Interview with Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland, ABC News Live, News Breakfast

  • Transcript
Subjects: Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, ag visas
16 June 2021

Michael Rowland: Let's go straight to Trade Minister, Dan Tehan, in Parliament House. Minister, good morning.

Dan Tehan: Morning, Michael. Wonderful to be with you.

Rowland: It is great to have you as well. Just picking up on what the Prime Minister said there at the top of the hour, how is this the right deal for Australia?

Tehan: Well, it means that we can right a wrong that was, was done over 50 years ago. When the United Kingdom turned to the European Union, in particular, left our farmers high and dry. We are getting immediate access for our beef and sheep meat producers, immediate access for our dairy producers and our rice growers and cane growers will get immediate access as well. So, it's a real win for our agricultural sector; it's a win for consumers in Australia because these trade deals mean we can get good quality product from the United Kingdom at a cheaper rate and, also, it is a great, great win for the movement of people between our two nations because young Australians and young Brits in particular will be able to travel to and from the two countries up until the age of 35, and for a period of three years. So, it is a win-win for both nations.

Rowland: Well, let's, let's stay on that for the moment. It is certainly great news for young people wanting to travel. Previously if Brits wanted to extend their visas in Australia they had to work on farms - that's been scrapped. In place, there's this new agricultural visa system. How confident are you – when, of course, we can all travel again - that that will fill the breach caused by the scrapping of that requirement?

Tehan: Very confident. This is something that regional and rural Australia have been wanting for quite some time: a stand-alone agricultural and agribusiness visa. And the fact that we'll be able to put it in place with the United Kingdom and expand it to other countries, while the working holiday maker requirement phases out in five years' time, I think, is a real win again for regional and rural Australia out of this deal. This standalone ag visa is something we have been seeking for quite some time.

Rowland: Okay. Meat and lamb producers do have to wait for up to 15 years to get unfettered access to the British market. Is that concerning to the sector?

Tehan: No, look, I've worked very closely with the sector over the last couple of weeks, and especially intensely over the last five days — often calls late at night and very early in the morning. We think we've got a really good outcome. Immediate access of 35,000 kilo tonnes of beef on entry into force. When it comes to sheep meat, it's 25,000 kilo tonnes of sheep meat on entry into force, and then that ramps up over 10 years and then there's a safeguard for 10-15 years. So, we think we have got a really good outcome. Liberalisation - full liberalisation - is what they wanted at the start of this deal, and that's what we have been able to achieve. And I thank the MLA for the close way they have worked with me and our negotiators in getting this outcome—and can I just give a shout out to our negotiating team at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, led by Elisabeth Bowes. We have some of, if not the best, trade negotiators in the world and it's been an absolute honour to work with them.

Rowland: We do have a lot of hardworking representatives and diplomats indeed. Hey, can I get you to put your other cap on as Tourism Minister. We're all hoping of course, this show comes through Melbourne, there will be some easing of restrictions announced by the Victorian Government over the next couple of days. If that is the case, would you expect the other states and territories to drop their borders- to open their borders, rather, to Victorians?

Tehan: I hope so, Michael, and in particular with school holidays fast approaching. It's really in the interests of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory to open their borders because it means that Victorians will be able to travel there to their wonderful tourism destinations. So that's my, my hope that that's what we'll see. Ultimately, it will be decisions for them to make, but, especially with school holidays approaching, it would be wonderful if we could see those, those borders reopen to Victorians. They have done it tough over a long period of time, and especially through this latest lockdown, so it would be great if that could be reciprocated.

Rowland: Okay. And just finally on the back of Four Corners on Monday. Dan Tehan, if you had a friend who firmly believed the world was run by a cabal of satanic paedophiles, would you say, ‘Mate, that is too weird, see you later'?

Tehan: So, Michael, I've got to say I didn't watch Four Corners on, on Monday night. I've been absolutely flat out on this trade deal for the last, last week. Haven't had a lot of- many nights with not a lot of sleep, constant contact with my counterpart Liz Truss- so, I didn't, I didn't see Four Corners and haven't heard or read about it to be honest with you. So, I've just been completely and utterly focused on this free trade agreement…

Rowland: Okay. Sure.

Tehan: … and getting the right outcome for Australia and the UK, and I think that's what we've achieved. And this is a great day for Australian exporters…

Rowland: Okay.

Tehan: … and I'm pleased to be here talking to you about it.

Rowland: And we appreciate that hard work - I know I'm speaking on behalf of farmers around the country. But again, I'll come at it this way. You're a senior minister, so you‘d know full well that the FBI has deemed QAnon - this group of conspiracy theorists - really dangerous. They are capable, according to the FBI, of political violence. How comfortable are you that a key adherent of this in Australia is good friends with the Prime Minister?

Tehan: Well, I don't know the details, I don't know what was on Four Corners. Like I said, I've been absolutely 100 per cent focused on this free trade agreement, making sure we get this wonderful outcome for our exporters, for our agricultural sector; righting that historical wrong over the last 50 years – we've achieved that. I know farmers right across this nation will be waking up today with big smiles on their face. That's what I've been focused on for, especially intensely over the last five or six days. So, I'm sure there'll be a time to answer those questions at, at another time.

Rowland: [Talks over] So you've got nothing, nothing to say on that. Just on the, on the principle put forward about- I mean look, this is the Prime Minister of the country, and this is one - according to all the photos at Kirribilli House and otherwise - is a close family friend?

Tehan: Well look, I don't know the details. Like I said, I've just been heart and soul in making sure we get the best outcome for our exporters out of this deal; and the best outcome for Australian consumers, the best outcome for our wine producers who now will get free access into the UK market - incredibly important for them…

Rowland: Okay.

Tehan: this time. And it's a fantastic deal, Michael, one that all of us can be, be very proud of and one that I think sets up the economic relationship between Australia and the UK for many, many years to come.

Rowland: Let's hope so. Dan Tehan, thanks for your time today.

Tehan: Pleasure, Michael.

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