Sky News, AM Agenda

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Cyclone Debbie; Australia-China extradition treaty.
28 March 2017

KIERAN GILBERT: With us now is the Trade Minister, Minister for Tourism Steve Ciobo, a Queenslander, the state knows these sorts of storms all too well, but it has the potential to cause huge damage and particularly in the tourism industry, so dependent on that industry up there?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, that's exactly right, Kieran, I mean I grew up in far-north Queensland, cyclones unfortunately are part and past of life in that part of the state, people of course take precautions, they know the threats that they're always living against, but it's going to have an impact on the tourism industry, it's going to have an impact on people's livelihoods, hopefully we won't see any further loss of life and of course the Government's doing everything that it can, together with the State Government, to make sure that we're there to help people repair the damage and get their lives back on track.

KIERAN GILBERT: And as you say, having spent a lot of time up in that part of the world yourself, those affected are well versed in what they need to do and right now and for those who are watching us from that part of the world as well, we wish you all the very best, but it's basically just watch and wait now, isn't it?

STEVEN CIOBO: Precisely. At this stage, people have been battened down, they will have taped their windows and sealed off doors and those types of things, so they just ride it out now.

KIERAN GILBERT: I want to ask you about the debate around an extradition treaty with China. My understanding is that we have these sorts of treaties with dozens of nations with legal systems which would be comparable I guess in terms to China, even the UAE, for example, which still allows executions and so on of prisoners, so-

STEVEN CIOBO: Like the United States-

KIERAN GILBERT: Well the United States, but the legal systems, which are arguably worse than China's.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I mean look, this is a very straightforward exercise. The fact is this was an act of the Howard Government in late 2007. It was part of an arrangement we reached with China to allow for prisoner transfers from China as well and there have been people that have been brought back from China - Australians brought back to Australia - as a consequence. Now part of the arrangement was, that we would put in place an extradition treaty. You know, we want an extradition treaty with China. There's Chinese nationals who have or may commit crimes in Australia and we want to be able to bring them back to Australia to face the music so to speak here in Australia. There's a whole range of safeguards, I mean frankly, the arguments that had been put forward to not support this extradition treaty from those outside of the building and from some within don't stack up. All these arguments have been looked at by the Senate inquiry, they've been taken into account by the way that the legislation, the operation of the extradition treaty itself would work and that is to say that there must be safeguards in place. The Minister has discretion at all times and-

KIERAN GILBERT: So it's not an automatic extradition, as soon as-


KIERAN GILBERT: China requests someone, it's going to get through a number of hurdles.

STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely, and not only is it up to ministerial discretion, but it's also judicially reviewable. So if someone felt the Minister had not exercised his or her judgement in the appropriate way, it's judicially reviewable, so you know Kieran, frankly, the concerns that are being put forward are not legitimate concerns and in fact they actually go against Australia's national interest, where we have Australians who might be subject to charges in China or something like that-


STEVEN CIOBO: Who are the ones we want to bring back-

KIERAN GILBERT: The Crown employees for example, there were three Crown employees. There's also the UTS professor, who's been a teacher at UTS since the mid 90s, an Australian resident, he's currently in limbo in Guangzhou, so these cases would be materially affected potentially if we don't ratify this treaty.

STEVEN CIOBO: Look I think potentially you're exactly right. And more importantly as I said, they are straw man arguments, they don't stack up, they've been assessed, safeguards are in place and so therefore this extradition treaty should go through.

KIERAN GILBERT: Now my ... I've been told, government sources have told me that Mr Abbott when Prime Minister, actually gave the green light to President Xi Jinping during his visit to Australia, that he was going to push for the ratification, now he's arguing against that.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look I'm not going to provide gratuitous commentary on what Tony may or may not have done. What I talk to is the fact that there are safeguards in place, it's judicially reviewable and that people's concerns that have been put forward are effectively straw man arguments.

KIERAN GILBERT: And that includes Tony Abbott's argument this morning, he'd be very cautious he says, given the state of the Chinese legal system.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well you know, there's a lot of instances around the world, where we have extradition treaties in place, I mean the fact is Australia understandably has one of the best legal systems in the world. It was a gift to us from the Westminster system from English common law. We've now improved on that, we've got, of course, influences from the US as well, not every country is going to have a legal system as solid and sound as ours. But we still need to talk about our national interest-

KIERAN GILBERT: But we're talking about dozens of other nations, where we have treaties, where you've got comparable legal systems. That's the point to China.


KIERAN GILBERT: So why would there be an exception for China.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well you'd need to make these questions ... You need to ask these questions of those who stand opposed. I'm saying to you that they are straw man arguments, they don't stack up, safeguards are in place-

Media enquiries