This week Rod spoke on a motion from the opposition about international trade.
Rods speech below
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (13:54): For the last 25 years I have had the privilege of running my own business, and while running that business about 50 per cent of my clients or maybe 60 per cent of my clients were in the ag industry. Having my own farm was always something I related to well, and I met some of Australia’s business leaders in those areas.
The Victorian agricultural industry finds significant benefits in the Chinese markets. This fact has become even more pronounced as coronavirus has significantly impacted our agricultural industry. We have already seen some interruptions to Chinese markets due to the movement of the restrictions on freight and on people. Victorian farmers have had to manage a range of issues around the coronavirus as logistics and supply chains have been disrupted. To restore economic confidence in our agricultural industry Victoria should be acknowledging the immense benefits that the Chinese markets have to offer.
We know that Victoria has a competitive agricultural sector. We produce premium-quality food from clean and safe sources. Agriculture accounts for 48 per cent of Victoria’s total goods exports, and China is Victoria’s biggest export market for food and fibre products. The demand for our premium food and beverages continues to grow. The agricultural sector contributes around 90 000 jobs, with 86 per cent of agriculture significantly from large agricultural firms such as Murray Goulburn, Nufarm and Fonterra—dairy companies all choosing to operate out of Victoria. The dairy industry supports Victorians living in regional and rural Victoria.
With China in a phase of huge growth this will drive massive increase in demand for food volume and value, and it is vital that Victoria is prepared to take advantage of this economic opportunity and prepared to meet this demand. It is clear that the Chinese market has great benefits to the Victorian agricultural sector. If our agricultural sector is to remain globally competitive, we must focus on the removal of trade barriers with China. It is more important than ever to recognise the value of the agricultural sector to Victoria’s economy and focus on providing much-needed support moving forward.
Victorians are doing it tough right now. A reinvigoration of our trade diplomacy with China will benefit many families who depend on the agricultural sector to put food on the table. However, we can call it out when we have a dispute with our mates and with our trading partners. We can question them, and it is appropriate that we question what has happened. I, like Mr Hayes, am a little bit uncomfortable with some of the wording around this motion, but I will support this motion with some caution.