Interview with Chris Smith, Sky News Australia

  • Transcript
Subjects: Tasmania tragedy; AdBlue shortage; Vaccination levels, MYEFO update.
16 December 2021

Chris Smith: I'm joined now by Trade Minister Dan Tehan. Minister, thank you very much for your time. Before we get into AdBlue, I could only imagine what your thoughts have been today following the death of those four children in Tasmania.

Dan Tehan  Yeah, absolute tragedy, Chris,and my thoughts and prayers are with the family. Someone who has children, the heartbreak and devastation for those families, just beyond comprehension. And all I can say is I wish them well, thoughts and prayers are with them. I know the thoughts and prayers of the whole nation are with those families at this time. The fact that it's happened now just before Christmas, so, so sad, just absolutely devastating. And I know, I speak for everyone when I say our hearts go out to every family member who's lost a child in that terrible, terrible accident.

Chris Smith: Yep. Okay, AdBlue, how critical is this shortage? And will we get through Christmas?

Dan Tehan  We will get through Christmas, and the government has set up a task force. We're working very closely with the industry. We've got a good sense now of the supply that's in the nation, that's here in Australia, up to seven weeks worth. We're also making sure that we're looking at alternative sources. I've spoken to the Indonesian Trade Minister myself, personally, and we're confident that we will get some supply out of Indonesia. We're also looking at what we can do to lift domestic supply here in Australia. So we're confident that we have enough to get us well and truly through to February. And then the ongoing efforts that we're putting in place will mean that that supply will continue well into the new year.

Chris Smith: So, in terms of manufacturing AdBlue in Australia, there is potential here to do more is there?

Dan Tehan  There is potential to do more here in Australia, and that's one of the things that we're seriously looking at, as well as obviously talking to Indonesia, to Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates about sourcing either Urea or more at AdBlue from them. So we're looking at all avenues. But at the moment, people should go about buying AdBlue normally. We don't want to see excessive warehousing because that just exacerbates the problem. There is more supply on the way. We've got supply to take us to February, and the government established a task force, it's been led by Angus Taylor. He's looking at what we can do domestically, I'm working with Angus, in particular, focusing on how we can get more stock from overseas, and we're very confident that we can get the measures in place to ensure that we've got enough AdBlue and Urea going forward.

Chris Smith: I've been covering this for about two weeks. It seems to me another example of Australia needing to manufacture more of these kinds of products and be less dependent on countries like China. Would you agree?

Dan Tehan  Look, I would agree. What it's shown is that there is a supply chain deficiency here. And everything, as we understand it is that what's happened in China is that they were running into shortages domestically, so they've put all their efforts into supplying their industries domestically. And that's meant that we all of a sudden face potential shortages. So I think it is an area where we do need to be looking to see what we can do to secure different supply chains and also how we can advance and enhance the manufacturing of AdBlue here in Australia.

Chris Smith: I mentioned just prior to this interview that some panic has started to set in following the large spike in covid cases in New South Wales, including Newcastle and the presence, of course, of Omicron. We've got to remind ourselves, don't we, of what our vaccination levels have done for the prospect of serious illness?

Dan Tehan  Absolutely, when you look at those over 70 now who have vaccinated, it's over 98 per cent, and I think it's over 99per cent first dose for those over 70, when it's over 50, we're at 94 per cent. So we have done a remarkable effort here in Australia in getting everyone vaccinated. And that has to give us the security to know that we've got to continue to be able to open up. Obviously we’ve got to put measures in place that enable us to deal with the virus. But our vaccination rates are amongst the highest in the world, and that means that we can continue to open up. And it's why it was so welcome that on Wednesday, international students, tourists from Japan and South Korea, plus our working holiday maker visa holders and our agriculture visa holders are welcome back, because as a nation we've always been outward looking. We've always been open. We've always been a trading nation. So we've got to make sure that we continue to face outwards to the rest of the world. And that's part of learning to live with the virus.

Chris Smith: And just quickly, you would have been happy as a cabinet member to see what Josh Frydenberg had for the nation today in terms of forecasts and also those jobs figures? Remarkable.

Dan Tehan  Jobs figures, remarkable. And in the end, as we all know, Chris, a strong economy enables you to provide the services that we all need, whether it be the health services, whether it be the disability services, whether it be aged care services, it enables us to have the strength in our funding and investment into our defence forces. This is all reliant on a strong economy, and the fact that where we are now having just come through a pandemic shows how the economic management, the stewardship we've seen over the last two years from the Morrison Government has put us up to rebound strongly out of this pandemic. And I think the Treasurer has done an outstanding job in that regard.

Chris Smith: If we don't chat again soon, Merry Christmas to you and your family, Minister, and a much happier New Year let's hope.

Dan Tehan  Absolutely, Chris, and Merry Christmas to you and your family. And always a pleasure to chat with you. So thank you very much.


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