Portfolio Releases



Labor welcomes the announcement that a Pacific regional trade agreement including Australia will be launched in 60 days after the required eight countries ratified the deal, ending years of delays.


16 October 2020


The Morrison Government must address the concerns of Australia’s exporters following news that cotton growers are now facing obstacles in entering the Chinese market.
Labor is concerned that barley growers, wine makers, meat processors, coal companies and now cotton growers have all experienced unexpected difficulties accessing the Chinese market this year, putting at risk billions of dollars in trade and thousands of Australian jobs.
News that Beijing’s National Development Reform Commission had instructed spinning mills to not accept Australian cotton has placed potentially 65 per cent of Australia’s cotton exports in jeopardy, and Australia’s export industry needed some answers, said Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources, Joel Fitzgibbon.
“Australia’s exporters work hard to service their markets, and they need their federal Government to give them support at the diplomatic and trade level. Senior Ministers in the Morrison Government need to reach out to their Chinese counterparts to resolve this - it’s their job.”
Shadow Minister for Trade, Madeleine King, said it was baffling that the Government was preparing to downgrade the importance of the Trade portfolio just as Australian exporters were experiencing mounting problems with China.
“The Government could start addressing these issues by appointing a Minister dedicated to resolving Australia’s trade crises, rather than one who has several other portfolios and is also about to become the Leader of the Government in the Senate,” Ms King said.


12 October 2020

Labor calls on the Government to make transparency a priority at the upcoming Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Ministerial Meeting by pushing for the final treaty text to be publicly released before it is signed.
Labor understands the Government must act in accordance with trading partners’ confidentiality requirements during negotiations.
But this does not preclude the Government from advocating strongly for Australian values and ensuring transparency is a priority on the agenda for all RCEP countries at the meeting.
Australians deserve to know the impact of all government policies on job opportunities and livelihoods.
Labor therefore calls on Trade Minister Simon Birmingham to foster agreement among RCEP countries with the aim of releasing the final text of the agreement prior to signature in November.
Labor has long called for greater transparency and consultation in the development of trade agreements, as this is vital in ensuring community consensus in favour of fair and open trade.
Releasing the text prior to signature would be a strong step in the right direction.


24 August 2020

Labor welcomes the Government’s decision to provide a financial lifeline to the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS).

This important organisation has helped build closer relations between Australia and Indonesia for the past 25 years.

But Labor questions why the Government took so long to answer the call for help from ACICIS, which was forced to retrench 60 per cent of its staff while it waited for a response.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been aware for months that ACICIS would be unable to survive the Covid-19 pandemic unless it received government support.

But a proposal for ACICIS to access New Colombo Plan funding sat in the Minister’s inbox while the organisation was forced to draw up plans to close its doors.

Labor wrote to the Government in the middle of June to call for an urgent funding injection.

The Government’s tardy response highlights its lack of commitment to strengthening the people-to-people links that will be critical in diversifying Australia’s economic relationships in the region.

More than 3,500 students have studied in Indonesia through ACICIS since 1995.

Labor believe building our Asia capability through programs such as ACICIS is an important part of shaping the region that we want and supporting our economic recovery.

In February, Scott Morrison and Indonesian President Joko Widodo recognised education helps to create greater understanding and acts as a springboard for an even broader partnership between our two countries.

The Morrison Government is good at the talk – but not so good at delivering.

It’s time the Government began doing the long, hard work that is required to foster our crucial bilateral relationship with Indonesia. Just like ACICIS has been doing for years.


20 August 2020

The Morrison Government’s failure to deliver on a plan to boost Australia’s economic ties with India has been underlined by fresh trade data showing India’s share of our exports has fallen to a 17-year low.

Two years ago, former Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Peter Varghese handed a landmark 500-page report to the Government with 90 recommendation on how to improve our trade and investment relationship with India.

The report found no single market over the next 20 years would offer more growth opportunities for Australia than India.

But in June this year, the Government admitted to Senate Estimates that it had done remarkably little in response to the report.

Around the same time, Scott Morrison held a “virtual summit” with India’s Narenda Modi that barely touched on the crucial economic relationship.

Official data released this month has underscored the dangers of the government’s lax approach to India and its longer-term failure to adequately diversify Australia’s trading economy.

India’s share of Australian merchandise exports fell to $10.98 billion over the 12 months to June 30, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

That is 32 per cent below the 2018 level when Mr Varghese released his report.

India’s share of Australia’s total merchandise exports is now below 2 per cent, the lowest level since 2003.

Meanwhile, China’s share of Australian exports has risen to a record 48.8 per cent, highlighting our heavy reliance on a single trading partner.

Mr Morrison said in June that Australia’s trade and investment flows with India were “growing and they can grow a lot faster.”

This trade data proves him wrong.


18 August 2020

Labor is deeply concerned about reports that China’s Ministry of Commerce has started an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine.

Australian wine exports to China were worth $1.1 billion in the year to June 30, according to Wine Australia figures.
The Australian wine industry and Chinese consumers have long benefited from a productive and respectful mutual relationship.
Labor urges the Government to use all appropriate diplomatic channels to address these allegations during the upcoming investigation process to ensure China does not ultimately proceed to levy import duties on Australian wine.
In our relationship with China, as with any country, we must always assert our values and our interests – including transparency and sovereignty.
Labor is concerned that this latest trade threat follow China’s suspension of imports from red meat abattoirs in Queensland and NSW, and the imposition of 80 per cent tariffs on Australian barley exports to China.


07 August 2020

An explosive hearing in the Federal Court today has exposed the Morrison Government’s disgraceful and deceitful conduct in its attempt to undermine Western Australia’s border laws in support of Clive Palmer’s challenge.

Last week, Attorney-General Christian Porter and the Morrison Government threw the entire weight of the Commonwealth’s legal resources behind Clive Palmer’s attack on Western Australia’s border laws.

They sent the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, backed by the Australian Government Solicitor, to intervene in support of Clive Palmer’s challenge, and over three days called multiple witnesses, vigorously cross-examined Western Australia’s public health experts and produced evidence designed to damage Western Australia, and force open the state’s borders

It was clear to Mr Morrison and Mr Porter that Mr Palmer had mounted a very weak case, and so they rode to the rescue of the billionaire with a team of taxpayer-funded Commonwealth lawyers instructed to do whatever they could to help Mr Palmer force open the state’s borders, against the interests of West Australians.

After outrage from the people of Western Australia, the Prime Minister and his Attorney-General sniffed the political wind and did a total backflip.

But the damage has already been done, and despite saying the Commonwealth is now backing Western Australia, the evidence today has exposed that claim as a lie.

As Federal Court Justice Darryl Rangiah told Western Australian Solicitor-General Joshua Thomson in court this morning “I don't think there's any real doubt about that side of the equation, that you're at a disadvantage by reason of the conduct of the Commonwealth.”

Mr Thomson told the court that the Commonwealth’s claim to have reversed its position “does not remove the existence of the expert evidence which is before the court”. In other words, the Commonwealth’s can’t undo the damage it has done by saying, in effect, the court should forget everything we did, said and argued last week.

Justice Rangiah was also scathing of the Commonwealth conduct in telling the media about its backflip, but then waiting days before advising the court.

JUSTICE RANGIAH: is it more important to notify the media of the withdrawal than this court? …. The matter could have been immediately listed for the Monday. I regard it as extremely discourteous to this court to have to be informed through the media about the Commonwealth’s intentions, particularly after the court was urged repeatedly by the Commonwealth to decide this matter urgently. The Commonwealth did then not proceed with the urgency upon which it urged the court.

And the debacle doesn’t end there, with the Commonwealth now admitting that taxpayers will have to pick up the expensive legal bill for this farce.

Labor repeatedly called on the Morrison Government to withdraw from the case before hearings began.

Instead, the Commonwealth spent days in the Federal Court supporting Clive Palmer at taxpayers’ expense, fighting against the best interests of the people of Western Australia.

Why are the WA Liberals siding with Palmer instead of standing up for Western Australia?

Today’s evidence has exposed the Prime Minister’s claims to have backflipped and to now be siding with Western Australia to be a massive con trick.

Not only did the Commonwealth’s withdrawal come far too late, after the damage had already been done, the Morrison Government is now refusing to act to undo the damage.

This Liberal government says one thing and does another.

The people of WA will not forget this.


02 August 2020

West Australians will not accept Scott Morrison’s belated attempt to wash his hands of his Government’s irresponsible support for Clive Palmer’s legal challenge to the state’s interstate border closure.
This backdown has come far too late and the damage has already been done.
Labor repeatedly called on the Morrison Government to withdraw from the case before hearings began last Monday.
Instead, the Commonwealth has just spent days in the Federal Court, at taxpayers’ expense, fighting against the best interests of the people of Western Australia.
During those hearings the Government called witnesses and argued in support of Mr Palmer’s case, which will be now decided on by the High Court.
Mr Morrison also confidently predicted – as the case was being heard – that the constitutional challenge would succeed.
Attorney-General Christian Porter even had the audacity to argue that the Commonwealth had joined the case simply to assist the court, and that it was not taking sides.
That has now been exposed as a lie.
Now, only after the proceedings have finished, Mr Morrison and Mr Porter claim they have withdrawn their support.
This is a humiliating backdown by a Government that showed it was fully prepared to put the lives of West Australians at risk.
The people of WA will not forget this.