Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 22, 2023


Trade Offices

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO (20:36): I move:

That this council acknowledges:

1. The importance of trade and exports to the South Australian economy and in driving future economic growth;

2. The significant export training and diversification programs run by the Marshall Liberal government;

3. The establishment of a trade office network across the world, in key export markets;

4. The crucial role that the regions play in South Australia's economy and growing exports; and

5. South Australia's global reputation as a safe and reliable producer of premium goods and service exports, particularly food and wine.

We know we are seeing economic growth across some sectors but we also know that will not last as this 'do nothing' government is in power. In the latest merchandise export statistics from the ABS, it is stated that South Australia is on the tear, recording a record $16.4 billion in this 12 months to December 2022.

That figure has never been seen in South Australia before. These record exports are as a result of the Marshall Liberal government setting up this state for success. Despite several headwinds, such as bushfires on Kangaroo Island and the—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: Because you have not done anything.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Ms Girolamo, do not respond to interjections. The Hon. Mr Wortley, do not interject.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: I would never respond to such interjections.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Hunter, your laughing is out of order.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Girolamo, continue. The Hon. Mr Wortley!

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: I was talking at the time about the bushfires on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills, trade issues with China and the wine tariff increases. COVID was the biggest handbrake on trade and exports, which occurred in March 2020. The resulting difficulties of trading through COVID cannot be understated.

Flights became unavailable to send goods across the world in a timely manner, and it is a mark of the resilience and perseverance of our producers and manufacturers to continue to export in these tough times. Shipping delays, supply chain interruptions and other knock-on issues made it a very challenging time. But the former Liberal government supported these state producers, manufacturers and exporters.

There were a number of programs designed to scaffold the good hard work of those South Australian companies expanding and selling our goods across the world. The programs that the former Liberal government put into place are now paying great dividends. As I said previously, the record of $16.4 billion of export in a year has never been seen in this state before.

New record numbers are assisted by several factors: the opening of the borders; the return of international students to Australia; the increase in prices of iron ore, wheat and barley, partially due to the war in Ukraine; and food around the world increasing in price due to inflation. It is the recognition of the extraordinary food bowl that South Australian regions have and the reputation for good, clean, fresh food that has enabled the recovery to happen so quickly.

Just recently, the PIRSA scorecard showed that South Australia's total agricultural revenue had surged by $2 billion during 2021-22 to $17.2 billion, showing the success of our state's cropping. This is yet another example of the regions being the engine room of the South Australian economy. We must not be complacent and rest on the good work of the previous government. Sadly, what goes up must come down, and the time that the export market collapses under the government is not a matter of if but when.

My colleagues and I asked numerous questions in this place about the support the government is offering producers and exporters to expand new and emerging markets and were often met with not much. In fact, the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development keeps sprouting lines about programs that were started under the Liberal government in June 2021, only emphasising our point. Compare that to the last financial year of the former Liberal government, when under Minister Patterson—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! You keep going. Minister, enough from you and the leader.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: —with the assistance from funding and grants, nearly 3,500 jobs were created and also attracted over $700 million worth of investment into the state. The contrast is stark: the Liberal Party understood the role that trade and exports had in this state. We are a long way from the rest of the world, but we have world-beating produce and products that the world wants.

In our time in government, we created new funding initiatives and grant programs that supported more than 140 South Australian businesses to become exporters and enter new markets, diversifying our economy and bringing income to our state. Why is this good work not continuing? Why has this government put the cue in the rack and left it to South Australian businesses to go on their own with no support?

One of the many programs introduced by the previous government was the Wine Export Recovery and Expansion Program in response to losing more than $800 million in wine trade that was expected to go to China. The hole that was left by the substantial increase in tariffs on Australian wine has not been filled and yet the government saw fit to close this program. Labor went to the election with a supposed bipartisan approach to trade and investment in this state, but came to the election with no trade policies and, in one of their first acts of government, cut the Paris trade office that, in the wake of Brexit, would have been South Australia's door to a new dawn of European trade.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: In the main, businesses who are confident and capable simply want government to get out of their way. It is government's role to capacity-build and assist our exporters to get their products to market—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: —smoothing the path and then getting out of the way.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order, the Hon. Mr Hunter!

The Hon. J.E. Hanson: 'You're in the way. Get out of the way. Wait, help me!'

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Hanson, it was a lot quieter before you came back in.

The Hon. J.E. Hanson: I'm not sure it was, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Don't you start.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: The former government knew this and in all its actions, including policies of new trade offices around the world which opened new markets, encouraging direct flights to South Australia. The former government also sought to further diversify our economy, encouraging new industries in such areas as plant protein and the space industry. As I forewarned, it is not a matter of if but when the trade statistics start to creep backwards again, and without the government's support of our businesses, that time will be sooner rather than later.

The Hon. R.P. Wortley: You should sack your speech writer for that.


The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: We on this side congratulate all those who are working hard every day to drive economic success in South Australia—

The Hon. C.M. Scriven interjecting:


The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: —and all they want is the scaffolding to sustain the success further.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Your own benches are not helping and the government can listen in silence.

The Hon. H.M. GIROLAMO: With that, we call on the government to do more to open markets, new industries and to guarantee the continuing of the strong success we have already had.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The sooner we do this, the sooner we can go home. The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The way you are going, you will be going home early, except I will not reward you.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (20:45): I rise—I have been risen for some time—to acknowledge the significance of trade and exports to the South Australian economy and its role in driving future economic growth. Trade and exports are the lifeblood of the South Australian economy, and the Hon. Mr Hanson is nodding his head—he does agree with me. Our state has a rich and diverse mix of industries and resources that can be leveraged to reach global markets. By exporting our goods and services we not only bring in much-needed revenue but we also boost our competitiveness and drive innovation.

The more we export the more opportunities we create for business, both large and small, to grow and thrive. Exporting also attracts investment and creates jobs, which in turn drives economic growth. The expansion of our trade and export activities opens up new markets and diversifies our economy, making us less reliant on one particular market or industry.

Between 2018 and 2022 the Liberal government opened up a significant number of trade offices around the world in key and emerging markets. This held us in great stead when the global pandemic shut down air travel and China increased wine tariffs to levels not seen before, yet South Australia achieved record merchandise exports. In the 12 months to July 2021 we hit $13.2 billion—the first time we had reached $13 billion. It was maintained at that level, finishing in the 12 months to April 2022 at $13.7 billion.

The list of trade offices signed under a Liberal government included Shanghai, China, in 2018; Tokyo, Japan, in March 2019; Houston, Texas, in March 2020; and Singapore, in April 2021. Paris, France, was announced in June 2021, to open mid-2022; however, it was cancelled by Labor in its first 100 days. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is crucial that South Australia remains at the forefront of global trade and commerce.

The Hon. J.E. Hanson interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Hanson!

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The Hon. Mr Hanson clearly does not agree.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Hanson, interjections are out of order. Just continue, please.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I am keeping on with my speech.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you. Don't acknowledge them.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: By investing in our export capabilities and infrastructure we can ensure that we are well positioned to take advantage of the economic opportunities that lie ahead.

Our regions hit well above their weight on the global stage and drive South Australia's economy and continue to drive and grow the bulk of our exports. South Australia has a global reputation as a safe and reliable producer of premium goods and services, particularly food and wine. South Australia is blessed with a rich and diverse array of regions, each with its own unique strengths and specialties.

Whether it is the fertile farmlands of the Riverland, the lush vineyards of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, the rich waters of the Spencer Gulf or the rugged beauty of the outback and stockyards, and our plentiful mineral deposits, the regions of South Australia are integral to our economy and our success as a state.

In particular the regions play a key role in growing exports, especially in the production of premium food and wine. South Australia is renowned the world over for producing some of the finest and most sought after food and wine, and this reputation is built on the hard work and dedication of our regional communities.

I would like to make special mention of the importance of the wine industry, a major contributor to the state's economy. The sector generates jobs, supports local businesses and provides a valuable source of foreign income for South Australia, helping to boost the state's overall economic performance.

The wine industry also has a significant impact on the state's tourism sector, attracting wine lovers from all over the world to visit wineries and taste local wines. It is a vital sector that deserves continued support and investment, including assistance in finding alternative international markets now and into the future. Not only do our regions produce top-quality goods and services but they also provide a safe and reliable source of those exports.

The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Wortley!

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Our commitment to strict health and safety regulations, sustainable production practices and high-quality standards ensure that South Australia's food and wine exports are amongst the best in the world. I may be biased, but the regions of South Australia are vital to our economy and growing our exports and our global reputation as a safe and reliable producer of premium goods and services, particularly food and wine. Let us continue to support and invest in our regions so that we can build a brighter future for all South Australians.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.