Victorian wine producers, dairy farmers, barley growers and industry have been hung out to dry by the Andrews Labor Government.
In State Parliament today, Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes was asked to explain how Labor is standing up for Victorian producers against China’s punitive 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley and further threats to target wine and dairy exports.
Ms Symes couldn’t detail any action she had taken for Victorian producers as ‘trade is certainly a Federal Government matter’.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said this was a poor excuse, given Daniel Andrews’ decision to sign up to China’s Belt and Road trade deal – against the advice of the Australian Government.
“Jaclyn Symes’ weasel words expose Labor’s hypocrisy,” Mr Walsh said.
“We have learned today the Agriculture Minister has sat on her hands for nearly four months and failed to stand up for Victorian producers.
“These punitive tariffs have shut down Victorian barley exports to a major trading partner, despite Daniel Andrews’ promises on the ‘benefits’ of Belt and Road.
“Many producers had completed their planting program when the tariffs were enforced, but now have a severely contracted market to export to.
“Dan’s dodgy Belt and Road deal is not in Victoria's interests. It's costing us jobs, it's compromising our security and it's compromising our sovereignty.”
The Belt and Road initiative is a key pillar of China’s economic and foreign policy which sees Chinese companies paid to build Victorian infrastructure. It claims to promote “trade development and market access…especially for agricultural products”.
Mr Walsh said the Victorian economy was reeling from the impacts of coronavirus and a strong agriculture sector would be at the heart of recovery.
“Chinese markets are an important trading partner for Victorian producers, but it’s clear this dodgy Belt and Road deal isn’t in our best interests,” Mr Walsh said.
“The tariffs on barley and threats to target more of our hard-working producers shows Dan’s deal is all one-way traffic that’s running over the top of Victorian farmers.
“Victorian Labor is prepared to throw the Federal Government under the bus when it suits them, but the Ag Minister’s failure to act is only hurting our Victorian producers.”
Peter Walsh MP
Shadow Minister for Agriculture