Interview with Katie Woolf, MIX 104.9

  • Transcript
Subjects: Australia-UK free trade agreement, agriculture visa
16 June 2021

Katie Woolf: And well, from a fire overnight to a very different topic, that free trade agreement which has been reached with the UK, and joining me on the line right now is the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan. Good morning to you.

Dan Tehan: Morning. How are you?

Woolf: Very well. Now, Minister, we know that the UK-Australia free trade deal has been agreed between the countries' prime ministers and, well, some of the detail, I guess, still to be made public, but what does this mean for Australians?

Tehan: So, what it means for Australians is that we will have greater access to the UK market and we'll also be able to get things from Britain at a cheaper rate. So, it's a win-win for both countries, but most importantly for our agricultural producers, it means that they can get access to the United Kingdom that they haven't had now for over 50 years—so that's where the real benefits will accrue.

Woolf: Why haven't they been able to, you know, to have that access for the last 50 years? And how big a difference will this make?

Tehan: So, what happened 50 years ago, the United Kingdom turned to the European Union and decided to join the European Common Market…

Woolf: Yeah.

Tehan: …And that means- that meant that there was prohibitive tariffs put on our sugar, our rice, our dairy, our beef, and our lamb. And what we've been able to do, through this agreement, is get the United Kingdom to agree to eliminate those tariffs, some overtime, but immediately, it will enable us, in all those areas, to get access to the United Kingdom.

Woolf: Well, and no doubt, it will mean, you know, creating such a big audience, or such a big, you know, boost for us in terms of customers when it comes to our agriculture and our farming. I guess the real issue we've got at the moment, though, Minister, is really not having people to fill some of those jobs in the picking and packing, particularly here in the Territory when we talk about things like our mangoes.

Tehan: Yes, and that's one of the other great things about this agreement is because, for the first time, we're establishing an agriculture, agribusiness visa, and we will have that with the United Kingdom. We will be looking to expand that with other countries. So, not only we will be able to get our agricultural produce into the United Kingdom without tariffs, but we'll also establish this agricultural visa and agribusiness visa, which will enable our farmers to get access to a workforce, and this has been something that regional and rural Australia been fighting for quite some time.

Woolf: Yeah. Minister Tehan, we have spoken about this so extensively on our show. How soon do you anticipate that that visa will become active and that our- you know, our farmers here in the Northern Territory are going to be able to utilise it?

Tehan: Obviously, we want to get it activated as soon as we possibly can. Under the agreement with the UK all the changes around the movement of people, including lifting the rate which young people can go to the UK, or young people from the UK can come to Australia, the age has been lifted to 35 and the period three years—all of that will be discussed and put in place over the next five years. When it comes to the ag visa, though, this will be something that we're keen to get up and running as soon as possible.

Woolf: Yeah, I totally agree. I think that a lot of people will be really pleased if it can get happening sooner rather than later. When you look at this agreement from an NT perspective, how do you think it's going to assist Territorians and, indeed, local businesses?

Tehan: Well, what it means is there is a market of 60 million people which has been opened up to Australia. It means those who are existing exporters to the UK, they'll be able to get their products in cheaper. It means in terms of workers, we'll be able to get access to young people from Britain for a longer period of time. There's many benefits right across the board. If you like your whisky, whisky will be cheaper in Australia. If you like English lollies and confectionery and biscuits, that will come in at a cheaper rate. And, of course, for our wine producers, they get- they're able to sell into the UK at a much cheaper rate. And of course, our steak, our lamb chops, our rice, our dairy products, all go in at a cheaper rate.

So, for consumers both here and in the UK, this is a real win. For our economies, it's a real win. We've been an open and free trading nation and it has really benefited us. It's why we had 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth leading in to the pandemic. It's why we've bounced back so strongly because of our open economy, which means our businesses are competitive, and we produce the best products in the world. So, we'll see this agreement lead to more jobs, better jobs, and, in particular, out in our regions where one in four jobs are dependent on trade. This is a huge win.

Woolf: And Minister, is it really diversification that is needed at this point given our strained relationship with China?

Tehan: Well, diversification is always beneficial when it comes to exporting. You never know when you're going to have disputes with countries, when their economies might face a downturn, so there's less demand for your produce. So the more you can diversify the better, and with this agreement 75 per cent of everything we export will be covered by free trade agreement. So we're starting to build the network of free trade agreements to really help our exporters.

Woolf: Now, just finally, I understand that this deal also- it means that it will sort of set the terms for future negotiations with other nations, including the US. How?

Tehan: So, that's for the United Kingdom…

Woolf: [Talks over] Okay.

Tehan: …For us, we obviously have an agreement already with the US. But for Britain, since they've left the European Union through Brexit, they're now looking to do more free trade agreements. So they've done this one with us, this first historic one. They'll now turn their eyes to the US and also to countries in our region through a regional trade agreement called the CPTPP.

Woolf: And what- how will that impact us?

Tehan: Well, what that means is that we hopefully will see the Britain economy grow stronger as it opens up more markets, and that means that hopefully we'll see more demand for our steak, our chops, our wine, our dairy produce, our rice, our sugar. So, we want Brit- we want Global Britain to succeed, because the stronger their economy, the better it is for our exports.

Woolf: Well, Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, we really appreciate you taking the time to have a bit of a chat with us this morning.

Tehan: Been a pleasure. It's a great outcome for Australia, and happy to come on the program and talk about it. Thank you.

Woolf: Thanks very much, Minister.

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