ABC News Breakfast with Lisa Millar

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Wellington hostel fire, visit to China visit, Australia-China trade relations.

Lisa Millar, host: The big story we're following this morning is this fire in a hostel in New Zealand's capital Wellington that broke out just after 12:30am local time. Australia's Trade Minister, Don Farrell joins me now from Parliament House. Minister, good morning, we are going to talk about your trip to China, but all eyes at the moment are on Wellington. When might we get any idea if any Australians are involved here?

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Nice talking with you Lisa. It's obviously a terrible tragedy that's taken place in Wellington this morning. We're trying to get as many details as we can about what's happened, and in particular, whether any Australians have been involved in this terrible fire. So, as soon as we've got that information, we'll let you know.

Lisa Millar: All right, thanks Minister. On the China trip, it was hailed by many, including your own office, as a success, but all the tariffs remain in place still. What do you say to the seafood exporters, the wine exporters, when might we actually see the benefit of your trip?

Minister for Trade: It was a warm and friendly meeting. A candid meeting, where we explained to the Chinese government the damage that was being done to the people you've just mentioned and some others. It's my job to get these trade impediments lifted. We're well down the track of setting up processes to do that, Lisa. We've reinvigorated our free trade agreement and it has steps in it that allow us to process all of these outstanding disputes. With barley, for instance, we're just a few weeks away from a decision which I'm hopeful will be a positive one that will ensure that our barely producers get back into the Chinese market. Already cotton and copper are getting back in, and we believe that the process with barley should be the process that we use to resolve the issue in respect of wine. So, bit by bit, step by step, perseverance, persistence, we'll get the result we want.

Lisa Millar: Well, I understand you gave your counterpart in China a bottle of your own wine from your vineyard, so let's hope it was good and it's going to win him over. But will we see the rest of it, you think, by the end of the year?

Minister for Trade: Look, I'm hopeful that we will, Lisa. We've set up the process now for dealing with all of these issues. We didn't have a process before this, we've now got one. There seemed to be genuine warmth and a willingness on the part of my Chinese counterpart to go down the track of resolving these issues. So we're heading in the right direction. Of course, time will tell, but I believe that there's a willingness on the part of the Chinese government to now resolve these trade impediments.

Lisa Millar: Okay, what about the human rights issues? Did you raise them? Especially the case of Cheng Lei, the Australian journalist who's now past the 1000 day mark of being held captive. Are they just as willing to discuss that?

Minister for Trade: I put the case as to why those two people currently subject to arrest in China, should be released. You can't think of anything worse in the case of Cheng Lei, that she missed another Mother's Day with her family and her children. We are pushing the case. Of course, these decisions are subject to Chinese law, but every time we get the opportunity to get in front of a Chinese Minister, we push the case for the release of these Australians.

Lisa Millar: Did the military announcements from Australia play into any of the conversations - the beefing up of our defence, the submarines, AUKUS?

Minister for Trade: It didn't Lisa. As a federal government, our job is to ensure the national security of our country. We make decisions which we believe are in our interests, our national security interests. But none of those issues were raised by my Chinese counterpart.

Lisa Millar: Don Farrell, thanks for joining us this morning.

Minister for Trade: Thanks Lisa.

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