10 June 2020

 I thank the member for Lyne for that educational experience we've all shared on the very true and real dangers of illicit substances, and the little history lesson on the importance of industrial hemp to the world and this nation.

I am speaking today on the Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Bill 2020, and, while Labor will work constructively to ensure the passage of the bill, it's disappointing that it's had to be fast-tracked. There was legislation through the parliament earlier this year that dealt with export legislation to modernise and harmonise Australia's current export laws. There's been ample time to address this issue, yet it comes before this parliament in a somewhat inexplicable rush. Nonetheless, it's a good thing to support legislation that will permit the export of Australian medicinal cannabis, particularly to the United States.

I want to acknowledge and support the second reading amendment moved by the member for Hunter, which notes the government's failure to provide a strategic plan for Australia's trade exposed industries, such as agriculture, and the failure of this government to develop any kind of plan to help rural and regional communities hit hard by drought, bushfires and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, as you know and as everyone in this place knows, Australia is an exporting nation, with approximately one in five jobs in this country dependent on international trade. The summer bushfires and now the restrictions because of COVID-19 have put immense pressure on Australia's trade exposed industries, with few unaffected. In particular, agricultural exports have been hit in some respects by the restraint on trade because of the pandemic. All export industries dependent on travel, such as international education and tourism, have, as everybody knows, been devastated by this crisis. The resources and energy sector, comprising over 50 per cent of Australia's exports and worth $220 billion in 2018, has had to scale back some of its operations. However, the strength and resilience of Australia's resources industry, and, in particular, our iron ore exports, have been the saving grace for our economy during these very uncertain times.

Australia's resource and energy export earnings are forecast to hit a record, nearly $300 billion in 2019-20, despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, indicating an increase of $18 billion on 2018-19 in the commodity export value. However, the outlook for 2020-21 is more uncertain, as $8 billion worth of future investment has been taken off the table by Australia's resources sector. Companies such as BHP, Santos, Woodside, South32 and OZ Minerals have all announced spending cuts for 2021 because of effects of the coronavirus on their operations.

It is important to recognise that, between 2009 and 2015, Australia's oil and gas industry spent $273 billion on development projects, alongside the stimulus package introduced by the Labor government to help with the GFC recovery. This was instrumental in Australia avoiding the worst of that financial crisis. Sadly, in the current economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, there will be no surge in investment to assist with Australia's recovery and there will not be any further job-creating projects such as we saw with the GFC recovery. That's not going to happen until oil prices recover, and it's uncertain when that will be.

While there has been a record higher trade surplus, and that's something Australia can be very pleased about—and it is on the back of iron ore exports—there's been a $10 billion trade surplus in March. That is still progressing, and we are lucky to see trade surpluses in this nation. However, the WTO does expect global merchandise trade to fall between 13 and 32 per cent throughout the rest of 2020. The COVID-19 crisis is ongoing. It's going to have a catastrophic impact on some of Australia's most trade exposed industries and the economy more broadly, but no more so than on tourism and higher education.

As we have seen around the world during this pandemic, COVID-19 has emboldened anti-globalism and protectionist movements, with at least 70 countries restricting exports of protective equipment, medical devices and, indeed, medicines in recent months. Of course, these restrictions serve only to harm the poorest communities in the world, who can't be part of that fight for supply.

In relation to agriculture and food security, it is imperative that global supply chains remain open. In April the World Bank called for collective action to ensure the continuation of the global food trade. At a virtual meeting, G20 agriculture ministers committed to keeping food trade flowing between countries, joined by representatives of the African Union, ASEAN countries, Latin America and the Caribbean, who all agreed on the imperative to refrain from imposing trade barriers in response to COVID-19. Now is not the time to restrain trade in food. To do so will only cause suffering to the poorest people in the world, as they cannot get the food and nutrition that they need to survive.

While we're talking about the movement of food, and food security, and the work of agriculturalists around the nation and around the world, I would like to acknowledge the really incredible and steadfast transport industry in this country, particularly our truckies, who have made sure Australians enjoy all the supplies they need—whether it be food or other supermarket supplies that get transported across the nation. They are able to get across the borders, and rightly so, with the particular and necessary permits to do so. These truckies made sure that we had food on our table and the supplies of groceries that we needed in our houses. I want to thank the Transport Workers Union for its great work in advocating for the essential workers who do this great thing ensuring supplies continue to flow across the country.

Today we see the TWU, sadly, having to advocate for the workers of dnata—a group of Australian workers that have been left behind by this government's COVID response. A catering company, dnata was owned by Qantas but is now not owned by Qantas. As it's now in foreign hands, these workers do not qualify for payments and help during the COVID crisis. It's a crying shame that these Australian workers have been left behind by this government. I wish them my very best—I know they're in the parliament today—and I also wish the TWU my very best for the work that they are doing representing these dnata workers.

There has been a lot of talk during the COVID crisis about the need for Australia to rethink its manufacturing profile. I agree that Australia should continue to advocate for increased local manufacturing capacity that builds on our comparative advantages. In particular, high-end manufacturing, through investment in research, will lead to a better future of work for Australians in all sorts of advanced manufacturing processes. However, I do know for certain that the research and development that we need to have for an advanced manufacturing sector, for new products, will hinge on a strong higher-education sector. University research is heavily subsidised by international student revenue and is likely to face significant cuts without further government intervention in the sector. Agriculturalists, farmers around this nation, know full well the critical importance of science, research and development to their business and their sustainability. Resilient crops and healthy stock, as well as modern farming techniques, are the result of decades of productive collaboration between farmers and the research community of this country. Farmers get it; they get the critical importance of science done at universities in this country. Yet the Nationals and the Liberals in this place barely lift a finger to help higher-education institutions at this grievous time.

The government did establish a global reputation task force in January to respond to the impacts of the bushfire crisis and COVID-19. However, we're yet to hear anything from this process. As people here know—or should know—international education, including unis and VET and English language schools, is Australia's largest services export and our third-largest export sector. Exports from education were worth over $37 billion to the Australian economy in 2018-19. The university sector alone is anticipating revenue losses of between $10 billion and $19 billion from 2020 to 2023. ABS figures show that for every $1 universities collect in tuition fees there is another $2 of activity associated with international students, cafes, restaurants and housing rentals. This means that the economy faces wider losses of between $30 billion and $60 billion between 2020 and 2023 because of the impact of the coronavirus on international student enrolments. The scale of the losses will, of course, depend on when borders are reopened to international students. However, the sector is anticipating that reputational damage will have a lasting impact resulting from statements from the Prime Minister that international students should simply go home combined with a lack of support offered to international students compared to key competitors, including Canada and the UK.

International education, for those who aren't aware, serves a dual purpose. Clearly it educates the person paying the fees and undertaking the study, but it also has an important role of creating a cultural understanding for those students coming to Australia to learn more about us, our system of government, how things work in this country and what an open and free society is. Equally, it's for domestic students to learn from international students about their countries. This is why we had the Colombo Plan many years ago and why we have the New Colombo Plan—to start and keep that exchange going. But what we've really done here in Australia is miss a trick in this crisis. We had this opportunity to help people who were stranded here and to continue to help students who made it here—because they really wanted to study here and their parents wanted them to study here—but instead we had messages like that from the Prime Minister: 'Simply go home.' Even this morning, the finance minister told international students to rack off and go home—as if they could! There aren't many planes actually flying anywhere.

As we know, today's students are tomorrow's leaders. But what this government has overseen is the development of a cohort of international students who are hungry, alone and homeless. There are international students in this country today who do not have a roof over their heads. What a legacy this is for this government in its international standing! These students won't thank this Australian government when they go home. They won't remember this country fondly when they are in positions of influence later in their lives. They'll just remember that, although the weather wasn't too bad and they didn't get sick from COVID—which is a very good thing—they, nonetheless, were hungry, alone and, for the most part, homeless—well, not for the most part, but a lot of young students are without adequate housing at this time, and this government has done nothing to help them. State governments are doing their best, but we really dropped the ball here when this country and this government failed to help these students, who we rely on to help build other relationships.

For instance, recently we had the Prime Minister talk again about our relationship with India whilst, of course, the Varghese report—now two years old—is gathering dust on a shelf. While there's been this emphasis on trying to build better trade links with India, we know that the main plank of that relationship will be international education. Instead, all we got was the Prime Minister rustling up a few 'ScoMosas' in a patronising attempt—I don't know what that was—to somehow inveigle something with India. The truth is that there was a really full report done by Peter Varghese that lays out a blueprint for our relationship with India that goes beyond the common thoughts of cricket, curry and Commonwealth. But, again, all we got here from this Prime Minister was samosas. I think he really does the Indian diaspora a disservice by being so flippant about their contribution to this country—and to the world for that matter—and the future contribution of India to the world and its importance to Australia as a solid trading partner. That relationship will take many, many years to develop, and we really need to get serious about it immediately.