Sky News AM Agenda interview

  • Transcript, E&OE
North Korea, China, Trade, Citizenship, Same Sex Marriage, Energy Crisis
05 September 2017

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now, the Trade Minister Steve Ciobo, and as I said,really, if you're talking about stopping trade with those that trade with NorthKorea, you're talking about one country, aren't you? That's China.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I mean, look we've got to wait and see ultimately whathappens on the Korean Peninsula because clearly things are very dangerous atthe moment and it's quite clear that North Korea continues to pursue a courseof action that's reckless, and of course threatens millions of lives potentially.In terms of trade, it's in no one's interest for there to be a trade war. It'snot in Australia's, it's not in China's It's not in the Unites States'interest. We are, of course, applying trade sanctions against North Korea aspart of a suite of sanctions we've got in place to try to put as much pressureon that regime as possible.

KIERAN GILBERT: But you, you were just in China last week. You know how importantthat relationship, in an economic sense, is to our country. If there were to bea shutdown of trade between the US and China as part of the fallout of thisNorth Korean crisis, that would be diabolical. Wouldn't it? It would have, youknow, security implications as well potentially.

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure, I mean the Productivity Commission undertook a study tolook at what the implications of a global trade war would be, and no surprises,Kieran, the implications would be that the world would go into recession andwe'd see thousands of jobs lost. The impact on economic growth of course, wouldbe gruelling. But that's why I reinforce, nobody wants that outcome. For me, asAustralia's Trade Minister what I've been focused on making sure is continuingto open up more and more trade opportunities for Australian exporters. The moremarkets we open, the more diversified our trade mix is, the better that is forour country because it means we can mitigate the risk that flows from justdealing with one particular market…[Interrupted].

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you think sort of the mutually-assured destruction, as we sawin the cold war, has been replaced by this mutual dependency in an economic sensebetween China and the US? That those around Trump would be smart enough atleast, advising him to say look don't turn down this path because it will havea huge blow back on us.

STEVEN CIOBO: I don't think that the President is of a mind to unilaterallystart a trade war. What I'm focused on, want I know the world is focused on ...certainly China is putting in its best endeavours with respect to North Korea.They're putting a lot of pressure on North Korea. The United States, as astraight rule, have sanctions in place. The United Nations Security Council'sput sanctions in place. We don't want to go down a path where we actually havetrade implications because that's not good for anybody. So what we need to makesure we do is work out a pathway forward that places pressure on North Koreabut still not recognising the fact that today, countries economies' are moreinterconnected than they've ever been. And so, you cannot adopt an approachthat's going to put in place trade walls because all that those trade wallswill achieve, will be to slow down your own economy as much as anyone else's.

KIERAN GILBERT: Let's look at a story out of the High Court today and suggestionsthat the Government might have to look to a plan C if the postal survey isknocked out by the High Court and the problem is there is no plan C, is there?There's no option. You know we could go through with a dozen you're in ... bigproblems internally, aren't you?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look, we are absolutely focused and committed to holding ...We wanted a compulsory attendance plebiscite, and we took that to the Senate.The Labor Party said 'no' on two separate occasions so we have the postalsurvey, which is in the field at the moment. We'll be at the stage where theHigh Court, we are very confident, will find that yes there's appropriations inplace, yes, that can be done, and we're confident about that.

KIERAN GILBERT: And if it's not though, it's diabolical for the Government - internallythere's so many very forceful opinions on this and it really could split theparty if you don't get this dealt with.

STEVEN CIOBO: I mean you're asking me about this assumption, that assumption.What if this happens? What if that happens? I want to make it clear, is we tookto the Senate on two separate occasions our preferred course of action, whichwas a compulsory attendance Plebiscite -

KIERAN GILBERT: It was knocked down by the Senate and knocked out by the HighCourt, potentially. We have to wait for the judge-

STEVEN CIOBO: We will know in the next little while, but all the legal advicethat we've had makes it clear that we are on very solid territory.

KIERAN GILBERT: Bill Shorten provided his evidence yesterday that he'd renouncedhis British citizenship - that ends that furphy according to Labor, and now putsthe heat on your ministers again.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, not really. What it shows is that Bill Shorten is a manthat's more preoccupied with playing silly political games than he is withactually trying to provide any real direction. I mean, Kieran, the question isthis. Bill Shorten has had this document presumably for years, certainly formonths, so why engage in this silly game he had going for weeks and weeks andweeks? I mean, the Australian public know this guy is shifty. I mean why wouldyou participate in this course of action?

Shorten could've released that document weeks, if not even a monthor more ago, I mean he didn't - why? Because this is the whole point, he's sopreoccupied with playing silly games on the floor of the Parliament rather thanactually providing any kind of leadership at all. I mean, we are going tocontinue to focus on what we know Australians care about that's why we'retalking about energy, that's why we're talking about North Korea, and meanwhilewe've got the Australian Labor Party rocking into question time, rocking up toParliament playing these kinds of foolish games -

KIERAN GILBERT: Labor would argue that Mr. Shorten sought to make a statement onNorth Korea to start question time yesterday but was precluded from doing so bythe Speaker.

STEVEN CIOBO: Not at all. The simple fact is that there was indulgence thePrime Minister spoke to it, Labor could've spoken and asked questions about,but they don't, instead they ask questions about citizenship. I mean, we havethe biggest threat to the Korean Peninsula in more than 60 years and the LaborParty is just mute. I mean this just demonstrates an Opposition that as I said iscompletely obsessed with political games and not actually focused on reallyimportant issues, whether it's family household budgets, whether it's energyprices, or whether it's something as complex and potentially threatening as theNorth Korean escalation that's happening right now around nuclear weapons. Imean, Labor I just think they betray their own people by refusing to engage onmatters of substance.

KIERAN GILBERT: In relation to the other story that's front page of "TheAustralian" today on the energy crisis, are you comfortable that thegovernment's got a way forward here in terms of expanding the capacity ofcoal-fired power stations already in operation? Because, according to this AEMOreport, which is going to be released later in the week, there is a base loadproblem here, in terms of base load power over the next 10 years, with a numberof power stations being closed.

Is there room, first of all, to keep them going for longer? And,secondly, possibly to expand some of the power stations already in place?

STEVEN CIOBO: Sure. Well, I guess two points for this. The first is that thisarticle today is speculation. And, so I just highlight that, because notnecessarily what's in the report, it's speculation of what might be in thereport.

But, the second point goes to the issue that you raise, whichabsolutely, is a genuine concern. We are continuing to see more and more of thebase load generation from coal-fired power stations slip out of the system.Now, that's part of power stations slip out of the system. Now, that's part ofthe reason why this government is acting so strongly on this matter. Because,we cannot allow a situation to occur where you lose more and more base loadgeneration, the constant, stable supply that comes from coal-fired,coal-powered stations. Because, that impacts our industry, it impacts onemployment, it impacts on economic growth.

KIERAN GILBERT:Well, in terms of the next few tobe phased out. Liddell by 2022 and Vales Point, both in New South Wales, we'rehearing those closures would have a much bigger impact than Hazelwood, forexample, which was a hit to the sector, so how do you provide those incentivesto keep them going for longer?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, this is what we need to do, and this is why we have theFinkel Report. This is the great work that Josh Frydenberg's doing. This ispart of the reason why, as a government, we acted very decisively on Australiandomestic gas, as well. Because, we need to make sure there's gas in theAustralian domestic system, because that ultimately has a big impact on powerprices.

So, we are doing a lot to repair the damage that Labor left. Imean, we've seen, over the last week, Labor has finally conceded that they werewarned about the impact of the policies that they take in terms of gas exports.They ignored those warnings. We are now fixing that.

We see, for example, in South Australia, the consequences of thestate Labor Government that says, "We couldn't care less about base loadpower generation; we're just gonna go renewables."

And, we've seen the intermittent supply, the lack of consistencyin South Australia. Even in Queensland, on a federal level, Labor stillmaintains this policy that says, "We're gonna have 50 percentrenewables." No explanation at all about how they're actually gonna ensureconsistency of base load power supply.

KIERAN GILBERT Now, just finally, getting back to one issue ... We touched onthe citizenship matter ... I should ask you. Have you sought reassurance aboutyour own heritage and citizenship?

STEVEN CIOBO: I've been asked this question a thousand times. As I made clearevery single time, I absolutely am 1000% certain I have no issue about Italiancitizenship whatsoever.

KIERAN GILBERT: Thank you. Appreciate it Trade Minister

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