Sky News, AM Agenda

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Cyclone Debbie recovery, free trade agreement with India, housing affordability.
11 April 2017

KIERAN GILBERT: The Queensland and Federal Governments are announcing a multi-million dollar campaign to help the tourism industry recover from Cyclone Debbie. Let's go live to Hamilton Island and the Tourism and Trade Minister. Steven Ciobo, joins us. Now, Hamilton Island, among other areas reopening just in time for Easter Minister and also receiving additional support – how bad is the damage there?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look Kieran since I've arrived I've had the chance to speak to local operators and it's fair to say the Whitsundays is bouncing back. You know, they're a pretty resilient mob here in North Queensland. I've been speaking with George Christensen, the local Federal Member. Getting a good summary of events on the ground and the main message is to say to Australians; if they're taking their Easter holidays, if they're going to take their winter holidays, there's no better to place than the Whitsundays and it's a great way to show support for the 10,000 or so workers that are employed in the tourism industry here in the Whitsundays.

KIERAN GILBERT: And what detail do you have in terms of the Federal and State Government support for the industry and the region more broadly in the wake of Debbie?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, we'll be making an announcement a little later on today – an opportunity to talk about how the federal and state governments are getting behind the Whitsundays but suffice to say Kieran, we want to make sure that this is a region that's really back on their feet. One of the best ways we can do that is by getting the message loud and clear to all of you that the Whitsundays is open for business again. You know with 10,000 people employed in the local area it's very important to make sure that the tourism industry gets the support they need in terms of extra resourcing for marketing as well as some support in terms of making sure that tourism infrastructure – famous icons like Whitehaven Beach and others which will need some support and some work done to them – we want to make sure that can happen. So I've been working very constructively with George Christensen and others to make sure that happens.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now onto some other matters the Prime Minister is in India at the moment on various matters including trade. Looks like the free trade agreement with India is not going to happen anytime soon. Is our best way forward on this front having that regional comprehensive economic partnership which involves, I think it's about seventeen countries including China and India?

STEVEN CIOBO: You know Kieran; you make a very good point which is that, what we want to make sure is we put in place really good trade deals and not just racing to trade deals just to get them done. I want to make sure that I am promoting Australia's national interest. Now right here and now the fact is that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or what people call RCEP, looks to be the best vehicle to take Australia's national interest forward. 16 countries involved in that – ASEAN countries plus Australia, New Zealand, China and India. So it's more than more of 50% of global population, more than 30% of global GDP – that is a concrete pathway forward for Australia and it runs in parallel Kieran to the work that I'm doing with, for example Indonesia, I'm making sure we put in place a comprehensive economic partnership with them before the end of the year.

KIERAN GILBERT: It's interesting right now while we've got the protectionist sentiment out of the White House – out of Beijing it's very different isn't it? We've heard that as recently as the Premier Li Keqiang visit to Australia.

STEVEN CIOBO: I welcome the fact that China will continue liberalisation of their marketplace. I welcome the fact that we'll see continued liberalisation in terms of investment as well. We've got some great outcomes under the Coalition, Kieran. I mean not only did we put in place the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement notwithstanding the most disgusting campaign that we saw from the trade union movement that was basically supported by Bill Shorten and the Labor Party. We also only a couple weeks ago got increased beef access to China. We've put in place a committee now to break down those non-tariff measures between Australia and China. I noticed that the Shadow Trade Minister made some remarks about how Australia should be doing this, that or the other about trade and the need to keep selling trade to the world. I mean this is coming from the Australian Labor Party, from Jason Clare the Shadow Trade Minister, who are running around in cahoots with the CFMEU and others talking down trade deals, talking down foreign workers saying how they are a problem for Australia. I mean the problem here is the Labor Party says one thing in one forum and a different thing in another forum and Australians see straight thought it.KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, I want to ask you around access for superannuation for first home buyers. Tony Abbott the former Prime Minister said he believes it's a good idea, why not allow people if they want to use their money in this way? The fundamental problem though with it, is it not – that economists like Saul Eslake and others, John Daley from the Grattan Institute, have pointed out – it would simply drive up prices more unless commensurate supply is afforded?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well you hit the nail on the head in terms of supply Kieran. The fact is that with a country the size of Australia with a population of 23 or 24 million people, the suggestion that there's anything else at play other than false supply-side constraints is frankly, I think, not plausible. The fact is that what causes problems around housing affordability in Australia today is false constraints on the supply-side. We are a massive country, we've got a relatively small population compared to not only near neighbours but countries all around the world, the reason why prices here are so high is because we've got state governments and in particular councils as well who are increasing supply so much that it can't keep up with demand. I mean that's the fundamental problem.

KIERAN GILBERT: Steve Ciobo there live from Hamilton Island it really is God's country. I wish them all the best as well in their recovery and Minister thanks for your time.

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