Interview on Sky News Live, First Edition with Laura Jayes

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Free Trade Agreement with Indonesia; Australia’s Emissions Reduction Targets; Renewable Energy.
10 February 2020

Laura Jayes: Let’s go live now back to Canberra. The Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham joins us live now. Simon Birmingham, we’re about to see the arrival of the Indonesian President Joko Widodo. We know the FTA has been signed, it’s been in the works for quite some time – but what is it going to mean practically and when?

Simon Birmingham: Well, Laura, this is great news for Australian farmers, Australian businesses that our Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement will now come into force, I would anticipate around April or May this year once all the final little hurdles are cleared. But it passed the Indonesian Parliament at the end of last week just before President Widodo’s visit to Australia; it passed the Australian Parliament late last year. What does it mean? Well, it means for our farmers 500,000 tonnes of grain, 575,000 cattle, around 10,000 tonnes of oranges. It means that in terms of steal access to Indonesia that we have potential for tariff free access for the equivalent of about five Sydney Harbour Bridges. So huge additional market access for our farmers, for our businesses; in the services sector, education, tourism, health services all will have better access to that market. But strongly for Indonesia as well, easier investment flows between our nations and helping to really drive the Indonesian economy which we want to see prosper and succeed because that is so important to the stability of our region.

Laura Jayes: Climate once again the focus this morning. Can you be clear on this, will the government have a 2050 emissions reduction target by November?

Simon Birmingham: Well we’re working through a number of different plans here, a technology plan that looks about our emissions profile for the future and that is crucial. As everybody knows, has heard us say again and again, Australia has consistently met and beaten the target [audio skip] made in international agreements. And as we've said consistently, our commitment is not only to meet our 2030 targets, but to beat them and these technology plans will be crucial to making sure that we do beat those and preparing us for the [indistinct] 2050.

Laura Jayes: Sure. So that’s fine but the Prime Minister also went to the Pacific Islands forum, telling those Pacific nations that Australia would have a long-term target. We’re also seeing 80 other nations commit to a 2050 target of zero net emissions. Boris Johnson has called on other countries like Australia to do the same - so will there be a decision on that this year?

Simon Birmingham: Laura, in signing onto the Paris Agreement, Australia has committed to a net zero target for the world by the second half of this century, and we have to then work towards that, and we do that in the bite size pieces of what we can achieve to 2030. And my expectation is that we don’t just meet but we beat those commitments and we do so hopefully as overwhelmingly as we have in terms of the 2020 targets, if not even better. And that's why we lay out these plans, they enable us to update commitments and indeed, then to look further into the future as to what those long term commitments can be beyond 2030.

Laura Jayes: Are renewables the dole-bludgers of the energy market?

Simon Birmingham: No. Renewables are a crucial part of our new technology mix; renewables are now well and truly come in frequently as the lowest cost alternative in many projects, they are highly competitive in many parts of the world, and of course Australians have chosen to vote with their feet in terms of endorsing the placement of renewal of solar panels on their rooftops. But more generally, large opportunities for renewables to also fuel new technologies like hydrogen in the future.

Laura Jayes: Is it concerning that your Resources Minister of just a week ago, thinks that renewables are essentially dole-bludgers - is that why he’s no longer there?

Simon Birmingham: Well, he speaks for himself. I've got no doubt the Government's policies are to take a technology neutral approach that focus on how we achieve emissions reductions and that's what is crucial, that we well and truly exceed those 2030 targets, that we meet the Paris commitments, including playing our role in achieving that ultimate Paris goal of net zero emissions globally in the second half of the century.

Laura Jayes: Simon Birmingham, very brief this morning, appreciate your time. We will see Joko Widodo arrive at Parliament very soon. Appreciate it, thanks.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you, Laura.

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