Labor is urging the Government to provide more support for Hunter region exporters amid mounting trade tensions with China. The Shadow Minister for Industry and Trade Mick Veitch said State Trade Minister John Barilaro must ensure exporters feel protected as the COVID-19 recession hits their businesses.
Chinese State media confirmed the suspension of Australian shipments including wine, lobster, sugar, coal, timber, wool, barley and copper.
“The Government must work with industry and stakeholders to nurture a productive trade relationship while safeguarding NSW jobs,” Mr Veitch said.
“Our exporters are doing it tough due to unavoidable restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. They do not need further agitation as they work towards recovery.
“Mr Barilaro must investigate and inform NSW exporters on the work currently being undertaken by the Federal Government to ensure existing trade relationships are secure.”
The Shadow Minister for the Hunter Clayton Barr said trade tensions have been building for some time.
“Australia’s relationship with China has an impact on the Hunter economy, particularly on the coal and wine industries,” Mr Barr said.
“Recent projections from the National Council of Social Services show the region is expected to be heavily impacted by the flow-on effects of the COVID-19 recession.
“The community does not need any more cause for concern. The Government must step in and provide some assurance around regional exports.”
The State Government created the Exporter Assistance Grant, with $10 million available to businesses affected by COVID-19, bushfires or drought. However, a month later, less than 10 per cent of the grant program’s funds have been allocated, totalling $911,151.
“These grants should be almost exhausted considering the impact 2020 has had on the economy. Instead, the Government seems to be hoarding the funds,” Mr Veitch said.
“Mr Barilaro should be out in the community making sure NSW exporters know about these grant opportunities and encouraging them to apply.
“Like so many of this Government’s grant schemes, the administration is letting down the people who need it most.”