Interview on Channel 9 Today with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: SA COVID-19 lockdown, China-Australia trade relationship.
19 November 2020

Karl Stefanovic: The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, joins us now from Adelaide. Good morning to you, Simon, thanks for your time this morning. Firstly, how are you all doing down there?

Simon Birmingham: Gidday, Karl. Look, these are a tough few days in Adelaide but, as the State Government's made clear, they’ve gone hard and early to make sure this is a short, sharp intervention, and that's what they need to be. They are calling it a circuit breaker, let's make sure that we all work and help to get the results that are necessary so we can get back to at least a COVID-safe normality as quickly as possible.

Allison Langdon: How are you feeling about six days lockdown?

Simon Birmingham: Look, it's always, it’s always challenging but, from a personal perspective, I know that I'm very fortunate in my circumstances — I have a backyard to be able to get out into. It's the people who don't live with other people, who don't have those sorts of spaces that I feel for, and that I certainly urge everyone to reach out to friends, to loved ones, to do it virtually, to do it remotely, but keep in touch and to be kind to one another.

Karl Stefanovic: Well said. Look, it's difficult isn’t it when, when also WA and Queensland, they were pretty fast to shut down their borders — it makes, it makes Christmas look a little bit differently. Are you hoping that those borders will still be open, given the severity of things in South Australia? Is that impossible? Is that feasible?

Simon Birmingham: I think it's entirely feasible. The State Government here has acted very, very quickly and very early in terms of containing and crushing this cluster in terms of the border- the restrictions that have been put in place. So I hope that the State Government here's success is fast, is rapid, and that they can ease restrictions here, and I hope that the states and territories who were so quick to put border restrictions in place will be equally quick to reopen them and enable families, loved ones, travellers to reconnect by Christmas and that we can get back to that track of normality. I think probably Christmas is one of the factors I'm sure in terms of why the South Australian government is working as hard and quickly and decisively as they can to make sure that they crush this as quickly as possible.

Allison Langdon: Well Simon, we’re thinking of all of you right now and good luck for the next six days. We hope it is only six days in lockdown. What are you going to do about China?

Simon Birmingham: Well look, I’ve seen of course the reports from overnight, I want to say a couple of things in relation to those. The first is that in areas like Australia's foreign investment laws in terms of our communication systems or our critical infrastructure, Australia, like pretty much every other country around the world, has rules and regulations in place to protect ourselves and our interests, to make sure that where we have foreign investment it's in the national interest. We apply those rules on the nondiscriminatory basis, we have them like everyone else, including China, and we make no apologies for that. Australians would expect us to have those rules, just as those in China or anywhere else would expect their national governments to do so. But in terms of the relationship, as you’ve heard me say many times, you know, we value the relationship, we want to and are open to having the dialogue to work through issues. And so we would urge that dialogue to happen, and not through anonymous drops of documents but instead through actually sitting down and talking.

Karl Stefanovic: So Chinese officials have been like those minor birds around you this morning — they’ve been chirping. They’ve said- they have said as you would’ve know — this is provocative language and its almost war-like — they’ve said quote: China is angry, if you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy. I mean, what is that?

Simon Birmingham: Well Karl, I'm not going to respond directly to what are unattributed remarks. I think what is important from the Australian Government perspective is that Australians know we’ve got Australia's interests and we will always put Australia's interests first. But that we also adopt the same, calm, consistent posture in relation to the value that we place on the relationship with China and our willingness to engage in mature, sensible dialogue — not tit-for-tat exchanges.

Allison Langdon: Well you know, unfortunately it sounds like nothing is going to happen — neither side is going to back down here. And you've got to feel for our farmers and industry groups caught in the middle of all this. It's a tough position, Simon, and as we said before though, you’re facing six days of lockdown, we’re thinking of you guys. Good luck with it.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much guys. Much appreciated.

Karl Stefanovic: Good on you, Simon. Thanks for being on the show again.

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