Interview with David Bevan, Stacey Lee & Nikolai Beiharz, ABC Adelaide Mornings

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Trade Delegation to Tokyo and South Korea, Energy Supply, Hydrogen, Critical Minerals, EV Batteries.

David Bevan, Host: Federal Trade Minister and South Australian Senator Don Farrell joins us now from Tokyo. Good morning, Minister.

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Good morning, David.

David Bevan: Minister, you are part of a – look, I'm going to fudge things a bit – a Federal–State trade delegation. Peter Malinauskas, Tom Koutsantonis and Nick Champion are also in Tokyo. You're there and it would make sense if you all work together. You've got a message for businesses both in Japan and then later this week in South Korea that South Australia is very keen for investment both in hydrogen but also in precious metals used for the next generations of batteries. Can you explain what is going on?

Minister for Trade: That is right, David. I guess the first thing that I'm keen to do from a Federal Government perspective is to say, “Look, there's been a change of Government in Australia over the last three or four months, but nothing changes in terms of our reliability as a partner to both Japan and South Korea.” They're both very big investment partners to Australia. And more importantly, the longstanding arrangements between the two countries for reliable supply of energy continues, but we want to broaden it out to not just the coal and the gas, but also for the renewable products of the future. That's what we're particularly talking about while we're up here over the next few days.

David Bevan: So, “You can trust us to deliver the coal and the gas to keep things turning over, but in the meantime, you want to change and we're here to help you?”

Minister for Trade: Look, that's a really good summary, I couldn't have said it better myself. I'm looking out over Tokyo as we speak. The first eight hours of energy on any day in Tokyo comes from energy supplied by Australia. They want to change to a zero-carbon emission future. We've got lots of the products that they're going to need to make that change. Hydrogen is one of them. Japan, earlier this year had the first shipment of hydrogen from Australia to Japan. They want to build on that. Obviously, South Australia has a role in that, as do other States and Territories. Critical minerals are also going to be very important to the creation of the electric batteries of the future. Generally speaking, Australia is one of the top suppliers of critical minerals, so they want to talk to us about that as well.

Stacey Lee, Host: And what is the process for getting those critical minerals needed for the batteries? Is that going to mean more mine sites popping up?

Minister for Trade: It's going to mean a lot more investment. I guess the difference between, say, iron ore and critical minerals like lithium is that critical minerals tend to be in much smaller deposits. We have a lot of them. We have the world's largest reserves of them, but they tend to be in smaller deposits. So, to extract them and get the maximum benefit, of course, we're going to need investment, and we're looking to particularly Japan and to South Korea as a source of that investment. We'd also like to do a bit of value-adding to the product so that we're not just selling the ore, but we're selling the upscale products that might come from those.

David Bevan: You also take a lot of encouragement from US President Joe Biden's decree that these precious metals, they're going to be bought by the US from countries where there are existing free trade agreements, which puts us in the box seat.

Minister for Trade: Look, you're dead right there, David. In the past I think the United States, Europe, and ourselves have probably put too many eggs in the China basket. We want to show that we can produce good quality and reliable supplies of critical minerals. What the United States have said is that, “Well, in the past we used to get all of these products from China. We now want to diversify our sources of these minerals. We're going to mandate that at least 40 per cent, rising over time to 80 per cent, of all these critical minerals come from countries with a free trade agreement with the United States.” There are only three countries that have both the critical minerals and a free trade agreement, and Australia is one of those. It's a game-changer. And when you take into account that California has just decreed that by 2035 all cars must be electric vehicles, then that's also a game-changer in terms of the supply of these critical minerals from Australia.

Stacey Lee: Minister, before we let you go, we've had a text from John saying the Japanese Grand Prix is on at the moment. The trip happens to coincide with that. Did the delegation meet with the Grand Prix boss over there about bringing it back to Adelaide? Did you?

Minister for Trade: Well, no, I haven't met with them. In fact, I didn't even know that it was on, but I bet you I know one person who does know, and that would be Peter Malinauskas. So, if he hasn't already planned a meeting, I'll suggest it to him.

David Bevan: Don Farrell, just to step back from all this, what's it like going on these high-power trade delegations with your former Shop Assistants Union colleagues? I mean, it's you, it's Peter Malinauskas, Tom Koutsantonis, Nick Champion. It must feel like a shoppers' union reunion.

Minister for Trade: Look, that's one way of looking at it I guess David. But growing up in Adelaide, we had a commitment to lifting the living standards of workers through the union movement - I guess we're basically doing the same thing for the whole of the State now. Peter's been a breath of fresh air in terms of the South Australian politics did and –

David Bevan: When you all get together for a drink at the end of the day, I don't know, at the Hilton in Tokyo, do you sit back over a glass of something and say, “Boys, we've come a long way”?

Minister for Trade: A glass of Diet Coke, David, while we're on the trip. Look, that thought does go through your head, but we're looking to the future, rather than the past. Each of us has got that commitment to improve the living standards and increase the prosperity of the people of South Australia, and we're very happy to be doing that.

Stacey Lee: Don Farrell, thanks for your time.

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