THURSDAY, 17 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Effects test, review of backpackers tax, forced relocation of APMVA to Armidale
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY, AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: Morning everyone. Well the dysfunction of the Turnbull government continued in Canberra yesterday with changes to the Trade Practices Act proved the loonies had taken over the asylum. This is a policy clearly opposed by Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Kelly O’Dwyer but yet is now official government policy. Now let’s be clear, I have been studying this part of the Trade Practices Act for many years, this will have a chilling effect on competition and will force consumer prices up. This will not help any electrician, plumber or farmer. You won’t see farmers suddenly taking action under the Trade Practices Act because of this change. It simply will not happen. Most of the action taken in this country is taken by the ACCC when it believes there is a winnable case. They would have been much better to embrace Labor’s policy of ensuring that any farmer, for example, who might take an action under the Trade Practices Act would have indemnity against any cost declarations by the court following that action. That is the better approach, that is what happens in the United States. That is why more actions are taken in the United States by plaintiff rather than the regulator. And that is what the government should be looking at here. Barnaby Joyce is all over the place on this issue. He said in an extraordinary statement yesterday that they “fixed” the $1 milk war by exporting milk to China, where they sold it for $11. He seems to be suggesting that maybe Australian consumers should be paying 3, 5, 10 maybe 11dollars here in Australia. That is extraordinary in itself. But if he is already fixed the dollar milk war why is he making changes now to the Trade Practices Act? It made absolutely no sense.
The second issue is backpackers tax. We have said for weeks now that the backpackers tax is a mistake - it was done without any consultation with the ag sector or the tourism sector. No modelling to determine the impacts on the economy. Now they say it is wrong but they are having another review. They had a review to their backbench committee; the chair of the backbench committee said he knows nothing of the review. Now we’ve got a cross-departmental review and we are asking ourselves who is in charge? Barnaby Joyce made it clear he supports the backpacker tax. He defended it in the media on a number of occasions. Now we have the other Minister in the other sector dramatically affected declaring we are going to have another review. Who is in charge in this Government? What is going on? When are people going to start to get some answers and some policies from this Government?
On a final issue, the APVMA, I want to say something about that again. Tomorrow is the last Sitting Day. People at the APVMA are entitled to know before we leave this city tomorrow that their Canberra jobs are assured. This crazy, pork barrelling idea of Barnaby Joyce, moving nearly 200 jobs to Armidale, 200 jobs mainly made up of scientists and professionals who simply will not move to Armidale. This is going to be very, very bad news for the agriculture sector, farmers aren’t going to get their crop protection in a timely manner. Barnaby Joyce needs to roll over, listen to what people are telling him, and conclude this is a very bad idea for the farming community.