Interview with Sabra Lane, AM

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

Sabra Lane: And to tell us a little more about the free trade deal between Australia and the UK, I spoke with Dan Tehan, the Federal Trade Minister, a short time ago.


Minister, good morning and welcome to AM.

Dan Tehan: Morning Sabra, a pleasure to be with you.

Lane: Australia wanted restrictions lifted and zero tariffs immediately on beef and sheep. That's not what you've achieved. Why not?

Tehan: Look, we wanted full liberalisation when it came to sheep meat and beef with this free trade agreement, and that's what we've achieved. We get that over 10 years, and then there's five years of a safeguard period. And our beef and sheep meat producers who have worked very closely on this are very pleased with this outcome. Full liberalisation was the goal, and that's what we've got.

Lane: But that's going to take 10, possibly even 15 years. Are farmers here going to be really happy with that?

Tehan: Yes, they will be. All the contact that I've had with Meat and Livestock Australia throughout these negotiations, we set the goal of getting full liberalisation— that's what we've achieved. I worked very closely with them over the last five to six days, as a matter of fact, I was making daily calls and nightly calls and sometimes with them and we've worked very closely together. I thank them for the way they've engaged with the Government and we're all very pleased with this outcome.

Lane: Working visas for Brits will be boosted and the condition that they work in agriculture to extend their visas will be dropped. We understand that there's going to be a separate agriculture visa announced today as a consequence of all of this for workers for- from ten South East Asian nations. How many workers? And how soon will that happen?

Tehan: So, what we've agreed with the United Kingdom is that the changes to the visa arrangements will be made over a five-year period. So that will give us time to stand up this unique agricultural visa and agribusiness visa and enable it to get up and running. And as you know, from people and communities from regional and rural Australia, standalone ag visa is something we have been seeking, and the fact that we've been able to achieve this under this FTA is, once again, another real positive, especially for our agriculture sector.

Lane: Again, how soon and how many workers would be coming from those 10 South East Asian nations?

Tehan: Well, obviously, that depends on the demand, but we're looking to stand the ag visa up as soon as we possibly can, and, as I've said, as part of the agreement in principle with the UK, the requirements here on the working holiday maker, we have up to five years to make the change, which takes away that 88-day requirement in the second year for Brits who come to Australia on a working holiday maker visa.

Lane: Regarding the free trade agreement, Australia already has one with China – it's had- it's been in place for six years – which really doesn't seem to be much use at the moment. So really, is this new deal really going to be worth anything?

Tehan: Yes, it will. It shows the closeness of the economic partnership that Australia and the United Kingdom has. It rights an historic wrong of 50 years ago where the UK turned to Europe and left, especially Australian farmers, standing, looking for other markets. Now, ultimately, we found those other markets in the Indo-Pacific but to be able to right that wrong and now enhance that close economic partnership again, especially for Australia's agricultural sector, is a huge achievement and something that I know all Australian farmers will be very pleased with when they wake up this morning.

Lane: When will all Australians be able to see and judge the benefits themselves? It won't be a decade or more really before we know whether this is any good.

Tehan: Oh, no. Our rice growers, our cane growers, they get immediate entry, entry into force, and I spoke to the President of the NFF last night and she said they're over the moon. So, there are plenty of immediate benefits which flow to our agricultural sector. Obviously, when it comes to beef and sheep, 35 kilo tonnes of beef will flow in from entry into force, 25 kilo tonnes of lamb will flow in from entry into force. So, there is real immediate benefits once we get the legal scrub fixed and once, hopefully, we get it through our Parliament and its right to start July 1 next year. And can I just take this opportunity to also praise the negotiating team led by Elisabeth Bowes. We have the best trade negotiators in the world and to work with them on this has been a real honour.

Lane: All right. The West Australian Premier Mark McGowan says the federal talk of conflict and trade retaliation in regards to China can and must stop. That the Federal Government should be more savvy using diplomacy to reset relations with China.

What's your response to that?

Tehan: Well, Sabra, I've sought from the moment I became Trade Minister to have a very constructive relationship with my counterpart in China. I wrote to him in January seeking the ways that we could work together and, and also expressing the view that where we couldn't agree, we could agree to disagree. Now, I'm still waiting for a response to that letter. Everything that we've said, as point of the fact, is that we think that the economic relationship that Australia and China has is mutually beneficial to both countries. We want to engage constructively and we want to make sure that both countries understand how important the trading relationship is between our two nations. And that's something that we will continue to advocate for, and we will continue to advocate for ministerial dialogue to try and resolve the disputes that we currently have.

Lane: Minister, thanks for joining AM.

Tehan: Thanks, Sabra.

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