Channel News Asia - interview
Journalist: Minister, opening the travel corridor with Singapore remains a priority. We understand that plans are on hold as Sydney fights their third wave of the virus. What factors are we looking at as those nations work towards a travel bubble, and what will Australia be doing in the meantime to ensure minimal disruption?
Dan Tehan: Well, obviously we want to see a travel bubble with Singapore, and that’s something that both countries are aiming for. At this stage it’s more likely to happen towards the end of this year as we make sure that both countries can fully roll out their vaccination programs and then we put in place the needs that we will want in terms of vaccination certification and other things. And, our officials will continue to engage on that as we progress towards hopefully our next bubble – we have one successfully operating with New Zealand – which would be between Australia and Singapore. But very much I think that will be towards the end of this year.
Journalist: And on building a fintech bridge between Australia and Singapore, in what ways will Australia be supporting Singapore companies that want to venture over into moving ahead?
Dan Tehan: Well, obviously we’ll continue to work to help facilitate investment from Singaporean companies into Australia, and the fintech bridge that was announced by both the Singaporean Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister three weeks ago is a key way we can do this. And, at the moment, we’re going to flesh out exactly what that fintech bridge will look like, so we will see more engagement by Singaporean companies in our financial services sector and hopefully we’ll see increased engagement by Australian companies here in Singapore. Financial services is obviously a key area that we can grow both our economies and also engage with the rest of the region.
Journalist: And we know just last week the two countries reaffirmed a commitment to work closer together on sustainability through a new green economy agreement and a public-private partnership to lower emissions in specifically maritime, shipping and core operations. Can you let us in on some examples of what’s in the pipeline on that front?
Dan Tehan: Well, once again, there’s a lot of areas where we can work together when it comes to the green economy agreement. When it comes to shipping, what we can do to transform shipping from using carbon fuels to making sure that we’re using renewable fuels, one of the areas of real interest here, is to see whether we could run shipping fleets based on green hydrogen. So that’s an area that we will look to explore. Also, what we can do to reduce emissions is to look at intermodal hubs and whether we can get greater exchange between the use of shipping and aviation. One of the things that I discussed this morning was whether we could, for instance, use shipping to get produce from Australia to Singapore and then using Singapore and its aviation services to direct that produce, whether it be to Europe or other parts of the globe. So, all these areas will help us decarbonise or reduce emissions when it comes to transportation and these are all part of the discussions that we’ll be having on this green economy agreement.
Journalist: Coming on the back of this COVID-19 pandemic, what lessons can be drawn in terms of cooperation and critical supply chains for future events of such a nature? Which areas do you think Australia and Singapore can build on from this pandemic experience?
Dan Tehan: Well, I think you’re right to point out that we can do it in the health sector and when it comes to vaccine production, in particular, one of the things that we’ve got to make sure is those critical supply chains are in place so we can continue to see growth in the manufacturing of vaccines to be able to deal with this pandemic and then future pandemics. But it’s not only in that area, but I think it’s also going to be very, very critical that we can do so in areas when it comes to emissions reduction, when it comes to battery production or other areas which will enable us to decarbonise, ensuring that the materials are there, to enable economies to have those supply chains in place is going to be absolutely vital. So there’s numerous areas where we will continue to discuss and engage and make sure that our export financing authorities continue to discuss ways that we can also seek to invest in companies that will help put in place these critical supply chains.
Journalist: And finally, just quickly, what sort of role does Singapore play in Australia’s road to recovery post pandemic and vice versa?
Dan Tehan: Well, I think to start with, it will enable us to safely and securely open up. We’ve managed to put a bubble in place with New Zealand and if we can look to expand that bubble with Singapore by the end of the year, I think it gives us another step in opening up our economy. I think also, when it comes to how we ensure all countries in the Indo-Pacific engage on the trade front. Australia and Singapore understand the importance of trade liberalisation, of free trade, of making sure that countries adhere to their trade agreements, to global trade rules because if we are to drive economic growth as we come out of this pandemic, making sure that we’ve got a free and open Indo-Pacific to do that is going to be absolutely vital. And, Singapore and Australia are absolutely like-minded in that mind set, and we want to make sure that we continue to engage, whether it be on digital trade, regional digital trade agreements, or in any others to send that message that trade liberalisation and openness will be an absolute key to how we come out of this pandemic successfully.
Journalist: Thank you very much, Minister, for your time. That was Dan Tehan, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.