Interview on ABC Radio Adelaide, Breakfast, with Ali Clarke
Ali Clarke: I don't know if you're going to be tucking into some South Australian rock lobster for brekkie, but certainly there's tonnes of it reportedly stranded on a tarmac at a Chinese airport. Our Senator, Simon Birmingham, is Minister for Finance, Tourism and Trade. Good morning, Senator Birmingham.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Ali. Nice to be with you.
Ali Clarke: What do you know of this? And is this the next step in the ongoing trade dispute that we're having between Australia and China?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Ali, for a few days now we've been getting reports from industry that a number of shipments of Australian Rock Lobster, to China, have faced delays and additional screening, in terms of their entry into China. Some cargos have cleared, so this hasn't been a full blockage or stoppage, but certainly there have been sufficient delays in the industry given the high value and short shelf life of these sorts of products, has decided to suspend for a period of time some of these exports while we try to get a better understanding of exactly what these new import screening processes that China has put in place are, and to make sure that they can be cleared in a timely way product that needs to be get- [indistinct] it's declared possible.
Ali Clarke: As Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, have you spoken to your Chinese counterparts, to work out exactly what is going on here? Or is that not done?
Simon Birmingham: No, Ali, it's well known that my Chinese counterpart has not been too willing to take calls, or engage in direct Ministerial level dialogue, but our diplomatic and agriculture officials have both been at work on this, trying to help the industry in terms of understanding precisely what sort of new checks are being put in place. If these are checks that industry can work with, well of course the Australian industry will then get on and work with them and resume the trade as quickly as possible, we would hope.
Ali Clarke: Given, as you mentioned there, these tensions – you know, and beefs being caught up in it, barley – there's people in South Australia are waiting to find out what is happening with wine. Are you any closer to finding out if tariffs on wine are going to be brought down?
Simon Birmingham: That's subject to a process in China. We are closer in the sense that that process is an ongoing one and it's reaching a point where we would anticipate that there may be some interim decisions made in the next little while. But, on all of these issues, there's clearly been a heightened risk, in terms of doing business in China and trade with China this year. But, it's of concern to us as a government - it certainly gives many exporters from Australia now pause to consider the risk factors that come with doing business with China, and it's why our diversification agenda in terms of creating new opportunities in other markets around the world is so important, so, that businesses can make that decision in terms of the risk versus reward ratio.
Ali Clarke: In a moment, we'll continue this with a representative from the Southern Rock Lobster Group. But just quickly, Simon Birmingham, you're also Federal Minister for Tourism. Has the South Australian Tourism Commission made your job harder by the recent cancellation of things like the Super Loop, the Adelaide 500, and now, unfortunately, things like the Tour Down Under not being able to go ahead?
Simon Birmingham: Look, in terms of the Tour Down Under, it's entirely understandable, given the number of Europeans who have to enter into the country, that it's just impractical to operate that event in its normal way next year. It's unfortunate, but I think everybody can see and understand the rationale as to the fact that you wouldn't have had the premium riders bringing teams, all of those subjecting themselves through the type of quarantine processes that, coming from such highly infectious regions of Europe as many of these teams do, we would all obviously expect them to go through. The Super Loop, I think that is an understandable economic decision that you ask me as Tourism Minister - well, all of the data seems to point to the fact that it had declining visitor numbers, declining return. And so, the challenge for the state is to make sure that it reinvests in terms of its tourism, its events, and I think our state has been doing a good job in the reopening and attracting visitors' interstates I hear from many operators, and it needs to keep that work going. Internationally, we've obviously got many challenges ahead until we can manage to actually open up the borders again.
Ali Clarke: Well, how do you then see tourism driving events playing out in South Australia, or Australia even, next year? Trying to get people here to this country?
Simon Birmingham: Well we won't, sadly, have people coming to this country for much of next year, Ali. I wish that it were easy to say that we'd be throwing open the borders and running all of the events in the usual way. We hope that events that can be geared towards the domestic market can be more successful, and we hope we can get to the point where we're welcoming New Zealanders and maybe other visitors during the course of the year. But, it's still going to be a very tough year for tourism businesses who are dependent on international visitors. And it's why we're increasing our spending, promoting the message of holidaying here in Australia this year, and really urging visitors to - not just take a short weekend trip away, but to actually think about taking proper holidays across Australia where they get out, book experiences, book tours, take a couple of weeks if you're in a position to do so, have that international holiday at home and you'll discover some amazing parts of our country. And this message will be spreading increasingly as states do reopen their borders, which we've seeing further good progress in recent days on.
Ali Clarke: Ok, thank you very much for your time, Senator Simon Birmingham, Minister of Finance, Tourism and Trade there.
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