculture success

There has been an improvement in the returns to beef producers in the south-west of Western Australia in recent months. It has taken an extraordinarily long time for the industry to recover from the Labor government’s overnight, knee-jerk decision to end live cattle exports to Indonesia. That decision did an appalling amount of damage.

One of the key reasons for the recovery in the beef sector in the south-west has been the resumption of the live cattle export trade. Cattle in the north-west that had no export market placement were depressing the price paid to prime beef producers throughout the country. It is therefore a double benefit to see the live export trade again in operation.

First, the cattle producers in the north have a market again, so they can get on with their business—a business they do very well—of providing Asian consumers with the protein they want and need.

We also no longer have pastoralists going through the soul-destroying process of mustering cattle that, in many cases, had nowhere to go. I spoke to pastoralists who, when they had no market—when it was cut off overnight—were struggling to feed their cattle and to afford the diesel it took to pump water for their cattle. We also no longer have northern beef with no export market flooding the domestic market—affecting the south-western growers in my electorate. It is a win-win outcome and the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Trade are both to be congratulated.

Indonesia is a critical market for Australia, however this process is occurring not only in Indonesia. The Western Australian government has recently signed beef export agreements of significance with China. This massive marketplace for Australian beef must continue to be explored and expanded. It is essential to the growth and development of both our northern cattle industry and that in the southern states.

With this in mind, I was pleased to see the iconic abattoir—and one of the very few Western Australian accredited beef exporters—Harvey Beef, which is in my electorate, bought by Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest through his Minderoo Group. Mr Forrest has strong ties in China and I sincerely hope that he will be able to use his influence to expand markets for not only his beef products but for Western Australian beef more generally—of course I would really like to see these benefits accrue to growers in the south-west of the state.

I see today that V&V Walsh, also in my electorate, have been able to access a $1 billion joint venture, increasing the family company’s operation by 30,000 cattle and 500,000 lambs—that is how much they are going to be selling in a year.

They are currently processing 360 head of cattle a day and 3,500 lambs. This is a great cause for celebration and I congratulate Peter and Greg Walsh. This is a significant achievement. Of course getting better returns back to the farm gate—to farming families—is the ultimate goal of policy in this area.

There will also no doubt be benefit from the work by the Minister for Trade on developing free trade agreements in the Asian region. The free trade agreements with Japan and Korea are huge wins for the Australian beef industry and a massive vote of confidence in both the industry and the government—this has been missing for far too long. A free trade agreement with China is the natural next step and will go far towards securing the future of the beef industry in Northern Australia as well as underpinning the southern states.

I know that the Minister for Trade is certainly making this a priority.

All this shows that both the Australian and Western Australian coalition governments genuinely have the best interests of the beef industry, our growers, our farmers, their families and those small communities firmly at heart. They are picking up the pieces of the destruction left by the previous federal Labor government.

These are really important issues in the south-west of Western Australia. We know that the WA beef herd consists of about two million head, half of which are in the north, with the rest roaming those wonderful lush pastures in the south-west, in my electorate. This all represents very good progress for the beef industry in Western Australia.