Sky News with Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia-Vietnam relationship; tourism; Australia-China relationship, Western Australian Premier’s visit to China.

Kieran Gilbert, Host: The Trade Minister Don Farrell is currently on a visit to Vietnam as part of his ongoing engagement with our partners in the region. He started the visit in Hanoi and will kick off his first day of meetings in Ho Chi Minh City today. He's had some productive meetings already with the Vietnamese Prime Minister. I caught up with Don Farrell earlier.

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: I did meet with the Vietnamese Prime Minister and we're marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries this year. There are enormous prospects of improved trade and tourism relations with Vietnam. Just some of the areas are education, renewable energy - they're very interested in our critical minerals and our prospects with hydrogen - and, of course, our agricultural products are always very popular in Vietnam. In fact, as you know, we're trying to diversify our trading relationships. We've recently been in India and of course, Vietnam also offers great prospects of diversifying our trading relationship.

Gilbert: As you said, 50 years of relations between the two nations. My understanding is the Prime Minister will be also visiting, Mr Albanese, over the next couple of months. How would such a visit be received there?

Minister for Trade: If the Prime Minister came, he would be very well received. We have a very large Vietnamese population in Australia and many of the senior people in the Vietnamese government have got educational links with Australia. They've been educated either in Australia or by organisations like the RMIT, which have got a campus right here in Ho Chi Minh City and also in Hanoi. So, there are great connections between the two countries, and I think we're on the cusp of a major expansion in our relationship with Vietnam.

Gilbert: We've seen the air routes also expanding. We've spoken about the people-to-people links, but that tourism component, with VietJet opening up more and more direct flights into Australia, that's got a boost in terms of tourism numbers.

Minister for Trade: Look it will, it will Kieran. I had the pleasure of going to VietJet's office last night and we had a celebration of the three new flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Australia. One into Melbourne, one into Sydney and shortly one into Brisbane. They're even talking about direct flights into Perth and into Adelaide. So, what that does, is two things - firstly, it increases capacity, and to be honest with you, Vietnam is one of the countries where we are almost back to pre-pandemic levels with our tourism. So, it means a lot more people can travel both ways. It's also putting downward pressure on prices and that's the really important thing to get tourism moving again into Australia.

Gilbert: A Lowy Institute poll of Chinese Australians has found that 75 per cent of those Chinese Australians that were surveyed believe that Australia will act responsibly on the world stage. 60 per cent approval rating for Prime Minister Albanese. Is that encouraging to you as Trade Minister, as you pursue this thaw in relations with China that those Australians of Chinese heritage seem to be welcoming the government's approach on that.

Minister for Trade: Kieran, I think that's very good news for the future. Our objective here is to stabilise our relationship with China. We want to take the opportunity to remove those trade impediments that have caused so much difficulty for Australian food producers and wine producers over the last couple of years. I think that the stabilisation of the relationship points to a very sensible and stable relationship into the future with China.

Gilbert: And your visit, that's coming up, have you finalised the dates for that?

Minister for Trade: We're still in discussions. As you know, when I met with the Chinese Trade Minister a couple of weeks ago, virtually, he invited me to China. I immediately accepted his invitation. Since that time, we've made progress on some of the trade impediments, like barley. We hope to make more progress on the outstanding issues, but I expect that within the next couple of weeks, I'll be able to go to China and have that face-to-face meeting with my equivalent. You might recall when we did meet, virtually, he said that the freeze was over and we're moving to a warm spring, and of course, hopefully, by that time, it'll be a warm spring in China.

Gilbert: Indeed. Well, Premier McGowan is there at the moment. There's been a bit of a spat, he said of the Shadow Defence Minister, from the Liberal Party, Andrew Hastie, that “he swallowed some sort of Cold War pills back when he was born and he couldn't get his mindset out of that”. Andrew Hastie clearly has not appreciated that assessment, saying that the Premier is out of his intellectual depth. What do you make of the spat?

Minister for Trade: I'll leave that to the West Australian politicians to sort themselves out. I've personally got a very good relationship with Premier McGowan and of course, we are encouraging not only our own officials to go to China to try and stabilise that relationship, but also the State Premiers. There's a lot of things we need to do to stabilise that relationship and the more we can have that two-way person-to-person links, I think the better and the quicker we will get to that stabilised relationship which the government wants.

Gilbert: Trade Minister Don Farrell joining me from Ho Chi Minh City. Thanks for your time.

Minister for Trade: Thanks.


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