Interview on Sky AM Agenda with Laura Jayes and Kieran Gilbert

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (A HKFTA); One Nation.
26 March 2019

Simon Birmingham: [start of audio] … boutique distilleries will be able to, in there with mutual recognition arrangements, in terms of product labelling and guarantees, that they can easily get their products into the many small bars and hotels across Hong Kong. So a lot of upside here and it's about continuing to grow what is a record trade surplus that our government is able to deliver underpinned by record exports last year and all of that is what's fuelling the record employment across our economy.

Laura Jayes: You will need future FTAs with the European Union and the UK as well, but looking at where Brexit is at the moment does a no deal, a slow deal, or May's deal, does it matter to Australia what form it takes?

Simon Birmingham: We have taken very much a belt and braces approach to the unknown possibilities of Brexit to make sure that we are ready as a country to have free trade agreement negotiations with the UK if they leave the EU. But we already have FTA negotiations underway with the EU, in fact the negotiating teams are meeting in Canberra this week as we're meeting and signing this new deal with Hong Kong, our teams are working on the next deal with the EU. Ultimately, Brexit and how it's resolved is a matter for the UK and the EU to sort out between themselves, but we've done everything we can to protect Australia's interests under any of the possible eventualities and what we want to make sure is that in the end under whatever trade deals we do with the EU and or the UK, that we actually increase the access into those critical markets for Australia. Because the EU, whether it's with 27 or 28 member nations, is Australia's second largest trading partner.

Kieran Gilbert: But the EU now subsequently with looming agreements with the US on beef and other things, that would put our exporters at a disadvantage wouldn't it?

Simon Birmingham: There are certainly some risks in terms of immediate decisions that could be taken that we may well see a deal between the EU and the US that's driven by a range of historical factors that could limit some of our beef exports into the EU. That's something that we're still waiting to be briefed on, to actually get information direct from the EU or the US but we have been advocating hard to protect the interests of Australian beef producers there. We equally want to make sure that in the UK market, if there is a no-deal Brexit, it appears as though we may have a large increase in our quota for chilled beef as a result of that. So there can be swings and roundabouts depending on what occurs in relation to Brexit. Our long term interests will best be served by doing what our government has managed to do with China, Japan, Korea, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Peru, with Indonesia, now with Hong Kong and that is of course ensuring that we actually settle and negotiate a comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement with the EU and with the UK in whatever guise their future trading relationship between each other is. We want to get more market access for Australian farmers, for Australian small businesses, because it's by doing so that we can build on what is now a record trade surplus that Australia recorded last year, a $22 billion dollar trade surplus, record levels of Australian exports and that's what helps to underpin the record jobs growth that we've seen across Australia.

Laura Jayes: I hate to bring it to a sour note but One Nation, a story has come to light this morning how One Nation has sought the help of the NRA, the National Gun Lobby in the United States. It sought donations. Steve Dickson has boasted on tape saying that he was able to weaken Queensland's gun laws under the Newman Government. He's made racist comments, he was coached by the NRA how to respond to any mass shootings if they occurred here in Australia. It's really time now for the Coalition to say One Nation is last.

Simon Birmingham: Well it's time today for Pauline Hanson to front the cameras, front the cameras and answer directly the question, did she sanction One Nation going to the US and seeking $20 million dollars in foreign donations? Does Pauline Hanson sanction a weakening of Australia's gun laws in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. Does Pauline Hanson believe that it's reasonable to on the one hand go and seek millions of dollars of foreign donations while pretending in the Australian Parliament to be against foreign donations?

I mean frankly we know already that when it comes to migration policies, when it comes to trade policies, that One Nation is a risk to our nation. And this is just another reminder of the way in which those sorts of parties are a risk and we will fight very hard between now and the next election to encourage Australians to reject extremism in all its forms. To reject the extremism of Fraser Anning, reject the extremism of One Nation when it comes to their cultural policies to their migration policies, frankly to their trade policies as well, where they would close the shop on Australia and it's those type of extremist economic policies that One Nation also has in common with the Greens, who have extremist trade policies in terms of closing the shop for Australia in terms of also advocating for extremist high taxes and the like, and Australians ought to reject all of those types of extremism whether it's economic or social.

Kieran Gilbert: As Laura mentioned there though in this meeting with the NRA, James Ashby and Dickson receiving briefings as well, it's extraordinary, it's a sting by Al Jazeera incidentally for our viewers who haven't seen this particular story, but they're listening to this advice on how to respond to a mass shooting as basically a local representative of the gun lobby and this is the briefing they're receiving from the NRA, it's actually quite disgusting.

Simon Birmingham: So it is it is quite sickening Kieran and that's why Pauline Hanson ought to front the cameras herself today and answer whether or not she supports those types of actions. Does she frankly believe that we should be weakening our gun laws. Does she think it is at all responsible to be talking about how it is that you strengthen or how it is that you weaken gun laws in the face of massacres like what occurred in Christchurch. The Liberal Party is very proud of our history as a party in partnership with the National Party, under John Howard's leadership, in leading the world in terms of how you respond to such tragedies by strengthening gun laws. And we applaud Jacinda Ardern for following that historical lead of our party when we've been in government when we've responded to such tragedies, no weakening of gun laws under us and we've also been the party that has legislated for a ban on foreign donations and yet there you have Pauline Hanson flouting that proposal for a ban on foreign donations, flouting Australia's tough stance on gun laws.

Laura Jayes: I accept that but Minister is the government going to be complicit in giving Pauline Hanson a leg up at this election if you don't preference her last in every single seat. The government is essentially giving you some kind of legitimacy isnt it?

Simon Birmingham: Well I'm quite confident that we will be rejecting extremism in all its forms in the way we urge people to vote at the next election. Now, we've got to actually see in the end who actually nominates I mean I'm sure you'd be telling me that we should be putting Fraser Anning below Pauline Hanson if it comes to it, if he has candidates running in any different seats. Let's actually see who nominates the Prime Minister has been very clear there will be no deals with One Nation, we will make sure that we argue against extremism and as I said in all of its forms and that's got to include not just those extremist elements that could fracture our society but also those that can fracture our economy like the policies of the Greens as well..

Laura Jayes: Minister Birmingham thanks so much for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you guys.

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