ABC RN Interview

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: TPP-11, US visit, Tony Abbott comments.
22 February 2018

HAMISH MCDONALD: Goodmorning to you.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning. How are you?

HAMISH MCDONALD: We'll getto the issues of Tony Abbott in a moment. First though, let's talk about thecrux of why you are joining Malcolm Turnbull on this trip to the United States.Donald Trump recently hinted that he may potentially rejoin the Trans PacificPartnership if he can get a better deal for the US. In your view, is that goodnews for Australia?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, it isgood news. This trip seems the most significant delegation of Australianpolitical and business leaders, we of course have the Prime Minister, all thestate and territory premiers and chief ministers, with the exception of SouthAustralia and Tasmania attending, as well as a number of CEOs or chairmen ofvarious Australian businesses, and we want to reinforce strong linkages, thebroad investment ties and trade ties between Australia and the US. Of coursethe TPP-11, which the Coalition has championed, together with Japan, and seenthat come to fruition, is a critical way in which we can engage.

HAMISH MCDONALD: Would abetter deal for America, would that not mean a worse deal for everyone else?That's the nature of these sorts of multi-party trade negotiations.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well,actually that's not the nature of them at all. Let me just put that immediatelyto bed. The notion that trade deals are about one side winning and one sidelosing, is to completely misunderstand the nature of modern day trade deals.They are, actually, trade deals that produce win-win outcomes. They are tradedeals that aren't a zero-sum gain, so the simple fact is that you can actuallydo a trade deal, secure an agreement that sees all parties better off, as adirect consequence of the trade deal.

HAMISH MCDONALD: So inthat sense, you see it very differently to Donald Trump, who viewed it as aterrible deal for the United States?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look,the President made the comments that he made pre- his election; we weredisappointed that he took the decision to withdraw from the TPP, but we weren'tsurprised when it happened, given it had been part of his pre-electioncommitment. But that's part of the reason why the Coalition has been so focusedon continuing to make sure that we pursue, with great vigour, the TPP-11 andI'm so pleased that now we've seen it come to fruition.

HAMISH MCDONALD: Sure, Isuppose that leads us to the question though, can you convince a President thathas seen this is a fairly binary thing in which the United States was losing,to see that the broader win-win thing in which all the participants might havesomething to gain?

STEVEN CIOBO: Wellthey'll certainly try. And the objective here is to make sure that we canprovide as compelling a case for the United States to come back to the table.Not just Australia, but all eleven parties in the Trans Pacific Partnershipagreement have left the door open for the US to come back. The very structureof the TPP-11 also means that other countries can sign up to it in due course,if they so choose. We know there's a lot of interest from other countries to bepart of this TPP-11 Agreement, because fundamentally, everyone recognizes thata trade deal that sees common rules, lower barriers to trade, lower barriers toinvestment, is ultimately going to provide a more prosperous future, strongereconomic growth and more jobs for all of those countries.

HAMISH MCDONALD: Can wetalk about what's meant by leaving the door open to the United States? I notethat about 20 provisions have been suspended. Many of those are the sameprovisions that were demanded by the United States, and they include extendingthe intellectual property protections of pharmaceuticals, which would haveraised the cost of some medicines in this country.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, again,Hamish I'm sort of loathe to pull you up on that, but that's not an accurate summation.Just in relation to biologics, look, let's deal with the principles first.There are a number of suspensions that are in place, and yes, those suspensionsdo represent U.S. interests. Of course, we've left those in the agreement butsuspended them as part of the attraction for the United States, to look atcoming back into the deal. But specifically on the issue of biologics, no,Australia would never, the Coalition would never sign up to something that wasgoing to cause damage or harm to Australia's very well-functioning PBS, and ourMedicare system. That's the reason why I just wanted to pull you up on that aswell.

HAMISH MCDONALD: Fine, buton this question of the suspended components, I mean this is the deliberatestrategy to find a way for the United States to re-enter. It's worth notingthat there is this pressure from Republican Senators within the United States,on Donald Trump to move back towards the TPP.

STEVEN CIOBO: There is andI welcome that. I think it's terrific, that there is a body of opinion withinthe US political systems, as well as within their business lobby, thatrecognise that there are important benefits that will flow to the US andindeed, to the other eleven parties that are currently signed up for theTPP-11, by the US re-joining. So I remain hopeful that we can provide acompelling case for the US to come back to the table. I think if we succeededin that, it would be good for the United States, it would be good forAustralia, it would be good for economic growth and ultimately, that would begood for jobs for Australians.

HAMISH MCDONALD: One ofthe contentious components of the TPP, I mean I have the text, is labour marketregulation. Last month, when the deal was signed, you told Fran Kelly on thisprogram that you could be absolutely certain that could reassure your listenersthat there is no delusion of the Government's ability to regulate our labourmarket. There won't be an invasion of foreign workers who are unskilled orunqualified. But we've had confirmed from the text, is that an employer canbring in workers from half a dozen TPP countries without first advertising thejobs to Australian workers. How many workers do you think or do you expect willcome into Australia under this deal?

STEVEN CIOBO: We have seenover the years very few workers coming to Australia on the old 457 Visas fromthe TPP-11 countries. In fact, it was much higher under the former LaborGovernment than it's been under the Coalition. And-

HAMISH MCDONALD: Okay, butlet's do some analysis, what figures are you expecting?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I can,I mean, for example, if I think back to several years ago, we saw, out ofsomething like more than 50,000 applications that the numbers of applicationsfor this visa class from TPP countries, was around 200. That's 200 out of50,000. So again, I think it's important that we not get overly, sort of,blown-away rhetoric around all of this. The simple fact is that, and let's notforget this, this flows both ways. So this also means that Australian workershave the opportunities to enter into new markets, to take those skills abroad,to export those skills, to drive exports and wealth creation, for Australianbusinesses and Australian workers in other markets abroad as well. So –

HAMISH MCDONALD: Butthese, these arrangements won't provide an incentive for business here topotential grow that. Wouldn't it? I mean you must expect it to be more thanthat in the future.

STEVEN CIOBO: Of coursenot. I mean the simple fact is that this. and bear in mind I make this point,this issue of labour market testing, in the main, involves what are calledintra-corporate transfers, that is for those workers who work for a business inone country that's then looking at then relocating that worker to the samebusiness in a market, that's what actually most of this is in relation to. Soagain, we've got to make sure we deal with the facts, and not with a lot of thescare campaign frankly, that the union movement in particular, has bought intothe debate around this issue. So Intra-corporate transferees are a very bigcategory, but let's also remember that if you're an Australian business, you'regoing to hire an Australian worker first, if you can find someone. The cost ofdoing that is substantially less than trying to recruit someone from overseas,which is precisely the reason why as I said, when I last looked at thesefigures a little while ago was something like 200 out of 50,000. So thatactually speaks to what's happening in the marketplace.

HAMISH MCDONALD: Alright,I'm speaking with Federal Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, he's in New York, but Ihave no doubt that you've still managed to listen to Sydney talkback radio.Here's Tony Abbott speaking on it yesterday.

TONY ABBOTT: I thinkScott's problem is that he's been captured by his department. Let me repeatthat, that is Scott's problem. He has been captured by his department. Treasuryis always in favour of more migration. They're always in favour. He is the treasurer.He is echoing the standard Treasury view. But with great respect to both thetreasury and the Treasurer, his view is wrong.

HAMISH MCDONALD: That'sthe former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott talking about immigration and ScottMorrison's view of immigration and saying that the Treasurer has been capturedby bureaucrats in the treasury department. The Treasurer has pointed out thatthere would be a $4.5 billion hit to the budget. Tony Abbott firing back onthat. Steve Ciobo, how helpful is the contribution that Tony Abbott is makingto the Government's agenda right now?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, in ademocracy, I always welcome everyone's opportunity to put their two cents intothe debate, I think that's a big positive. And I think it's important fornational discussions that we tease some of these issues out. But let me alsosay that I could not disagree more strongly with Tony Abbott's comments. I thinkits great shame that we often see immigration and, in particular, immigrantshaving the finger of blame pointed at them on issues of say for exampleescalating house prices or depressed wages growth, I think that's lazy. I thinkit's highly inaccurate; I myself in terms of my own family history, am the sonof an immigrant who came to this country after the second World War with verypoor English skills, and now I'm Australia's Trade Tourism and InvestmentMinistry in Cabinet. That is just my story. One of the business leaders, who istravelling here to the United States with us, Anthony Pratt, again, the son ofan immigrant who came to Australia with not a lot of wealth and who built asubstantial business empire that now employs tens of thousands of people. Imean, the stories behind immigration to Australia, the wealth that it hasbrought Australia, the prosperity its brought Australia, not solely because ofimmigration, but they have certainly, those immigrants, have certainly played amassive role in that.

HAMISH MCDONALD: But ifit's both lazy and wrong is it irresponsible of Tony Abbott to connectimmigrants or immigration with the cost of living, house prices, lower crimerates? I mean these things affect how people think about other people in their community.

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, Ithink, as I said earlier, that we live in a free society, a democracy, peoplecan put forward their two cent's worth. But from my perspective, the story ofimmigration in Australia, the contribution of immigrants and their children toAustralia is completely, without any challenge, as being a positive one for ourcountry. The fact that arguments are made gives me an opportunity to rebutthem. For example, the suggestion that immigrants play a role in pushing uphouse prices is a palpably absurd statement to make.

HAMISH MCDONALD: So Tony Abbott doesn't know what he's talking about

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, theproblem with, well, he puts forth one point a view. The problem is housepricing in Australia, bear in mind too of course, the Sydney market doesn'trepresent house prices across the nation. I mean we've got some markets wherehouse prices are falling. In Western Australia, house prices are going down. Inother markets house prices are going down. The suggestion that immigrants arecausing that or causing Sydney prices to rise is clearly inaccurate. We arecontinent; we are a massive country in terms of geographic land space, and themodest increases in immigration, which, actually, increase aggregate demandacross the board, which helps to drive our economy, is a clear ability for usto continue to become more prosperous into the future.

HAMISH MCDONALD: Alright Steve Ciobo, we'll leave it there. Thank you verymuch.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good to speak with you.

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