ABC Radio National

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Bill Shorten’s Attack On Free Trade.
08 September 2016

MARIUS BENSON: Steve Ciobo, Bill Shorten says there are fears of some, and they are not imagined, about free trade. He says he's not against free trade himself, but there needs to be fairness. Are you critical of that Bill Shorten view on trade?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well the problem with Bill Shorten's speech today is that he's essentially dog whistling around free trade. He makes the claim that we need to be wary of free trade agreements that threaten jobs or have actually destroyed Australian jobs. Well here's my challenge to Bill Shorten: name one. He needs to name an agreement that Australia has gone into, a free trade agreement that he says has threatened Australian jobs or destroyed Australian jobs. I guarantee you he won't be able to name one, because this is nothing more than a political stunt on free trade by Bill Shorten, and consistent with his approach of making statements that are simply not backed up by fact.

MARIUS BENSON: Surely it's self-evident that free trade has brought benefits and it's brought costs. If you look at Australian manufacturing, Australian textiles, Australian steel-making, the lowering of protection barriers has resulted in the loss of jobs locally. That's the down side.

STEVEN CIOBO: No, the simple fact is that free trade agreements drive national prosperity. It drives an improved standard of living. We saw Australia now with 25 years of continuous economic growth, one of the fastest improvements in GDP growth in the developed world. We see Australia continue to forge ahead at a time when other countries around the world are struggling with economic headwinds. And we're doing it not solely, but in large measure, off the back of improved market access around the world which is driving Australian exports.

MARIUS BENSON: There is also disruption that comes with that free trade that local industries do close and are reduced.

STEVEN CIOBO: But that requires a measured, rational, and calm explanation. The simple fact is that Bill Shorten is trying to appeal in a slightly more sophisticated way than the baseless campaign we saw from the CFMEU who ran disgraceful attack ads against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. This is a slightly improved version of that kind of misleading campaign. So my challenge very clearly to Bill Shorten today is this: Bill Shorten needs to name a free trade agreement out of the 10 that Australia has, Bill Shorten needs to name a free trade agreement that he says is delivering the outcomes that he claims. The simple fact is that Bill Shorten won't do that. He won't name one of the 10 free trade agreements that Australia has, which covers 72 per cent of our exports, because it's not about facts for Bill Shorten, it's nothing more than scare-mongering, I should say, and playing to base instincts, which frankly he should know better than.

MARIUS BENSON: That is Steve Ciobo, the Trade Minister speaking to me from Brussels.

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