| October 16, 2017

Free Trade Agreements good for Murray

This is a great opportunity to stand here and talk about food manufacturing and food processing and the growers of food and milk products right throughout the electorate of Murray and northern Victoria. Many of Australia's biggest brands have their home in the electorate of Murray. The township of Echuca has Kagome, the largest processor of tomato in Australia, with cutting-edge science, developing products right across the food industry. Also in Echuca there's Simplot, home of the brands Birds Eye, John West, Leggo's, Edgell, Chiko and Lean Cuisine. Alongside it is Parmalat, and it has brands like Pauls and a range of yoghurts, creams and custards.

Nearby Tatura is a relatively smaller town, but it has some large industry. Unilever is one of the larger ones. Unilever has brands including Continental, Lipton, Flora, Bertolli, Jif, Lux and Pond's. Tatura is also home to Bega Cheese and Tatura Milk, and they manufacture world-class cream, cheeses, milk powders and instant formula. Nearby Shepparton, the home of Goulburn Valley, plays host to some of Australia's most iconic household brands. SPC, for instance, produce the best tins of baked beans and spaghetti you will ever taste as well as a whole range of fruit and tomato products, under the Ardmona, Goulburn Valley and IXL brands. Nearby, Campbell's soup is based out of Shepparton. It has produced soup forever and has also in last 10 or 15 years moved into the stock products that sit in nearly every pantry in Australia.

Murray's dairy processors, in addition to Parmalat and Bega, include some of the biggest in the country. There is Murray Goulburn, with its Devondale, Liddells and Table Cove brands. Fonterra has recently opened a $140 million cheese plant in the town of Stanhope, and its cheese will be sent to the growing Asian markets that have been the huge beneficiaries of the free trade agreements this government has put together. Ozpak wines in Nagambie have also capitalised on the free trade agreements, a great success story. They have increased their sales into China from 100,000 cases to 750,000 cases, with an expected further lift of 25 per cent in the coming year. The CEO at Ozpak is Andrew McPherson, and he attributes this work to the government's opening up of free trade agreements.

These free trade agreements, predominantly with China, Japan and South Korea, have led to infant formula in China doubling in the last year—it's up 99 per cent, an incredible boost to infant formula sales into China. This has happened through a whole raft of important programs, but, with the agricultural competitive white paper, there has been a $30 million investment to break down the technical barriers to trade, assisting more people with those issues. It is also worth looking at some of the other work that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has done. It is making it easier for people to work out all of the various necessary aspects of trading with our neighbours.

When we talk about the in the Goulburn Valley and the Greater Murray region, one of the things that really strikes me is that the whole food process really is from the paddock right to the supermarket shelf. It's the work that the primary producers, the farmers, are doing. It's their ability to buy and sell water, to trade water, which is why we need water at an affordable price. Then consider the transport industry, and Shepparton, per capita, would certainly be the biggest transport hub in Australia. Then look at the food-processing plants, where 10,000 to 15,000 people in the Goulburn Valley are employed. Then there is the packaging industry, which is vibrant in the region. It is making sure that this produce goes effectively from the paddock through to the supermarket shelf in a professional and large-scale way that leads the nation. I don't think there is any other electorate or region in Australia with such a comprehensive paddock-to-shelf process as the Goulburn Valley.

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