Former Minister for Trade
Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Transcript of Doorstop after Speech and Q and A session at Foreign Correspodents' Association

Main Topics: Doha, Japan FTA, Islamic Finance, beef imports

Transcript - E&OE

16 February 2010

QUESTION: So you think that Japanese Government has got the political will?

SIMON CREAN: I do, and I think that they've got the political will to conclude the Doha Round. And so I think that they understand the importance of trade for a nation like Japan and its future. And so that requires - I think getting the political will is a crucial step. But it's got to keep driving the agenda. We can all point to the difficulties and the reason why we shouldn't do it, but if the challenge is to do it, then we have to translate the political will into the basis for an agreement.

QUESTION: With the mid-term Congressional elections and isn't there no chance of finalising Doha.

SIMON CREAN: No, I don't believe that to be the case. If you look at President Obama's State of the Union address, he made a very strong statement about Doha and the importance of the recovery being based around the doubling of exports. Well you can't double your exports unless you're prepared to support openness in trade. And so whilst I think the question as to whether anything gets voted on, in the Congress, is another question, proceeding in discussions to try and conclude something, or to move us closer to a conclusion, is very much a real prospect.

QUESTION: And what will you say to President Obama during his Australian visit about finalising Doha?

SIMON CREAN: Oh, I think that there's no question about us being on the same page as President Obama. He wants to conclude Doha. The question is how we do it? So I think what we've got to have is some further discussions with the President, with his team, my counterpart Ron Kirk, as to the way forward.

QUESTION: Minister can you confirm your intention to stand again at the next election?

SIMON CREAN: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And will you - do you intend to go for a frontbench seat next time, as well.

SIMON CREAN: Of course I do.

QUESTION: Tony Abbott's gone on radio today accusing the Federal Government of electoral bribery after two - $250 million hand-out to the free to air networks. What's your response to that?

SIMON CREAN: I haven't seen those comments, but I mean coming from a minister in a government that spent money like drunken sailors just before the 2004 elections, it doesn't ring like a sincere criticism.

QUESTION: But he's actually saying bribery, that the Government's looking for federal news coverage during the election.

SIMON CREAN: I think the Labor Party knows what to expect from the media. We've never been able to - nor would we ever seek - to buy favourable coverage.

QUESTION: Do you have a timeframe to conclude the Japan FTA. And also I know that you say that whaling shouldn't have an affect on negotiations, bilateral relations, but do you think they will given what's going on in the Southern Ocean?

SIMON CREAN: Timetable, I don't want to put timetables on any of them, because you become hostage to the timetable and you just keep asking questions every time I meet you, as to why it hasn't been met.

There's a lot of difficult circumstances. Japan's got the mid-term elections. That has to be taken into account. I think if we can make progress in Doha, I think that makes the issues of some of the sensitive matters somewhat easier - and then I think there's the positive dynamic of what else we're doing in the region and the pressure that that puts on, because Japan understands the importance of itself being in the mix and part of an outward and onward going agenda.

Whaling, no, I don't believe it will and nor should it affect the bilateral relationship. Whaling has become an emotional and sensitive issue, within Japan and within Australia. Both of us need to realise that. We do realise it, that's why we've been seeking to get a diplomatic outcome. I hope that the diplomatic approach works.

QUESTION: Have you talked to the ....[indistinct]

SIMON CREAN: What happened yesterday?

QUESTION: Oh, illegally onboard the Japanese...What do you think of that?

SIMON CREAN: Well I think that any actions that are a threat to life and security and safety at sea are to be condemned. But these are issues that are not within Australia's legal jurisdiction. We've consistently said to those that are on Sea Shepherd and Ady Gil to observe the law of the sea, to act safely and appropriately. And we continue to say that in the strongest possible way.

QUESTION: Minister, there's been...You just watch the Muslim financial scheme and what does the Government actually want to do in the term of promoting this scheme, not in Australia, but in Muslim countries, like in Malaysia - Asian country, all involved.

SIMON CREAN: Well we want to raise awareness that we're open to developing new products and be innovative in areas that recognise the importance of offering Shariah inclined product.

Australia's financial system is robust, it's safe, it's innovative. Its four banks - four of only nine in the world that still retain double-A ratings. Our regulatory system ensures the safety. What we want to do is to get a better understanding of the combination of safety and innovation and work with other countries in the development of the products. We realise that there are issues here that need to be tackled: taxation issues and regulatory issues. That's the purpose of the inquiry, and we will be following up on the recommendations of that inquiry.

QUESTION: Minister, if I could just ask one more question.

SIMON CREAN: Yep.

QUESTION: We're going to be importing our meat from the US which, of course, has BSE. Can you assure Australia that the BSE...won't enter the country?

SIMON CREAN: No, we're not importing meat that is BSE. We will have the strict processes in place to ensure the safety for customers and the animals here, the herd here, of any beef that comes into this country. What we've done is to react to a call from industry that said that the science had caught up. Their industry would be at risk if there was any isolated incidents of BSE in this country, the whole of the product may have to be withdrawn from Australian shelves.

Now we've got a responsibility to respond positively to the concerns of the industry, but in a way that does not compromise the safety of Australian consumers, or risks to our herd. And we have done that.

There's a Senate Inquiry undertaking an investigation into this, that the - the start date is not until 1 March, but we're confident - based on all of the evidence and science before us - that this is the appropriate course.

Thank you.

ENDS

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