Daniel Andrews has turned his back on Victorian producers, writes PETER WALSH.
China’s unjustified decision to impose an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley threatens Victorian jobs and our state’s economy.
It clearly shows the cracks in Daniel Andrews’ secret Belt and Road deal with Beijing.
Victorian farmers are being smashed by Chinese government imposed tariffs, but Daniel Andrews is still moving ahead with final stage negotiations to shore up his cosy relationship with China.
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 also claims to promote “trade development and market access…especially for agricultural products”.
But the tariffs on barley – and further threats of expanding to cover wine, dairy, seafood and fruit – show this deal is all one-way traffic that’s running over the top of Victorian farmers.
When it comes to protecting Victorian jobs and our agriculture sector, this deal isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
Even Daniel Andrews’ federal colleagues slapped down Victoria’s decision to go-it-alone – and against Federal Government security advice – in signing up to Belt and Road.
As one Federal Labor MP said: “the Victorian government should not have entered into an agreement with the Chinese government on the Belt and Road Initiative – it is bad policy and bad optics”.
And this deal certainly shouldn’t move forward while China is waging war against our agriculture sector.
The Andrews Government is currently considering tenders for the $16 billion North East Link, including a bid from a Chinese-backed consortium.
Daniel Andrews shouldn’t be making any commitment with the Chinese Government or its state-owned companies while there’s a trade dispute affecting Victorian agriculture.
These tariffs also come as our state’s economy is reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 shutdowns.
The Victorian Liberal Nationals believe Victoria should be taking steps to diversify our markets and strengthening our state’s position in international trade, particularly our world-class agriculture sector.
This will mean we can better protect jobs and the Victorian economy against unforeseen shocks, like tariffs.
Rather than increasing our reliance on China, the State Government should be investing additional resources in our Victorian trade offices in Indonesia and India to expand our global presence by June 2021.
It’s a positive step forward we can take to strengthen Victoria’s economic base and get Victorians back to work and back in business after coronavirus restrictions are eased.
China’s barley tariffs will devastate growers and rip a half a billion dollars from our nation’s economy at a time when we can least afford it.
The Federal Liberal Nationals Government has vowed to stand with our farmers and against China’s trade threats.
Why is Daniel Andrews refusing to do the same?
The Andrews Government was elected to represent all Victorians.
Supporting Victorian barley farmers should be Daniel Andrews’ priority, not furthering the agenda of the Chinese Communist Government.
Peter Walsh is Victorian Nationals leader
This opinion piece first appeared in The Weekly Times (27 May 2020, p18)