Interview with Laura Jayes and Kieran Gilbert, Sky News
Laura Jayes: Now the Trade Minister Simon Birmingham joins us live now. Minister thanks so much for your time why is this trade agreement so good for Australia?
Simon Birmingham: Well good morning guys, apologies the visual link is not working. This is a great agreement for Australia and for Indonesia but for Australia it gives much stronger access for a range of different goods and products, if you're a farmer, it means that we can get more grain, more beef, more horticultural products such as carrots or potatoes. If you're working or running business in manufacturing it means we can get more steel rolls, more copper cathodes into Indonesia and if you're working indeed in the services sector in education in health, in mining services, financial services, telco, in all of those areas that again improves and increases the market access. What that means is more Australian businesses can export more, can do more business in Indonesia with lower barriers being able to do so and at less cost to them more to consumers in Indonesia.
Kieran Gilbert: Can you reassure the opposition and the labor movement generally that the labour market testing is appropriate and that it won't preclude Australians from jobs that they would otherwise have access to?
Simon Birmingham: I can, in fact I can tell them that there is no new, no additional labour market testing waivers created as a result of this agreement compared with what is already in place and what we've seen from the ACTU at present is just shameful scaremongering and frankly they are betraying the interests of Australian workers because the proof is in the results over the last few years as we have struck trade deals with countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and the TPP. Jobs growth in Australia has been enormous. We've seen around one point two million additional jobs created in Australia in that time frame and this is just going to provide more opportunities for Australian farmers and businesses to export more, to do more business, to create more jobs and I find it remarkable that the union movement is criticising something that actually will see more jobs, better opportunities for Australian businesses and workers.
Laura Jayes: Minister what did you tell your Indonesian counterpart about the slated embassy move in Israel?
Simon Birmingham: Well our messaging has always been consistent in that regard to the Prime Minister's made extensive statements that have outlined the terms under which any embassy move would occur, and first and foremost there is a two-state solution that means the creation of a new Palestinian state and a settlement...
Laura Jayes: This was also a red line for the Indonesians though and this is what was delaying the move so have you given any private undertaking that that won't happen?
Simon Birmingham: Our messaging is the same in private as it is public, Australia's policy position is consistent and clear in that regard. But I'd say that in terms of the last few months there's never been a question of if this deal will be signed, just discussions about when was the best time that we would be able to do so, and when would be mutually convenient. That's because it's recognised it's not just delivering all these types of benefits I outlined before for Australia, but also real benefits for Indonesia, the fact that our education providers are going to have more access to provide skills training here in Indonesia to help Indonesia who have half of their population is under the age of 30 and its skilling task is enormous and so our businesses, our vocational education providers, our states are going to have the opportunity to help skill their workforce and to help grow Indonesia's economy. Indonesia is currently the 16th largest economy in the world but it's forecast to grow potentially to be the fourth biggest and that means huge extra upside and opportunity for Australia and through this agreement we're getting in at the ground level to be able to be a part of that growth.
Kieran Gilbert: You would concede that the relationship between the two nations, the economic ties are underdone and quite dramatically and this hopefully will change that. But why has it taken so long for this to eventuate given this enormous market on our doorstep?
Simon Birmingham: You're right Kieran, given the proximity of Indonesia and the scale of the Indonesian population and the economy, our relationship is underdone, but what we've seen is that under President Widodo there's a real focus in terms of how to modernise the Indonesian economy, how to grow it and that's why he, working closely with then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, was so committed to start negotiations again to get this agreement done because it really can deepen the ties between our two nations, not just economically and in a trade sense, but also guaranteeing that we actually grow into the future all of our other people-to-people ties which enhances our cultural understanding, our diplomatic links, our security connections, driven by that increased business interactivity and trade relationship.
Laura Jayes: These trade agreements are never set and forget, looking at the China FTA now it's delayed a scheduled upgrade in that agreement, the reasons given were that officials were too busy but they weren't too busy to upgrade the same type of agreements with Chile and New Zealand. Why do you think this treatment is being given to Australia and have you sought an explanation?
Simon Birmingham: I think people often seek to jump to conclusions, I've had similar questions to that about indeed issues New Zealand has been facing in their relationship with China recently and that's a matter between New Zealand and China. Between Australia and China, we continue to see record volume and value of trade between our two nations and when we both can we'll seize the first available opportunity to work to upgrade and deal with any of the other issues in relation to the China Australia FTA. But that been a big big win for Australia and I trust this Indonesia deal will do likewise.
Kieran Gilbert: A quick one, the Labor Party Opposition received a letter from Treasury which seemed to suggest that there was no modelling done around the Prime Minister's plans to create one point two million jobs over the next five years is this a pledge made in hope as opposed to science or modelling?
Simon Birmingham: This is a pledge based on the fact that the proof is in our policies, that over the last five and a half years, having promised to create one million jobs, we've created around 1.2 million jobs, in doing so we have created record growth in youth unemployment, we've seen female workforce participation at its highest levels ever. These are great accomplishments and under our policy settings we are confident that we will continue to grow and deliver that jobs growth, we're also certain that under the Labor party's $200 billion of extra taxes, jobs growth will well and truly be threatened, economic growth will be threatened and Australian retirees, homeowners and others will be paying much more tax.
Kieran Gilbert: Trade Minister we appreciate your time, live from Jakarta.
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555