Interview on Channel 7, The Latest with Michael Usher

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: UK trade
17 June 2020

Michael Usher: A free-trade deal between Australia and the UK could be finalised by the end of the year, making us less reliant on China. Negotiations officially begin later this month, and today Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson both released video messages throwing their support behind the deal.

[Excerpt]

Scott Morrison: It will mean more jobs, more growth, more prosperity in both our countries. It will also demonstrate the determination of both our nations to open, not close our markets, in the post-COVID era.

Boris Johnson: I want a world in which we send you marmite, you send us vegemite, we send you penguins, and you send us, with reduced tariffs, these wonderful Arnott's Tim Tams. How long can the British people be deprived of the opportunity to have Arnott's Tim Tams at a reasonable price?

[End of Excerpt]

Michael Usher: Alright. It's a good example. Look, for more on this, Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham joins me now. Simon, thank you for joining The Latest tonight.

Simon Birmingham: G'day Michael, great to be with you.

Michael Usher: It's got to be more about Tim Tams, even though that is a good example from Boris Johnson there. Just give me tangible ideas, perhaps one or two industries who are really going to benefit and the sort of jobs involved?

Simon Birmingham: Sure, so you know there's the success stories we have already - one in five bottles of wine sold in the UK is an Australian bottle of wine. But our wine faces a tariff, a tax, when it gets to the UK, whereas their competitors from Italy or France or Spain don't. We want to make sure that our wine, that does so well already, gets an even better deal. And we see huge opportunity in the services industries nowadays, in e-commerce and digital trade, these are big fast-moving parts of the new economy that particularly COVID has spread up somewhat.

Michael Usher: Let's be honest about this. How important is this sort of deal given that we're not friends with China at the moment?

Simon Birmingham: Look, this deal has been important to us all along, and some 67 million consumers in the UK – a high spending, G20 economy. It's not going to, though, replace the important markets within our region, but it's an additional choice that we can give to our farmers and to our businesses.

Michael Usher: A lot of hotels, hospitality industries, tourism operators are on their knees in this country - there's no doubt about that. They need some hope. What can you say to them tonight about any optimism this year? Given today I think you fairly burst a lot of bubbles saying it is unlikely Australians are going to be able to travel overseas this year, and vice versa I guess, travelers coming this way. Could you just help clarify that? And give some optimism?

Simon Birmingham: The international border restrictions are one of the key things that kept Australia safe during this pandemic, and will continue to keep us safe in the months ahead. And barring a vaccine coming along faster than anticipated, we're going to be keeping those restrictions there because we don't want to see the type of overflowing hospitals we've seen in Europe, or the type of mass graves we saw dug in New York, happen here in Australia. And we've done such an exceptional job; we've got to continue to keep people safe.

You know, as a country we spend about $65 billion heading overseas each year - inbound visitors are about $45 billion. So, we could comfortably replace the spending of people who would usually come to Australia with Australians actually holidaying around our country. And for those who can afford to do so and are in the fortunate position of having the security to do so, I would urge them to get out there, do your bit. You'll have an amazing experience, but you'll probably also help to save the small business or the job of Aussie tourism operators around the country.

Michael Usher: Now, the Victorian Premier started a war of words with your home state after suggesting no one wants to travel to South Australia. How do you feel about that?

Simon Birmingham: Look, I thought the comments were a bit pathetic and, I mean, Dan Andrews has got a lot of problems on his plate at present with the corruption in the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. South Australia has done the right thing out of those states that had closed their borders by giving a clear indication that on July 20, they will reopen. We want the other state premiers with closed borders to follow suit, and Dan Andrews should be welcoming and encouraging that, not criticising it or being petty about it.

Michael Usher: Alright. Minister Simon Birmingham, thanks for joining The Latest tonight.

Simon Birmingham: My pleasure, thank you.

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