…the utter debacle created by Mr Morrison’s desperate decision to trash decades of considered, bipartisan foreign policy to try to win a few votes in Wentworth—and didn’t that go well! We learnt in Senate estimates that the decision to consider moving the Australian embassy in Israel wasn’t taken to cabinet; that it wasn’t based on any proposal from DFAT; that the foreign minister, Senator Payne, was given less than 48 hours notice; and that the media was briefed before the Australian Defence Force.
Senator WONG (South Australia—Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:03): I move:
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance and the Public Service (Senator Cormann) and the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia (Senator Canavan) to questions without notice asked by Senators Wong and Kitching today relating to the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and to the Minister for the Environment (Ms Price).
On the Indonesian free trade agreement, can I say that the Prime Minister’s visit to Singapore has now exposed in full the utter debacle created by Mr Morrison’s desperate decision to trash decades of considered, bipartisan foreign policy to try to win a few votes in Wentworth—and didn’t that go well! We learnt in Senate estimates that the decision to consider moving the Australian embassy in Israel wasn’t taken to cabinet; that it wasn’t based on any proposal from DFAT; that the foreign minister, Senator Payne, was given less than 48 hours notice; and that the media was briefed before the Australian Defence Force. Mr Turnbull warned that it would prompt a very negative reaction from Indonesia, and he was right. This decision from Mr Morrison is harming our economy, costing jobs and damaging one of Australia’s most important relationships. Mr Morrison himself in Jakarta in September said that the agreement:
… will open the door to a new era of opportunities for Australian and Indonesian business. Whether in agriculture and manufacturing, services or investment, this new agreement lays a foundation to realise the economic potential of our partnership.
It will create jobs and it will create wealth for both countries.
He said that the agreement would be signed within months, and media were briefed that it would be signed this week on the sidelines of the EAS in Singapore. Now it is sidelined. Why? To quote the Indonesian trade minister, the delay is ‘because of Palestine’, and he has made it clear that the agreement will be delayed until this is fixed.
Under this trade deal, 99 per cent of Australian exports to Indonesia will be tariff free—exports like frozen beef, sheep meat, feed grains, steel coil, citrus products, carrots and potatoes. But now, because of Mr Morrison’s short-sighted, ill-considered decision, Australian farmers, Australian manufacturers and Australian workers will suffer. But this isn’t just about trade. Indonesia is a critical relationship to Australia, but it is fair to say that our bilateral ties struggle to reach their full potential.
Senator O’Sullivan: So why did you suspend the live cattle trade?
Senator WONG: You may not be interested, Senator, but we actually care about this relationship. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest country by population and is projected to be the fourth-largest economy by 2050. The largest economy in South-East Asia, Indonesia is critical to Australia’s security and stability—something Labor has always understood, from Curtin and Chifley through Keating and Hawke and the Rudd and Gillard governments. Yet, under this government, our trade with Indonesia has actually decreased. As Mr Morrison said in Singapore, just moments ago after meeting with Indonesia’s President:
Indonesia doing well economically, Indonesia doing well strategically, is good for Australia, and that’s why we do it. We do it because it’s good for our national interests to support Indonesia’s advancement.
He said that ‘it’s good for our national interests’. Well, Prime Minister, perhaps you should have put that on your lapel badge: ‘Do what’s good for Australia’s national interests’. Instead, you trashed the national interests to try to get votes in Wentworth.
But, even worse, now we are seeing this terrible decision dragged through the prism of the Liberal Party’s bitter internal divisions. The same people who tore down Malcolm Turnbull and elevated Mr Morrison are now weaponising the embassy decision to continue their hard right, divisive agenda to undermine another Liberal Prime Minister. We’ve already seen Senator Abetz gleefully leaping onto Sky News to undermine our relationship with Indonesia. ‘Brilliant Mr Morrison’, who is supposed to be such a strategic genius, has now, after losing votes on this issue in Wentworth, firmly wedged himself between the national interest and the interests of the people who made him Prime Minister. He is trapped between doing the right thing by the nation and returning to sensible bipartisan policy. But, if he does, he will face the political consequences from the hard right.
Of course, Australia should consider foreign policy decisions based on our national interests. But that means that you have to be responsible enough to act consistently for the national interest. The overturning of the bipartisan position on the location of the embassy in Israel for short-term political gain was not in our national interests. Well, Labor says ‘enough’. Under pressure from journalists in Singapore, Mr Morrison has just committed to making a decision on the embassy by Christmas. Why Christmas, Prime Minister? Why not now? It took you one day to wreck this trade deal; why do you have to wait another month to fix it? (Time expired)