Sky News, AM Agenda

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australians detained in Malaysia; Parliamentary inquiry into the banks; Australia-UK free trade agreement; Tony Abbott trade speech in UK.
05 October 2016

KIERAN GILBERT: Let's go to the Trade Minister Steve Ciobo who joins me now. Mister Ciobo, thanks for your time. A lot to talk about. I want to start with the diplomatic incident with Malaysia. A government source told me this morning that the expectation is that these nine young men won't get any more than a fine. Certainly their families and friends would be happy if that was the case?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, that's obviously the ideal outcome I guess but ultimately we don't know. This is a decision for the Malaysian judiciary and the discussion for the Malaysian legal system. So we have to wait to see what happens because their circumstances like any Australian that is travelling abroad, is that they need to be part of the political system, or the legal system, of every country they're in. Not Australia's, so that's why it's hard sometimes to judge what's going to happen.

KIERAN GILBERT: And in your view a bit of fun, bit of harmless fun or a poor misjudgement in a foreign country?

STEVEN CIOBO: I think it's important that any Australian is always cognisant of where they are and the local laws that prevail when travelling abroad. A number of countries have different standards to the standards that we have in Australia and that's just part of the appreciation of the country that you are travelling in. So I think it's always important to be mindful of the local laws and customs and to try to, as much as possible, make sure you comply with them.

KIERAN GILBERT: The bank's hearing continues today. The ANZ boss Shayne Elliott to follow Ian Narev's lead. From what you heard yesterday, do you think that the committee asked the relevant questions and is this going to suffice to try and cool around the calls for Royal Commission.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, let's be clear Kieran. The only reason why the Labor Party's calling for Royal Commission now that they are in opposition is because they think that there is some political hay to be made. Bear in mind that the vast bulk of the conduct that is called into question occurred actually when Bill Shorten himself was Minister for Financial Services and when we actually came into government we, of course, established the Finical System Inquiry. Now, it was the Labor Party that actually stood opposed to us having that finical system inquiry at the time. The simple fact is that the so-called 'calls' for a Royal Commission into the banking system, only come from the Labor Party. And they only come in recent times. They're later date converts to this whole principal of having Royal Commission because when they were in government for six years, when Bill Shorted was Financial Services' Minister, he stood idly by. When we actually came to government - even preceding their calls for a Royal Commission - we established a Financial System Inquiry to deal with these sorts of conduct issues.

KIERAN GILBERT: But did it surprise you that no one from the CBA has lost their job over the various scandals that we've seen reported, documented in recent times?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think that you can have a closer look at what at what actually are the structures that are in place. Because it's not just about the CBA. It's also about subsidiaries that they might have an interest in or control of. All of these need to be taken into account. I think what's most important though is that people take responsibility. Now, depending on the size of the concern, and by that I mean the size of the complaint, people might say there needs to be some kind of change of duties or there needs to be retraining involved, those sorts of matters. I'm not going to be judge, jury and executioner in terms of the conduct that's undertaken or the way in which they go about correcting that conduct. What I do want to make clear though is that the Government has high expectations of the banking sector. The Prime Minister has made that clear on numerous occasions, as have the Treasurer and other members of the Government's Ministerial team. We expect banks to abide by good conduct. That's also the role of ASIC, as the enforcer in the area.

KIERAN GILBERT: And Minister your area of responsibility in trade specifically, I want to ask you about the comments of Tony Abbott, also Angus Taylor, yesterday in relation to saying that we should be at the front of the queue, when it comes to a free trade agreement when it comes to the post-Brexit UK. I know you are on the same page as them when it comes to supporting this as an idea. But can you give our viewers a sense this morning of what sort of timeline we would be looking at before we could secure a comprehensive FTA with the UK.

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure, you'd recall Kieran, I was in the UK a couple of weeks ago. I had the opportunity then to sit down with Dr Liam Fox my trade counterpart in the UK system. And I was pleased that, together, we were able to agree and announce a Joint Working Group to look at scooping out a level of ambition and other matters around the free trade agreement between Australia and the UK. Now ultimately in terms of the timeline, there are several things that need to happen. The first is that the UK government needs to present Article 50 to formally commence exit negotiations from the European Union. Now Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, indicated that's probably going to happen around about March. Once that's triggered in March, there's then up to a two year period for the UK to negotiate and formally exit the EU and at that point, in two and bit years' time, we'll be able to commence formal negotiations of an Australia-UK FTA. That is a free trade agreement. So I'm hopeful –

KIERAN GILBERT: So the talks can't start before that?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I'm hoping through this working group we'll be able to put and have some preliminary discussions around, what it might look like, what might be involved. But formal negotiations cannot commence legally until after the UK exits the EU.

KIERAN GILBERT: And part of this is not annoying our European partners on the continent either. Obviously very important investment and trade partner as well.

STEVEN CIOBO: Look they are, both the UK and the EU, more broadly are very important trade and investment partners for Australia. I visited both Brussels as well as the UK when I was in Europe, and it was an opportunity to re-enforce that Australia very much adopts the view that we want to have a good comprehensive trade investment relationship with both the EU and the UK.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now something Tony Abbott has also been reported to have said, he's denied it this morning incidentally, but I'll tell you what he said via Twitter. The SMH saying that he's been telling Tories that he has reasonable chance of returning to the Prime Ministership. This was said by the SMH this morning. Tony Abbott has said "as for unsourced, unattributed, unprofessional reports, the journalist is making things up". What's your take on all of that?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I take Tony Abbott at his word. He's made it very clear that it's unsourced and that it's made up. I take it at face value. I've no doubt that's the case.

KIERAN GILBERT: We're out of time, unfortunately, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo we'll talk to you soon.

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