Interview on Sky First Edition with Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: US-China trade; Malcolm Turnbull; Encryption laws.
03 December 2018

Kieran Gilbert: We'll turn out attention now to Simon Birmingham thanks so much for joining us.Let's get your reaction first of all to this cease fire between the US andChina. That's obviously good news.

Simon Birmingham: Well good morning Kieran, and yes, it is good news. It's good news inthe sense that it does calm global markets and we know that a prolonged tradewar and escalation of tariffs between the US and China would have dampenedglobal economic growth and that would have been bad not only for consumers andbusinesses in the US and China but ultimately for all nations in terms of thatslower rate of economic growth. So the fact that these talks have beenpositive, that there will be ongoing discussions, that there has been at leasta temporary truce in terms of an escalation of further tariffs; that's allwelcome news. We encourage the two nations to continue their dialogue andultimately to back an opening of economies and to stand against protectionism.

Laura Jayes: Scott Morrison says the biggestbreakthrough for Australia at the G20 was actually a breakthrough with the EU -is it unrealistic that an EU-Australia free trade agreement could be done byMay?

Simon Birmingham: Look, I think we can absolutely get all of the fundamentals done in avery short period of time. We have very similar approaches in a number ofareas. There are difficulties, but we can work through them. I'm positive andhopeful that on the back of the enthusiasm that Scott Morrison generated fromhis discussions with the EU as well as with the UK that we can get a trade dealwith the EU and with the UK when they're in a position to do so. This isimportant because it's about continuing to open up market access. You know,when our government was elected just over five - five-and-a-half years ago wewere in a circumstance where Australian goods and services only hadpreferential or tariff-free access to 20-odd per cent of markets around theworld. That's now close to 70 per cent and if we can get our trade deals doneand dusted with the EU and others, that's going to drive closer to 80 to 90 percent. So this is about ensuring that our farmers, our businesses have access tothe greatest number of markets in the world at the most cost competitive rates.

Kieran Gilbert: Malcolm Turnbull's latest intervention, he's said some further comments thismorning on radio and he's quoted in The Australian today as well along thelines of saying that people should not be capitulating to threats from MPs,i.e. Craig Kelly to quit the Liberal Party if he loses preselection, that theyneed to abide by the decision essentially of the party, the branch in CraigKelly's seat. This is Malcolm Turnbull's latest intervention; is he beingdestructive in these comments?

Simon Birmingham: Well look, firstly to the issue at hand. I'm not aware of any threatsthat have been made and ultimately Craig Kelly's pre-selection, who the Liberalcandidate is in Hughes is a matter for the New South Wales division of theparty to be settled in accordance with their rules, with their constitution.Obviously I'd always rather not be talking about internal matters whateverthose internal matters may be. Pre-selections are a function of party processesand that's something that all political parties go through in terms of who getspre-selected as a candidate…

Kieran Gilbert: But Malcolm Turnbull says he's just like any othermember, he's not is he? I'm a member of the Liberal Party and I can make my representations…He'snot just any other member?

Simon Birmingham: Well he can do that, like any other Liberal Partymember. Of course he does have a slightly larger megaphone.

Kieran Gilbert: And would you urge him to put it the way, thatmegaphone?

Simon Birmingham: Well I'd rather all of these matters by all memberswere conducted in private where they can be.

Laura Jayes: Well how important is the democratic process SenatorBirmingham? Should the democratic process go ahead as some of the conservativemembers have argued for, or is it right and proper for the Prime Minister ScottMorrison to intervene and save Craig Kelly?

Simon Birmingham: Well the preselection should occur in accordancewith the Constitution of the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party.That's it. It's up to the New South Wales division to manage their affairs. I'ma member of the South Australian division of the Liberal Party. We have ourrules and our Constitution in SA. They have theirs in New South Wales. Theyshould conduct their pre-selections in accordance with their rules and I seenothing to suggest that they're going to do anything but that.

Kieran Gilbert: Mr Morrison says that Labor is quite happy forterrorists to use WhatsApp, leaving the security agencies in the dark. That's abit rich, isn't it, given how strong Labor has been in bipartisanship when itcomes to national security. Penny Wong just yesterday said they are happy tocome up with some legislation by Christmas, by the end of this week, that wouldafford the national security agencies the powers they need. They just want somenegotiations, some discussion. If Mr Morrison is creating some sense that Labor wants to allow theterrorists to operate, it's actually quite rich for him to be making such a…

Simon Birmingham: No, not at all. We are now approaching the final sixmonths of this parliamentary term and as we enter this six-month period, you'reseeing from the Labor Party that they are willing to reject the advice of theAustralian Federal Police, reject the advice that ASIO and our securityagencies who have said very clearly that these powers are important in terms ofbeing able to deal with encrypted communications and that it's important to getthem in place quickly. Now the Labor Party is turning their back on that adviceof our security agencies. That's what's happening here and that's why this is areal problem and of course what people are seeing now as we get into that finalsix months of the election cycle, is that previously Labor's just followed theCoalition when it has come to our leadership on national security matters. Butnow as they think that they've a chance of winning - we all know that BillShorten is very cocky about his chances at the next election - they're not nowwilling to take the advice of those national security agencies.

Laura Jayes: Well Senator, Malcolm Turnbull says- has just saidon radio that the Government should be going to an early election. Is that somehelpful advice for you?

Simon Birmingham: Well the Government will have an election in thenormal course of events. As I just said, we're entering the final six-monthperiod, so from here on in we're in the normal timeframe for elections. Butwhat we want to see is an election held next year in the normal course ofevents and of course we'll be making sure that Australians understand that it'sgoing to be held off the back of a government that has balanced the budget,delivered strong economic growth, delivered record jobs growth. We actuallywill be going to the next election, standing on a record that Malcolm Turnbull,Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison all have played a huge, huge role in building andachieving. Our Government is not about any one person: it's about the policyachievements of the last five-and-a-half years: national security, stopping theboats, balancing the budget, record jobs growth, record youth jobs growth,ensuring that we lower taxes to households, income taxpayers, small and mediumsized businesses - there's a lot for us to take to the next election and we'llbe doing that next year.

Kieran Gilbert: Trade Minister, thanks so much for your time,appreciate it.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.

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