Interview with Kelly Gudgeon, ABC Pilbara
Compere: Well, there's been much talk over the past few days about the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and his attendance at the G7 Conference. One of the announcements from this trip has been the signing of a free trade agreement between Australia and the UK. Kelly Gudgeon caught up earlier with the Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, to find out just how this impacts us here in the Pilbara.
Dan Tehan: So, it is true that Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Johnson have agreed in principle to a free trade agreement. What that will do is make all goods that come from the UK tariff free over time, and predominantly, all goods that we send to the UK tariff-free over time. It's a win, in particular, for ag exporters, our rice and sugar get access to the UK market, as does our dairy produce and our sheep meat, and our beef. We get tariff-free entry for our wine and a lot of other things as well. It's a real win-win for both countries.
Kelly Gudgeon: And how will the Pilbara benefit directly from that agreement?
Tehan: Well, what it means for the Pilbara is that you will be able to get access, if you like certain British goods at a cheaper rate, but it will also strengthen our economy. Australia has had a free and open economy. It's one that's benefited from free trade. Obviously, from the Pilbara, it's the resources, mainly, that get exported from the Pilbara. They find markets at very much at low tariffs or at no tariffs, and that enables us to create jobs. One in four jobs in regional Australia are created by trade.
Gudgeon: Is this agreement going some way to bridge the divide that has been created by the relationship with China and them now not taking produce from Australia?
Tehan: So, one of the best things that we can do as a country is make sure we're always diversifying our trade because you will run into disputes. You'll have some of the countries are exporting to, their economies will have times where they contract, and there won't be the demand for our exports. So, we need to be diversifying our trade, and we've done that since we've been in government. We've lifted the amount of our exports covered by trade from 20 per cent to now 75 per cent with this agreement in principle with the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, and that means that we're able to deal with any ups and downs which come in markets that we export to.
Gudgeon: The recent G7 Conference, the leaders, including Prime Minister Morrison, backed a fresh investigation into the origins of coronavirus. Do you think that that will have an impact on the relationship that we currently have with China?
Tehan: Well one of the things that we've been very clear about, and we think is in the globe’s interest, is to make sure that we get to the bottom of what happened with the origins of the coronavirus, and what we've called for, along with other countries, is that the second investigation – there was a preliminary investigation at the World Health Organization – that that secondary investigation, which was part of the process, takes place. We want to make sure that we do everything we can to stop a virus like the coronavirus impacting globally because it's impacted livelihoods and it's also impacted lives, and we need to be doing everything we can to stop a pandemic of that nature happening again.
Gudgeon: How many free trade agreements does Australia have?
Tehan: So, the number of free trade agreements that Australia has now is in the teens. We've got- we started with New Zealand on the comprehensive economic relations. We've got agreements with the US, with Korea, with Japan, with ASEAN. We've got the CPTPP with the countries in Indo-Pacific. We've now got the agreement, with this agreement in principle, with the UK. And I think we've got Thailand, and we've got, obviously, ChAFTA, the one with China. So we have numerous agreements.
Gudgeon: You mentioned that it's a preliminary agreement. When is it likely to be finalised and we get more of those details around it?
Tehan: So, the legal text will- about 600 or 700 pages of legal text will be agreed, then it's scrubbed, then it will have to pass both Parliaments, and it will come into force in 1 July next year.
Gudgeon: The Australian Government has agreed to new provisions for temporary entry when the COVID-19 pandemic eases. Will this mean that we’ll have an influx of backpackers and workers to help ease some of those worker shortages that we're experiencing, particularly here in the regions?
Tehan: Well, one of the benefits of our free trade agreement with UK is the chapters on mobility, on enabling people to move more freely between the UK and Australia. And what we've done is for those working holidaymaker visas, if you're 35, you can move and work in either the UK or Australia for up to three years now. So, this will have a real benefit in improving some of those workforce shortages that we currently have. This is a great outcome for Australia. It’s a great outcome for our agriculture sector. And I think this is an agreement that rights an historical wrong from when the UK turned to the EU and really left Australia stranded. So, it's very much in our national interest. It will create jobs and be a real benefit to our nation.
Gudgeon: And Minister, one last question before I let you go. Is there going to be an election this year?
Tehan: Is there going to be an election this year? That's a question only the Prime Minister can answer. So, we will have to wait and see what he has to say about that, but I can say that his preference all along has been that we should go full term. So, probably more likely than not that we'll have an election next year, but he'll be ultimate- the ultimate decision maker with that regard.
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