Interview with Jim Wilson, 2GB

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Diversifying Australian exports, China, Australia-New Zealand travel bubble.
08 April 2021

Jim Wilson: You have to feel for Australian farmer, they’ve been put through the absolute wringer over the last 12 months. The coronavirus pandemic was a disaster for their work, but most of all the ridiculous, or the bullying tactics, as far as China’s concerned, as far as trade bans go, well, that threw our export markets into absolute chaos. Well, that’s what we thought. Reports today in The Australian reveal our fantastic farmers are defying Beijing’s bullying, and they’re bouncing back – which is fantastic news. They’re finding new trade markets and exciting new horizons and, now, Federal Trade Minister, Dan Tehan is setting his sights even higher. He’s unveiled a new strategy to help Team Australia win in Asia and by the looks of things we’re making some inroads.

Dan Tehan, the Federal Trade Minister, is on the line this afternoon. Minister, welcome back to Drive.

Dan Tehan: Pleasure to be with you again, Jim.

Wilson: Well, this is good news about our Australian exporters, and in particular our farmers defying China’s trade bans.

Tehan: It is. It shows the resilience of our, our farmers and, I think, also just the quality of the product that they produce—we produce—here in Australia, a clean, green, first-class product that's wanted around the world. And they've been able to find additional markets, and the Government's going to continue to help and support them to be able to diversify into other markets.

Wilson: So, which particular industries are we talking, now? Wine? Barley? Across the board? And what other markets have we gone into?

Tehan: So look, what we have seen barley impacted by the trade disputes with China and they've had that very successful foray into Mexico, and anyone who's been to Mexico will know there is Sol beer, there's Corona—now barley’s being used to produce that beer, which is, which is, absolutely fantastic and, hopefully, we can build on that success further into Latin America, places like, like Brazil. 

The wine industry, obviously, is doing it very tough at the moment but we're looking at other opportunities in Southeast Asia for them, also into the EU and the UK through the free trade agreements we’re negotiating there and potentially, long term, looking to get greater access to the Indian market, which is also one way where we could see real benefits flow. 

Wilson: And I believe that South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia are also on the, on the radar?

Tehan: Absolutely. In terms of trying to select countries where we can diversify into, Japan—obviously a very traditional trading partner—but there is further opportunities for us to be able to get greater access in there, South Korea, and then the two really important markets in Southeast Asia of Indonesia and Vietnam—both large, growing economies where we've got real opportunities. So there's plenty there for us to do and, and I've got to hand it to our exporters, because what they've decided to do is just to look for those opportunities wherever they might, might lie and the Government’s there with them, with this Team Australia approach, trying to, to make sure that we're supporting them.

Wilson: Do we still hold the trump card then? I mean, as far as I'm aware, looking at other options in other markets of various industries, are we still are we holding the trump card as far as iron ore? The fact that China and Beijing are so dependent on our iron ore?

Tehan: Well look, we've always taken the view in Australia that we want to take a very principled approach when it comes to our trade and, obviously, especially when it comes to iron ore. That's helped support millions and millions of Chinese lift their standard of living. It's gone into, into housing, into office apartments, into building freeways, you name it and we want to make sure that we, we can continue to help lift people out of poverty through, through our trade. And the imports we've had from China have also helped us, obviously, over the last 20 to 30 years. 

So we'll continue to say to the Chinese Government that our economies are complementary; we do want to trade with you; but while we're going through these difficulties, we're going to look elsewhere. And we've got to remember, and always do, we've got a first-class product to sell from here in Australia and, and that should always stand us in very good stead—knowing that what we produce here in Australia is world class and wanted all around the world. 

Wilson: I want to ask you about the quarantine free trans-Tasman trouble- travel bubble which will begin on April 19. Are you confident this will be successful?

Tehan: Look, I, I am confident that it will be successful because—and the thing that gives me confidence is what we've been able to achieve through our 800,000 discounted fares— because we were having trouble with confidence with people travelling in between states and territories but as the vaccine's been rolled out, we've obviously put that initiative in place and, and already we've seen, I think, well over 50 per cent of those fares being picked up, and people already, already using them. And, I think, given that the confidence is returning for people to travel between states here in Australia it's a logical next step that they will look to do it over to New Zealand, and New Zealanders, importantly, coming here to Australia. 

Now, there might be some disruptions but the hope is that with—along with states and territories—when there are small outbreaks what we'll see is the contact tracing and the testing used as the first resort, rather than the closing of borders. And I think the longer we go, the more we get the vaccine rolled out—we’re nearly at a million now here in Australia— the more confidence there will be to travel. And I think the more confidence that we'll be able to see that states and territories will, will not seek to use border closures as a first resort and hopefully we won't see that occurring in New Zealand as well.

Wilson: Minister, as always, thanks for your time this afternoon. 

Tehan: Pleasure, Jim.

Wilson: That’s Dan Tehan, the Federal Trade Minister.

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