Doorstop interview, Virginia

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: TPP-11; Research grants; Religious freedoms; Charter flights for country MP’s.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you and thanks for coming along. It's great to behere at Pasture Genetics, a family owned business, and it's a livingdemonstration of how trade and market access through the TPP is going to make apositive difference for Australian farmers, Australian businesses, Australianresearchers, all of those who work so hard to ensure that we can grow oureconomy and create jobs and prosperity across Australia.

I'm thrilled to announce that today, Australia's HighCommissioner in Wellington has lodged notice with New Zealand as the depositoryfor information about the TPP and that Australia has completed all of thenecessary steps and processes to fully ratify the TPP.

What this means is that now six countries Canada, NewZealand, Mexico, Japan, Singapore and Australia, have come together to bringthe TPP into force. And we've done so in a way that ensures that commencingthis year, producers like Pasture Genetics will see the benefits of tariff cutsthis year and again on the first of January next year. The double benefit thatflows through in terms of tariff reduction and market access improvements thatthe TPP will provide.

This is outstanding news for our farmers and our smallbusiness who want to get out there and have a go at exporting more producearound the rest of the world. And we really do want to encourage business likethis one to seize the opportunities that are there.

This is the first ever free trade agreement that Australiawill have in place with markets like Canada and Mexico, and we'll see as you'veheard direct benefits in terms of seed being able to get into Mexico at a 15%cheaper rate. We'll have real benefits for our wine producers who will get intoCanada with a full elimination of tariffs on wine exported into that market.

You can see across the board in our services sector, ineducation in aged care, elsewhere that there will be improved opportunity forAustralian businesses and entities to be able to get in and offer a better dealfor our exporters.

I want to acknowledge the fact that the TPP would not havehappened without the work of many different people. Our liberal nationalgovernment stuck at it when the US pulled out. Donald Trump said no to the TPPand Bill Shorten said we should give up as a result of that but we didn'tfollow Bill Shorten or Donald Trump's lead, we got on with the job and thanksto the leadership shown by Malcolm Turnbull and Shinzo Abe in Japan at the timewe brought still 11 countries together to make sure the TPP happened.

This is a demonstration that our Liberal-NationalGovernment who over five plus years now has delivered improved market accessthrough trade deals with China, Japan, South Korea, the TPP and we continue towork at it in terms of with Indonesia, with Hong Kong, with the European Unionwith Latin American countries, we continue to pursue a very strong approach ofensuring we get the best possible deal for our farmers our business who will beable to get out there and export it. That's what people expect the LiberalNational Government to do. Get trade access and market access for our farmersand businesses so that the can get out there and sell more to the world and weare delighted that's what's going to happen now that the TPP comes into force.Questions?

Journalist:What qualifications did you have to reject 11 research projects thatwere already approved by an independent body?

Simon Birmingham: The law of the land requires the Education Minister of theday to approve each and every ARC grant that is made, so what hit my desk werehundreds of recommendations more than 99% of them I approved, a handful Irejected because I didn't think they presented a compelling case that was inthe national interest.

Journalist:Why do you know better than the experts that were appointed to awardthose grants?

Simon Birmingham: The law of the land requires the Minister to actuallyapprove grants. I approved more than 99 per cent of those presented to me. Butthose that I didn't think were in the national interest, wasn't sufficientlyconvinced of, I sent back and asked for alternative proposals.

Journalist:When you say you weren't convinced, were you worries about the subjectof the projects or the cost?

Simon Birmingham: I didn't believe they presented projects that were in thenational interest.

Journalist:So Dan Tehan said researchers must be told who rejects their projects,is that an admission that you lacked transparency?

Simon Birmingham: No I never thought to grandstand on the matter, I made thedecision, of course when asked at Senate Estimates we provided the answers.

Journalist:Dan Tehan also says the government is still considering exemptions toallow Anglican schools to fire gay teachers. What is there to consider?

Simon Birmingham: Look I haven't seen Mr Tehan's remarks in that regards. Iknow that Prime Minister Morrison has made it very very clear that we will berepealing from legislation provisions the Labor party put in that allow forschools to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexuality Ibelieve that's the right step for us to repeal those provisions and I lookforward to seeing that legislation come to the Parliament which I know issubject of ongoing discussions between the Attorney-General and hiscounterparts.

Journalist:So he's wrong you're not still considering those exemptions?

Simon Birmingham: ThePrime Minister's been clear in the government's position innegotiations between us and the Labor Party to ensure we get a consistentapproach that gives absolute certainty that no student in Australia will bediscriminated against on the basis of their sexuality and that we get rid ofthose provisions. That legislation will be brought to the parliament in duecourse once we have that agreement.

Journalist:I'm talking about teacher at school not students. Is the governmentactively considering those exemptions or not?

Simon Birmingham: Those provisions are there in legislation already, in termsof changes to be made to those there will no doubt be considered in the contextof [inaudible] Religious Freedoms Review.

Journalist:Mr shorten has been out today saying any Labor government wouldincrease the dole and out forward proposals to stop any multinationals avoidingtax?

Simon Birmingham: We are already yielding billions of dollars extra in thefederal budget because of our clamping down on multinationals. That is actionthat we've already taken and we continue to look and close every availableloophole.

Now Mr Shorten has got no firm proposal about what he plansto do with Newstart but what we've done is we've got 150,000 plus Australianoff of welfare. We've ensured that Australians are actually, more Australiansare in jobs, of course the best way to help people is to get more people intojobs. That's why trade deals like this one are so important because they allowus to grow businesses and in growing businesses to create more jobs and to getmore people off of New Start.

So Australia's national income is forecast to be $15billion greater per annum by 2030 as a result of this deal. That is billions ofextra dollars in our national income each and every year which of course isgoing to create more jobs, more people off welfare and more opportunities forour farmers and businesses.

Journalist:Just in terms of the TPP, obviously it's a win for regional, ruralAustralia. ABC South East SA has heard from the Member for Barker Tony Pasinthat safety fears have motivated him to charter a $6000 flight to Renmark fromMount Gambier said that he feared himself or another MP will be killed or killanother driver on country roads because their jobs required excessive roadtravel. Do you agree with Mr Pasin that are country MPs putting their lives andlives others at risk due to their jobs?

Simon Birmingham: Country MP's like Rohan Ramsay who represents more than 90per cent of South Australia have vast parts of the country to cover and that'swhy there is a budget to allow them to be able to get from one side of thestate to the other side of the state to engage in very small communities whodeserve to have their local MP turn up.

Journalist:So is it simply a case of occupational health and safety?

Simon Birmingham: I think there is a range of reasons why remunerationtribunal over the years has backed the fact that there should be a charterentitlement for those country MP's representing vast electorates allowing themto get from one side of Australia to the other side of Australia.

Media enquiries