ALTHOUGH the Federal election delivered a disappointing loss to the coalition, I am thrilled to have been re-elected for a fourth term as the Federal Member for O'Connor - an electorate that now spans more than 1.1 million square kilometres, including some of the most mineral rich regions of Western Australia and some of the most productive agricultural land in Australia.
As a fourth-generation sheep and grain farmer from Katanning, with a long affiliation with primary industry representative groups, I have always been invested in Australia's trade relationships with our neighbours and beyond, so I am honoured to accept the opposition leader Peter Dutton's invitation to serve as his shadow Assistant Minister for Trade.
Australia is heavily reliant on international trade, with exports consistently accounting for around 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
WA exports, valued at $231.526 billion in 2020-21, represent almost 65pc of our Gross State Product (GSP).
With one-in-four regional jobs dependent on trade, I am proud to have been part of a coalition government that has, for nine years maintained a pro-free trade agenda, building on existing trade relationships and securing free trade agreements (FTA's) with Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Peru, Indonesia, the Pacific and most recently, the world's largest FTA - the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
On January 1 this year, RCEP entered into force, enhancing Australia's economic engagement with the 12 member countries of the Asia-Pacific region.
In April this year, the coalition government signed the Australia-India Economic Cooperation Agreement (AI-ECTA), and I was pleased to introduce the then Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan and his Indian counterpart, Minister for Commerce and Industry Shri Piyush Goyal to WA's peak mining and agriculture industry representatives here in Perth.
The coalition government's agreements with India and the United Kingdom are now signed off and waiting to be ratified, and our negotiations with the EU towards and EU-FTA are in the advanced stages, so I urge the new government to prioritise finalising these agreements as soon as Australian Parliament reconvenes.
In 2013, when the coalition came to government, only 27pc of Australia's trade was covered by FTA's.
On completion of these pending agreements, 88pc of Australia's trade networks will be covered by FTA's, reducing our barriers to trade with some of the world's premier trading partners.
Looking to the future, the Federal Labor government needs to follow the lead of the coalition in pivoting away from dependence on any single market and diversifying our trade relationships in this time of great global uncertainty.
On March 17, Mr Tehan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Minister for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi announced the intention to pursue a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
The UAE is Australia's largest trade and investment partner in the Middle East, with Australian chemicals and agri-produce much sought after, and together with Oman provides more than 16pc of our refined and crude petroleum and more than 13pc of our nitrogenous fertilisers.
Looking more broadly to our Middle Eastern neighbours, the new government also needs to continue consultations initiated by the coalition toward an Australia-Gulf Cooperative Council FTA (GCCFTA), which will build on our established trade in live animals, meat, dairy, vegetables, sugar and grains, worth $11.8b in 2021.
As a strong and consistent advocate for the WA live sheep export trade, I firmly oppose Federal Labor's commitment to end live animal exports and believe we cannot afford to put our valuable trade relationships with the Middle East at risk.
COVID and the current crisis in the Ukraine have reinforced that our relationship with the Middle East is not only about trade, but also maintaining the food security of their region during times of global uncertainty.
Australia leads the world when it comes to health and welfare protocols for animal exportation.
Vacating the live export space would leave a void for countries with lower standards to fill.
While animal activists continue to remind the public of the unfortunate Awassi Express incident, the live animal export industry has worked hard to ensure this never happens to Australian sheep again.
Industry led voluntary shipping moratoriums in the northern summer and enhanced animal welfare protocols have led to voyage successes approaching 100pc.
As the Federal MP representing an electorate that provides about 70pc of the WA sheep destined for live export, I stand behind our farmers, transporters and exporters in supporting an industry that is integral to the livelihoods of O'Connor families and their communities.
I vow to continue to fight for an industry that is not only viable, but essential to maintaining our international reputation as a reliable trading partner, and providing food security to those nations unable to produce the clean, green, quality sheep only Australia can.
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