Interview with Chris Smith, Sky News

  • Transcript
Subjects: Net zero targets; EU FTA talks
24 October 2021

Chris Smith: To discuss all of this, I'm joined now by Trade Minister Dan Tehan. Minister welcome to the program. Now, two years is a long time in politics by the sound of it, because here we were two years ago bagging net zero from all corners of the coalition. Why do we need, do you think, to take this leap into a carbon neutral world?

Dan Tehan: I think there's a couple of reasons, Chris. One is that we've got to be at the table with this debate going on. The world has moved and we need to move as well so that we can make sure that the policies that are put in place will protect our country and, in particular, our regions. And the second thing is that the enhancement in technology in the last couple of years means now that we can move towards net zero, keeping our economy strong, keeping our region strong. So, for those two reasons, I think we are now in a position to be able to sign up to net zero by 2050.

Chris Smith: What can you tell us about the details of the deal, in particular, what regional Australia will be guaranteed, or you can't go into that just yet?

Dan Tehan: No, I can't go into that just yet. Obviously, that will come before Cabinet, will be considered by Cabinet and then, obviously, the details will be released sometime after that. But while it's a Cabinet process, I can't go into the details. But can I say when it comes to regional and rural Liberals, when it comes to the National Party, all of us have a very strong interest in making sure that regional Australia is protected through this transition. We know in some parts that won't be easy. So that's why we've had a real focus in making sure that we take our regions with us and that they will be as strong as we head down this path as the rest of the country. And it's been great to be able to work with our National Party colleagues as rural Liberals to make sure that regional and rural Australia will be protected as we make this transition.

Chris Smith: The government isn't going to try and convince Australians that this is cost neutral, are they?

Dan Tehan: No. We've been very upfront that there will be impacts on the regions, and that's why we've got to make sure we get the policies right, that we make sure that we invest in the right technologies, and we take our regions with us because this will be a challenge managing this change. As a matter of fact, it's why we're going to need a Coalition Government to do it, because we're the ones who will ultimately stand up for regional and rural Australia and make sure that the transition is one where their communities, our communities, comes with us as we head down this path, and that is going to be absolutely vital. We want to make sure that our aluminium smelters, that our abattoirs and our dairy processors, all of which are in regional Australia, that they will come with us on this journey. If all we do is put up electricity prices, they won't be competitive and they will suffer as a result. So that's why we're so focused on regional and rural Australia when it comes to this agreement, because we know they're the part of our community that we're going to have to make sure we manage and bring with us on this path.

Chris Smith: How firm will Angus Taylor stand behind the mining industry in Glasgow?

Dan Tehan: Very firmly. The mining industry is vital to jobs in Australia, and he understands that it's going to be technology which ensures that our mining industry comes with us, that our agricultural industry comes with us, and so he's made a very firm commitment to make sure that they will come with us as part of this journey.

Chris Smith: Be frank with me here. Is this a night for foreboding about a deal on net zero? Or are you really honestly excited about the future?

Dan Tehan: No. Look, I'm excited about the future, but I understand that it's going to be tough and it's going to require very good management to get us through this. This isn't going to be easy, but we've made a decision. I think it's the right decision. I think it's a decision that's been made in the national interest. It's been made. It's hard-fought. It's been thought through. We've looked at all the angles of it. We've spent a long period of time, Angus Taylor has been preparing our technology roadmap now for months, over six, seven, eight months. All the planning work has been done. So, look, this is significant, but it's just started, and this is why it's just going to be so important that we have a good government that's going to take us through this transition. We get it wrong, regional and rural communities will suffer. And I can tell you that's why it's going to be so important at the next election that you get a Coalition Government, because without it, I really worry if the approach that the Labor Party takes, especially their taxation style approach, that could really harm us. We've got to have a proper transition. It's got to be technology-based and really focused on taking the regions with us.

Chris Smith: Quick answer; we won't be sucked into a vegan Monday, will we?

Dan Tehan: No, this is a complete try on. And you know why it's a complete try on because agricultural subsidies are the things that lead to further emissions. And the EU and the US don't want to go anywhere near this, so they're trying on this plant based approach. Complete try on. Get rid of the subsidies, that's the agricultural subsidies. That's the best way to deal with emissions in agriculture.

Chris Smith: Okay, now the EU have decided to postpone those talks. The 12th round of talks for the Fair Trade Agreement because of what we did with the French submarine agreement. You were given the greatest hospital pass in football history, weren't you?

Dan Tehan: Look, what I did was I went to Europe and I tried to talk to the French. Obviously, I wasn't able to do that, but I was able to talk to seven or eight European Union ministers. They all understand how important this agreement is. So it's unfortunate that it's been pushed back now to February. Chief negotiators will meet in December but, in the meantime, Chris, as part of my recent trip, we've got an agreement with India to try and progress things there. We've got the United Arab Emirates and the GCC, the Gulf Co-operation Council, wanting to do an FTA with us and move very quickly. So we've got plenty of other options to look at in the meantime, obviously, we're trying to finalise the very last little bits of the UK FTA, so plenty to get on with. Unfortunate, what's happened with the EU FTA, which has been pushed back, but it doesn't mean that we haven't got plenty of other options.

Chris Smith: I'm worried about you, though, because the Chinese won't pick up your calls. The French won't pick up your calls, the EU won't pick up your calls. You're not developing an inferiority complex, are you a Minister?

Dan Tehan: No, I'm alright, Chris. My kids have joked to me that I'm being ghosted and have a bit of a chuckle about it but no, we're holding up all right. I can tell you when it comes to the World Trade Organisation we hosted a mini ministerial meeting in Paris at the OECD. We had 25 trade ministers around the table, all pushing to get a WTO outcome. We were part of a small group at the G20 trying to get an outcome there. As I've said, a lot of trade ministers wanting to talk to us because they want to do deals with us so our standing is in very good stead at the moment, globally. Obviously, there's the issues we've got with the Chinese and the current ones with the French but elsewhere, things are going very well. And we're at the forefront of the global push for liberalisation because it's something we've always believed in. And now, more than ever, as we come out of this pandemic, we've got to make sure that's the approach that the globe takes.

Chris Smith: Dan Tehan, thank you very much for your time tonight. I appreciate it.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure, Chris.

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