ABC SA Late Afternoons with Emma Pedler

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia China Trade, Southeast Asia Economic Strategy, Enrolment for the Referendum.

Emma Pedler, host: The big news you might have heard, our Premier here in South Australia, Peter Malinauskas is en route to China tomorrow with a company of about 40 others in business, university and government, a delegation to try and repair many parts of the State's relationship with China, with trade at the top of that list. Don Farrell is the Minister for Trade and Tourism and joins us now. Good afternoon to you.

Minister for Trade: Good talking with you, Emma.

Emma Pedler: Thank you for your time today. How much power for change does the South Australian Premier have, do you believe, in relation to trade between China and Australia?

Minister for Trade: He's the Premier of the State, and when it comes to relationships with our Chinese counterparts, Premiers count in that system. He's obviously going up there to continue the job that both myself, the Prime Minister and Penny Wong the Foreign Minister, have been doing to stabilise our relationship with China and return back to a normal trading relationship - all of those trading arrangements that we've had in the past. When we came into office about 12 months ago, there was almost $20 billion of trade impediments with our Chinese counterparts. We've managed to reduce that to about $2.5 billion, so a big drop, but still a lot of money to go.

A couple of those are really important ones for South Australia. Wine and lobster have been two of the industries most badly affected by the bans in China, and anything that the Premier can do to get those bans lifted and to get wonderful Australian food and crayfish back into the Chinese economy will be very good news for South Australia.

Emma Pedler: We obviously saw that big change in August, fantastic news for grain growers when trying to drop the Australian barley tariffs. How has that changed trade relations?

Minister for Trade: Look, that's been very, very good news and very well received. I was in Perth last week, and we saw off the first of the shipments of barley in almost three years back into China. Obviously it was a lot of barley going back in, but also the prices were much better. The week before the price for barley had been $300 a tonne. On that shipment of 40,000 tonnes, it was $370 a tonne.

The two states that were most badly affected by the ban on barley were Western Australia and South Australia, and I'm looking forward to seeing the first shipment of South Australian barley back into China, which I'm sure is going to happen very, very soon. There's a great demand, a pent up demand in China for our barley, and we want to get as much of our wonderful product back into China as we can.

Emma Pedler: I know beef's been impacted as well, hasn't it? We've got some growers obviously in outer parts of South Australia, outback areas, and also on more of the South East side, some more beef growers out that way. How close are we to, I guess resuming markets, do you think that we could be?

Minister for Trade: Oh, Emma, look, I don't think we're very far away at all. There are different issues depending on the particular product. In the case the wine, the issue is the tariffs, the 220 per cent tariffs. We want them removed. In the case of beef, they are biosecurity issues which have been raised by the Chinese Government, and our agriculture department is working through those issues as we speak, and I would be very confident, particularly in the lead‑up to further meetings, that both myself and the Prime Minister will be involved in, in China later this year, that we can resolve all of those outstanding issues.

Emma Pedler: So you are going to be joining Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on that trip?

Minister for Trade: I'll be in China. I'm not sure what his travel arrangements precisely will be, but I'll certainly be in China in November, and I will be meeting with my counterpart again. I've had three meetings with him over the last nine months. They've all been good, warm meetings, and as I said before, we're gradually resolving all of the outstanding trade issues, and I'd be very keen to resolve all of those ones, particularly as they relate to South Australia, like wine, like lobster, like hay and the beef that you were talking about earlier.

Emma Pedler: You mentioned there your Chinese counterpart. I think is that Wang Wentao?

Minister for Trade: Yep. That's him.

Emma Pedler: Yeah. So I believe you actually even extended an invite to your family vineyard in the Clare Valley. Has there been an acceptance of that invite?

Minister for Trade: Yes, he's very keen to come, he's confided in me that he absolutely loves South Australian red wine, and he very quickly accepted my invitation to come and visit the beautiful Clare Valley, which I hope to be in on the weekend when I get back from Canberra.

Emma Pedler: It's a good sign, isn't it, if he enjoys the red?

Minister for Trade: Well, look, it has to be a good sign, doesn't it, Emma? So I took it that way. It was a very positive sign, and in fact I gave him a bottle of cabernet that we produce on the vineyard, and he was very excited to receive that as a gift.

He said to me, "I've been to Melbourne, I've been to Sydney, where shall I go?" I said, "Well, look, come to South Australia, come to Adelaide, come to the Clare Valley." And he said, "Okay, well, I'll do that." So hopefully we'll pin down a date for him to come, like all of us he's got a busy schedule, but he's certainly keen to come, and I'm certainly keen to receive him. I've spoken with the Premier and the Governor, they'd be both very excited to welcome him, remembering that the Governor was formally a very fine Australian Ambassador into China in years past.

Emma Pedler: We know that trade is being further explored with Southeast Asia. We did hear the Prime Minister making some promises to significantly expand those trade relationships over the next 17 years. Do you think that that could ever replace the need for these strong trade ties with China?

Minister for Trade: Look, it won't replace the need for a trading relationship with China. What it does do though is give us some diversification. The policies we've adopted since we've come to Government, is not to reduce our trade relationship with China, in fact as I've explained, we're trying to get the range of products back into China. Our objective is to give us some alternatives to diversify our trading relationship.

So what that means is keep our trade with China, and just remember this, Emma; in the last 12 months our trade, two‑way trade with China was $299 billion. So more than all the trade we do with Japan, Korea, United States, Singapore, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom put together. So a huge amount of trade.

But we're under‑done in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is our closest neighbour, we don't do enough trade with them; the Philippines, a growing economy, young people, we don't do enough with them; Thailand, Vietnam, similar story.

So what we're going to do is we're going to put boots on the ground in all of those countries to try and boost our trade opportunities with those countries, so that we have an alternative to China, we have a diversified relationship. And over time we're going to build up that relationship to make sure that our wonderful food and wine in particular, but also our mineral products have got diversified markets to sell into.

Emma Pedler: And I guess potential growth, isn't it, then for the future?

Minister for Trade: When we came to Government last year, we had a deficit of $70 billion. We've managed to turn that around into a surplus of $20 billion in this Budget. One of the key contributors to that was trade, and what we know is already, one in four Australians work in a trade‑related industry, but they're also high paying jobs. So a combination of, you know, good terms of trade, and the job opportunities - it's a really good story. I'm very hopeful that the Premier and the group that he's taking with him will be able to increase even further that trading relationship and get it back on to the even keel that it should have been right from the start.

Emma Pedler: Let's see if they can sneak in a case or two with them.

Minister for Trade: Let's hope they can.

Emma Pedler: Finally, before I let you go, we are speaking with Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell. On a side note, the writ for the 2023 Referendum was issued by the Australian Electoral Commission now to vote for The Voice to Parliament. What does this mean for voters?

Minister for Trade: I was actually at Government House with the Prime Minister, the Governor‑General, and the Australian Electoral Commissioner on Monday to witness the signing of the writ.Of course it's the first writ that's been issued for 24 years, the last one of course was the Referendum on the republic back in 1999, so it's been a very long time since such a writ has been issued. It's the starting gun for the Referendum on 14 October.

What it means is that people have got until 8 pm on Monday to get themselves on the roll. We're certainly encouraging as many people as possible to get on the roll, and then the processes of the Referendum will proceed in the same way that it would ordinarily proceed in a Federal Election. So everything that you're familiar with in a Federal Election will be taking place between now and 14 October.

Emma Pedler: Well, thank you for explaining that. Hey, before I let you go, we've been talking about circuses and going to see the circus when we were young. Did you get to go to the circus when you were a youngster?

Minister for Trade: Well, once or twice I did. When I think of a circus, I always think of the Adelaide Show and the side shows there, which is almost like a circus. The weekend before last, I took my grandson along to Spook, which is I think the equivalent of what we would have thought of as The Ghost Train, so ‑‑

Emma Pedler: Ah, yes.

Minister for Trade: I still get frightened, as he did, on that one. I'll tell you what I did see, I was talking to one of my cousins from Port Lincoln the other day, and she showed me a photograph of the harbour master's house in Arno Bay. My great grandfather had been one of the early harbour masters at Arno Bay, and so that's a treasure photograph which I've not seen before. So there we go.

Emma Pedler: What's your grandfather's name?

Minister for Trade: His name was Edward Barnes. His son, Doug Barnes, lived in Port Lincoln, and when I was a kid, whenever I got under my mother's feet, she'd send me over there to spend some time with him. He ran, for a while he ran Safcol, and on one occasion he woke me up at about 2 o'clock in the morning, and said, "Do you want to see the sun come up on Venus Bay"? And I said, "No thanks", and he said, "Well, get out of bed" and he put me on this truck, and I can't remember how many hours that it took to go from Port Lincoln to Venus Bay, but just as the truck was coming in to Venus Bay, up came the sun, and it was one of the most delightful views I've ever had in my life, and I can still remember it to this day.

Emma Pedler: Just before they made you load the fish on the back.

Minister for Trade: Just before we put all the prawns ‑‑

Emma Pedler: There you go.

Minister for Trade: Yeah, deep sea prawns.

Emma Pedler: Beautiful Venus Bay prawns. Well, Don Farrell, thank you for your time today, and being so generous with that and sharing this conversation with us this afternoon. Have a great day.

Minister for Trade: Same to you, Emma.

Emma Pedler: Good on you. Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism.

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