Sky News - Interview with Peta Credlin

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: PAFTA, JAEPA, ChAFTA, TPP-11, US visit, Deputy Prime Minister, Gold Coast, federal election, trade agenda and globalisation.
19 February 2018

PETA CREDLIN: Well, earlier today, I spoke with Trade and Investment Minister, Steven Ciobo, on Australia's recent free trade negotiations and the positive impact already being felt by Australian farmers and growers following recent deals with China, South Korea, Japan, the TPP, and of course, now Peru. Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, thank you for joining me today.

STEVEN CIOBO: Thank you.

PETA CREDLIN: I will get to your portfolio, but obviously the only question that's been on everyone's lips at the moment, particularly after those extraordinary press conferences Thursday and Friday, is the relationship between the Prime Minister and his Deputy, Barnaby Joyce. Today, there are real questions about whether Barnaby Joyce can survive, or indeed should he survive; and whether the relationship, if they can survive and work together, will actually be a positive relationship between the two very senior leaders of the Coalition. Where do you stand on this issue? Should Barnaby Joyce go?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, Peta, as you know, the gift of leadership of the National Party is determined by the National Party room. I'm not going to start commenting on what the National Party themselves are going to no doubt, according to media reports, be chatting about or at the very least considering. That's a decision for them. What I will say about the relationship between the PM and the Deputy Prime Minister, is that clearly, they brought forward their respective points of view. They sat down on the weekend; they had a frank conversation. I think that's a positive thing. We all know, in any relationship where people can sit down and speak openly and frankly, is a relationship that, at its core, is strong. I think that's a big positive, and quite frankly, Australians will make up their mind based upon the results of this Government. We are delivering results that are good for households, good for their budgets, good for their pockets, and most importantly, good at creating jobs.

PETA CREDLIN: This morning in the newspapers, there was a briefing. I'd say a leaked document in relation to a letter from Barnaby Joyce to the Prime Minister, regarding his charter letter. To viewers, that's a letter that goes to the Prime Minister regarding portfolio splits, responsibilities after the recent re-shuffle. It goes only between two offices, yet it was in the paper. We've seen the Prime Minister's no sex with staff ban, Steven Ciobo, but certainly this is something where, why don't we have a ban against leaking? That's been one of the most damaging aspects of this government.

STEVEN CIOBO: That's the holy grail in politics, isn't it, Peta? I think. I think a ban against leaking, I think that's been around since time immemorial. Look, the simple fact is that where this has come from, no one knows. Why it's done, who knows. The simple fact is this. These are two men, who have a strong track record of working together; and as I said, ultimately, for all the navel gazing that takes place, what Aussies really care about is 'Is it going to be easier for me or my kids to be able to get a job?' This is a government that's helped to create 403,000 jobs in the last 12 months, three quarters of which have been full-time, 1,100 jobs a day. Their track record is firmly on the record, and people can see what, as a Government, we've been able to achieve. I think that's what matters.

PETA CREDLIN: One more question. Today was news poll. It's a bad result. I would expect it would be a bad result after the last few days, of course; but it's the 27th straight loss for the Prime Minister. He made that a test. You've been in the Parliament since 2001, so 17 odd years. You're also in a very safe seat. If you look at that poll today, you being opposition, would you run for the leadership in Opposition?

STEVEN CIOBO: Peta, we're getting well and truly ahead of ourselves. Let's deal with the first thing. You described me as being in a very safe seat. No seat is safe. I mean, in politics today, what you need to do is demonstrate to the electorate, over and over again, that you are a strong advocate for them and that you are delivering for them. In my electorate of the Gold Coast, I've been fortunate. I'm Tourism Minister, we've been able to provide as a Government, record tourism funding; and as a consequence, we are seeing record number of tourists, staying for a record length of time, and spending a record amount of money. I've also been really pleased we've been able to invest in infrastructure in my community. So these are the results that people are looking for in order to determine where they decide to put their support. Of course, I'll always be hopeful they'll put their support behind me. I'm not even going to start canvassing what's going to happen post-election. I mean, let's just focus on the next 12 to 15 months, before the next federal election. I'm going to make sure I am out there selling this government's achievement, and also making it very clear why people cannot afford to risk Labor. The immense damage that Labor will do. The fact that a Labor Government, led by Bill Shorten, will see unemployment, I believe, creep back up. We'll see unsustainable increases in budget deficits. We'll see the total burden of government debt skyrocket. I mean, Australia just cannot afford to take a risk with someone like Bill Shorten.

PETA CREDLIN: Okay. Well, let's just get into the trade portfolio. You followed Andrew Robb, who, many would say, was a very hard act to follow; but you've done well. Congratulations on the TPP. Explain to me, explain to viewers, why the TPP -less the United States- will deliver us, say, a better outcome than perhaps, our recent free-trade agreement with Japan. What's in the actual TPP that's a win for Australia?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, you're right. I mean, Andrew Robb did do an outstanding job as Trade Minister. He secured, of course, the three free-trade agreements with the North Asian powerhouse economies of China and Japan and Korea. What I've sought to do as part of the Coalition's legacy in office, is make sure that we continue to build on that increased market access. Every time we open up better market access for Australian exporters, we're doing two things. We're creating more sales, which means more economic growth for our businesses, and that, in turn, means more jobs for Australians. So what I've been able to continue to build on, is the momentum that we, as a Government, have been creating. I was pleased that we most recently, secured agreement on the TPP-11. That is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The reason that's important, Peta, is because we are talking about increased market access for Australian businesses to $13.7 trillion; not billion, $13.7 trillion of economic activity. We've got new free-trade agreements, under this TPP framework, with Mexico and with Canada. We've got preferential market access into other markets as part of the TPP-11, as well. So all of this means Aussie businesses have more chances to export, that means we're more competitive, and that means more economic growth and more jobs.

PETA CREDLIN: Okay. Unpack some detail for us. Are we talking about horticulture? Are we talking about wines? Are we talking about education? Give us some details.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, take for example; let's talk about one of our key markets. We export more than a billion dollars' worth of beef to Japan. Now, we've got in place the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership agreement, what we call a free-trade agreement. What we've got now, under TPP-11, goes even further than that. The way in which goes further, Peta, is because we are seeing a more rapid decrease in tariff rates under the TPP-11 agreement. So again, to unpack that, under the Japan-Australia free-trade agreement, the tariffs that are imposed on Australian beef do decline, but they take a longer period of time. Now under the TPP-11, we see that those tariffs reduce much more quickly. Now for Australia, up against a key competitor like, for example the United States; it means that our beef exporters have a material advantage in the Japanese market place, because Australian beef can be landed more cost-effectively than US beef. Because Australian beef doesn't have the high tariff whack that US beef does. Translation, that means Australian beef going into Japan is more competitively priced, which means we can sell more Aussie beef into Japan than the Americans can.

PETA CREDLIN: Okay. Then let's also then turn to another related market, which is South America. Obviously, it's a big beef continent as well. You've just concluded a deal with Peru. That's a landmark deal. Explain that one as well.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, my thinking with Latin America comes down to the fact that you've got a lot of countries in Latin America with high rates of growth. Peru is a case in point. It's a country of 31 million people. It's been growing, on average, between 5.5% and 6% a year, every year, for the last decade. We have tremendous opportunity in a brand new market. If you look at, for example, our agricultural exports, we basically have next to zero agricultural exports going into Peru; and more broadly, into Latin America. We have, for the first time now, under this Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement, got access into this market. We can export 30,000 tons of sugar into this market, and that will grow over time. We can export beef into this market, a whole range of new horticultural products, broad-acre products, pulses, a whole range of different agricultural items. Then in addition to that, Peta, we've got, of course, services exports into a market like Peru. Now, Australia is, as you know, world-class when it comes to our mining and resources sectors. We've got world-class services built around that mining services industry. We can now sell those services into a market like that as well. This is all about driving export sales for Australia, into a rapidly growing part of the world. A world that is having high levels of demand, not only for consumer items like horticultural products and beef, et cetera; but also for services, like those in the resources sector.

PETA CREDLIN: Well again, congratulations on South America, because I think for too long Australia hasn't looked to South America, and there's lots of parallels with our economy and population size; and I think opportunity. Let's go into North America. This week the Prime Minister will be in Washington, there's a large delegation of Premiers and Chief Ministers built around a very particular meeting that happens periodically, Australia's really exploited, good on Joe Hockey here. It's the fifty US Governors who come to Washington and there is going to be a significant Australian presence. Just explain that a little bit more, and I assume you're going to be there flying the trade flag?

STEVEN CIOBO: Certainly will, I've got the privilege of going along with an array of different business leaders form Australia and with the Prime Minister and of course, we've got every Premier, bar the premier of Tasmania and South Australia who are attending, for obvious reasons. This is a great initiative that our ambassador, Joe Hockey has put in place. He's done an outstanding job there. Australia has been invited as a participant country in what's called the National Governors' Association Meeting. This is where all Governors of all the States come together in the United States to talk about their pathway forward, to build linkages. I'm delighted to be travelling there with the Prime Minister and well put a strong focus on our trade and investment relationship. The United States is a key export market for Australia; it's also the biggest source of inbound foreign investment for the country as well as a significant destination, in its own right, for outbound investment from Australia. what this is all about, Peta, is making sure we continue to broaden those trade and investment ties between Australia in the United States, ultimately, because that is good for growing our economy and good for creating jobs.

PETA CREDLIN: Last question, Steven Ciobo. I know you've got another commitment. Look, economists are strong supporters of free trade. I'm a strong supporter of free trade, but I'm alive to concerns ordinary people have that trade threatens their jobs, that globalisation has changed the Australian economy and businesses. It's made particular industries more vulnerable. How do you address those fears?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look I first of all acknowledge, absolutely, that there are some people who feel that they've been adversely affected by trade. What we need to do, as a Government, is always make the case about why trade is a positive. Notwithstanding that there are some sectors that do feel pressure from imports, but let's be clear about what actually happens. If you want to take it to an extreme example, Peta, look at the difference between countries that open their borders, open their economy to global trade; and look at what they're able to achieve. Versus those countries that remain closed in, and put up tariff walls, and try to only deal with themselves. No better example, frankly, than the Korean Peninsula; and the difference between North Korea and South Korea. South Korea, open to the world, engaging in trade. We've seen massive increases in the standard of living in that country. North Korea, closed themselves off, the hermit kingdom; and we've seen what's happened there. Now, in Australia's case, we have decades of experience. We've seen our standard of living continue to improve. We are exporting more to the world than we ever have. Last calendar year, we saw more than half of Australia's GDP growth, that is our economic growth, directly attributable to growth in exports. Now, this is critical if we're going to continue to drive the Australian economy. I recognize there are some, as I said, some sectors that feel stress from import competition, but consider this. Under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, China is now our largest export market for wine. We're exporting something close to $500 million worth of wine to China every year. The jobs that's creating, back here in Australia, as a consequence of that, the fact that we can export hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of goods and services from Australia to the world, speaks to what we're able to achieve as a country, and to create jobs as a consequence.

PETA CREDLIN: Minister, it's good news certainly, and well done on the advancements in your portfolio. Good luck with your trip this week. Let's hope you come home to a bit more harmony in your Federal Coalition. Thank you for your time.

STEVEN CIOBO: Thanks, Peta.

PETA CREDLIN: Well, I'm a hard marker, but I think Steven Ciobo has done an outstanding job. Particularly following on from Andrew Robb, who, as I said, was big shoes to fill. The real difference has been the Coalition's commitment to bilateral and small multi-laterals rather than that circus, never-ending circus, that was the Doha Rounds. Under Labor, we progressed very, very few places in terms of trade.

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