Interview on Channel 9 Today Show with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: COVID cases in SA; China-Australia trade relations
16 November 2020

Karl Stefanovic: Well let's bring in Tourism and Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, who joins us now from Adelaide. Minister, good morning to you. These fresh COVID cases in your state are a strong reminder we can't afford complacency right now?

Simon Birmingham: You bet, Karl, they are. It's a message for everybody - if you have the slightest symptoms, go and get tested. We've got to take it very seriously in terms of the need to test so that then our systems can do the good work of tracing and isolating people.

We've seen that New South Wales and Queensland have been able to stamp out these types of small outbreaks and what we need to see is that South Australia can do the same thing. I'm sure the resources and systems are there, as your previous interviewer was saying. But it really is a reminder and a message to everybody: if there are any symptoms at all, go and get tested.

Karl Stefanovic: It's beyond belief to me that there is another breach in hotel quarantine, given what happened in Victoria. I mean, you must be scratching your head? You must be searching for answers? Everyone is.

Simon Birmingham: Well we have seen, indeed, we saw I think we saw in New South Wales previously, one of those innocent cases of transmission out of hotel quarantine. In this case it appears that, I think, it's related to potentially a cleaner in these systems. And so, it's crucial and it's why I say it's absolutely crucial that people are alert to any signs of symptoms and go out and get themselves tested, because there are - these risks that exist right across the system, and it's why we cannot be at all complacent.

We can't pretend that borders alone keep us safe, we do have to make sure that testing, tracing, isolating, that has done such a cracking job in New South Wales and in Queensland where they've had outbreaks, applies right across the country.

Karl Stefanovic: WA has gone alright, and you guys from South Australia are quarantining - is that too heavy handed do you think? Or spot-on?

Simon Birmingham: I think it's a little bit early to be making those calls. I mean, what we need to do is make sure that South Australia's response is comprehensive in terms of how quickly they move to isolate people; and, to date, we do know they have isolated large numbers of people. The contact-tracing operation is already very, very large, and I'm certain there will, yes, probably be more cases and many more isolations to come. But that doesn't mean that it spirals out of control like Victoria. We want is a New South Wales-type response here where it is absolutely isolated and quarantined as quickly as possible.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay. The Government has just signed the largest ever free trade deal in history in a bid to repair broken trade relationships. What's the point though, Simon, of a trade deal if China doesn't play ball anyway?

Simon Birmingham: Well, this is an important trade deal because, at its core - and the people who led it and drove negotiations are the 10 South East Asian nations, the ASEAN nations that include some of the real tiger economies of our region. And so, we want to seize growth opportunities in them from an economic and a trade perspective. We also want to support their leadership in our region - they are a central pillar for stability across the Asian region.

And so, it's an important deal, it brings together nine out of 10 out of Australia's existing largest trading partners, but many of those in South East Asia with the real growth potential for our businesses and exports.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay. Beef, wine, barley, lobster producers; they're desperate for news on all of this. Tell me, Simon, tell me at start of this working week you've finally heard from your Beijing counterpart?

Simon Birmingham: I wish that were the case, Karl. Look, our position remains the same. We are willing to have that dialogue and engage in discussions with China. We do want to see these types of regulatory disruptions stop; they're deeply troubling and they're causing pain to Australian businesses. Importantly we want to see is that China not only live by their various agreements and undertakings it makes, but also by the spirit of them. Right now, we're concerned at both the breach of spirit, but also the breach of letter of those undertakings in a number of ways.

Karl Stefanovic: Okay, Simon. Sounds like your Beijing counterpart is messing with our audio this morning so we're going to have to leave it there. We appreciate your time today, my man, and go forth and go well. Thank you, Simon.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks Karl.

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