Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC NEWS Breakfast

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Tasmanian school children tragedy; working visas; Australia–United Kingdom free trade agreement.
17 December 2021

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Well, farmers, exporters and young Aussies wanting to work abroad are being told they are the big winners in a free trade agreement between Australia and the UK today. The Minister for Trade Dan Tehan will sign on the dotted line during a virtual ceremony with his UK counterpart this morning. And the Minister joins us now from Adelaide. Dan Tehan, good morning.

DAN TEHAN: Morning, Michael. Wonderful to be with you.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: It is indeed, and I want to talk at length about the free trade deal, but I first want to ask you, our main story this morning front and centre on all of our viewers' minds, the death of those five children in Devonport – how are you dealing with it?

DAN TEHAN: Look, thoughts and prayers are with the families. It is unimaginable, their grief. As a father, that this sort of event could happen to those families just before Christmas, the grief, the turmoil, the questions being asked, just must be just extraordinary. And all can I say for those families is I'm sure all of Australia will be praying for you and thinking of you over this Christmas, and our hearts go out to you at this time, because what you're dealing with just I think would be unimaginable to all the rest of us. But please know that we are thinking of you, we are praying for you, and where help and assistance can be provided, it will be.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Well said. Let's go to the free trade deal. Okay, the big question a lot of people would want to know this morning is: What's in it for Australia?

DAN TEHAN: Well, there's a lot in it for Australia. This is the best free trade agreement that we've done outside of the one we've done for New Zealand. Over 99 per cent of all our goods get immediate duty-free access into the UK. Exactly the same for UK goods here into Australia. For our farmers, our beef producers, our sheep meat producers, our rice growers, our dairy farmers, for our sugarcane growers, there's access into the UK market. Everything here that is good about a free trade agreement is in this agreement. It's incredibly comprehensive, and it's wonderful news for both nations and rights a wrong that was done in 1975 when the United Kingdom turned to the EU and very much cut Australia off. We're back and, for both nations, this is wonderful news.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, and what about for Australians we mentioned in the intro there wanting to work overseas, be they professionals or backpackers, wanting to go on a working holiday?

DAN TEHAN: Yes, once again wonderful news. Now, up until the age of 35, young Australians will be able to go to the United Kingdom and work for three years and obviously vice versa; for young Brits, they will be able to come here to Australia and work for

three years. So, once again, that'll really start to cement the relationship. Not only can you go to the UK now when you're younger to study, you can go there to work; and also, when it comes to our professional services, it will be much easier for our professions to go and work in the UK, professionals from Britain to come and work in Australia. So, all this is about making our economies stronger, making the links between our two nations stronger and it's a great day for Australia and it's a great day for the United Kingdom.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Just very quickly, I know you've got to go; putting on your Tourism Minister's cap, are you worried about the impact on domestic tourism, about people being spooked by Omicron and cancelling flights and trips around the country?

DAN TEHAN: Look, what we want to do is make sure that we have a very measured approach to Omicron. We want people to continue to follow the health advice. But we also understand the importance of us continuing to open up our economy both here in Australia and our country – both here in Australia and to overseas international students, to skills, to our working holiday maker visa holders, to Singaporean tourists, to Japanese tourists, to South Korean tourists. So, remember we've got the highest or one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. We've got a booster program rolling out. Over-70s are protected; double dose is 99 per cent. Come to over-50s, we're at 94 per cent. So, we've done the job in terms of getting vaccinated. We've now just got to have a very measured and safe reopening.

That's what we're doing. So, people should remember we've followed the health advice throughout this pandemic. We'll continue to do it, and that health advice is saying it's safe for us to continue to open up. So, everyone should enjoy Christmas and enjoy being reunited at Christmas, and my hope is that we'll see that continue even further in the new year.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Dan Tehan, it’s our last interview of the year. We're heading off on holiday. The show continues, though, next week. Thank you so much for all your appearances on News Breakfast over 2021.

DAN TEHAN: Pleasure Michael and merry Christmas to you and your family as well, and to all your listeners. Always a pleasure to be on the program and I look forward to being back on again next year. Take care.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Dan Tehan, thank you.

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