Free Trade Agreements

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:18): I rise to commend the original motion by the member for Finniss:

That this house—

(a) notes the enormous benefits of liberalised global trade to the Australian and South Australian economies;

(b) commends the Australian government for concluding free trade agreements over the past five years which have substantially contributed to record economic growth, job creation and exports while continuing to pursue an ambitious trade agenda;

(c) commends the Marshall government for implementing its agenda to increase South Australian exports; and

(d) notes in particular the efforts of South Australia's farmers and agriculture, food and wine sector to make the most of export opportunities offered by free trade agreements for the benefit of rural communities and the state's economy.

Agriculture is absolutely the engine room of our economy but, as has been mentioned previously by other speakers, it does sit alongside other productive sectors like the minerals sector. Certainly, from day one, when people landed not just in Australia but also in South Australia, farming, growing crops and raising stock, was taken up dramatically, but a vibrant mining sector also got going. I note that the copper mines around Yorke Peninsula, around Burra—

The Hon. Z.L. Bettison: Don't forget Kapunda.

Mr PEDERICK: —and Kapunda, as I am reminded, not only kept this state's economy going but, back in the 19th century, kept Australia going with those copper exports. Not so much in those regions, but when you travel further afield and go to places like Arkaroola and see where copper was also mined in those days, you really have to commend the resilience of people, not just the miners but also the pastoralists, the initial station operators who went bush in those early years. They not only survived but thrived in that area. It was a great effort from all.

I know people have been reflecting on growing food, and I will talk more about the wine industry and exports in a moment. We do such a great job of it, and so much of our food and wine is exported. Probably well over 80 per cent of what we produce is exported because we have become so efficient. We have had to be efficient in this great state and country, as we come up against countries that heavily subsidise food production, whether in Europe or the United States.

While I am talking about food production, I want to reflect on something that we are taking action on, and that is trying to gain the ability to grow genetically modified crops here in South Australia. It is a real handbrake not just on our economy but on choice for our producers that we cannot, initially, produce genetically modified canola. I reflect on that because it is a real handbrake on our economy, and the majority of people by far—in the production sector, the innovation sector and certainly the research and development sector in this state—really want to progress and just get on with it.

We hear ridiculous comments that it will upset our clean, green image and that kind of thing. People think if we start producing genetically modified food in this state that basically the sky will fall in, but nothing could be further from the truth. You only have to go to a shopping centre and grocery store to find many, many products that have been produced from genetically modified food. I will pick on soy as an example. It is virtually guaranteed that 99 per cent of soy production is genetically modified. Anyone who wears cotton clothes is wearing genetically modified cotton. Actually, Bt cotton has been such a boost to the environment and the production sector, with farmers and producers not having to use maybe nine, 10 or a dozen lots of insecticide.

I have used a bit of insecticide in my day, and it is pretty strong stuff. Because you are killing little bugs, it is obviously quite toxic, so the less insecticide used the better. I can remember back to the days when we used to spot for the plane spraying DDT. You would have to hold the flags, and occasionally they would switch the tap off a bit late and you would get a little dose of DDT. Anyway, it did not stunt my growth, so I suppose that is something.

Innovation in production does help trade and creates opportunity, but we have been stymied by the previous lack of action, at the government level, so that farmers can have the choice. There is so much more that we can do in looking at ways to produce more varieties that are more drought tolerant. We have seen such dry and droughted years, especially in the last couple of years. We also really need to look at salt tolerant species in cropping and horticultural products to make sure that we can get the most yield out of our country.

It is interesting that people say, 'You can't get any more.' People might have said that 100 years ago about a paddock where they had grown two bags of wheat per acre and been happy. You are probably growing 22 or 32 bags per acre on the same paddock now just with better nutrition, better management and the need to produce more with less. There is so much more we can do. Certainly, the livestock sector is going pretty well at the minute. Wool has been a bit up and down, and I am not sure where it is sitting at the minute. Is it coming back?

An honourable member: About average.

Mr PEDERICK: It is about average at the moment, but it did have a real boom not that many weeks and months ago. I think wool took its place where it should be all the time to make it so much more viable to grow. Stock numbers are down because of dry conditions.

If we look at the lamb trade, those prices are good. If we look at the beef trade as well, things are looking pretty good and prices are really good. We need to have those prices, especially in these times when things are tough in various places. Obviously, not all the state is suffering as badly as some areas at the moment with the dry and drought conditions. It is the same in the country, but in the main there are a lot of dry areas that are really struggling, but as long as people can produce there is real opportunity.

Reflecting on what is happening with wine exports and the free trade agreements, as has been mentioned, so much work has been done with the ChAFTA and other agreements, whether they be with Korea or Japan and other countries, in getting that wine out to the world. The bonus is that we have managed to get tariffs screwed down to zero in China so that we can get more wine into that market.

I want to commend government staff who work in these trade offices and associated entities right across the world. When I went to China several years ago, they looked after us so well. I was an opposition member then, but I must commend the staff who introduced us to people, introduced us to opportunities and showed us what opportunities were taken up with international export.

It is absolutely vital with all our industries and especially our grains, which are mainly export driven, but in the last year or so we have seen a lot of domestic use taken up by more feedlot use, chicken farms, piggeries, etc. Hopefully, this year we will have a bit more grain to go offshore and contribute to this state's economy, because there are plenty of countries out there looking for our great South Australian produce.

There is so much opportunity as we bounce back into the future with stock numbers, whether that be sheep or beef and also the burgeoning goat trade. With those few words, I commend the original motion by the member for Finniss.