Today Show interview

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Defence export facility, G’DAY USA.

Karl Stefanovic: Joining me now is Trade and Tourism Minister, Steve Ciobo. Steve, good morning to you.

Steven Ciobo: Good morning, Karl.

Karl Stefanovic: Just what sort of arms do we already export and where do they go exactly?

Steven Ciobo: What this is about, Karl, is boosting Australia's defence industry. We, of course, do have some exports now, but what we want to do is realise the potential of the defence industry in Australia. We are investing this money as part of a $200 billion commitment over the next decade that we're making to defence to make sure that we can grow jobs and continue growing economic growth in Australia, by boosting opportunities to export defence items around the world.

Karl Stefanovic: The value of what we already export is in excess of $2 billion. Is that correct?

Steven Ciobo: That's correct, yes.

Karl Stefanovic: Where do they go, and what sort of arms are there?

Steven Ciobo: In terms of specifics, the Defence Minister is going to be better placed than me to answer the specifics about what it is precisely that we're exporting. We've got a broad range of defence exports. Let's not forget, Karl that Australia has a lot of innovation, a lot of ingenuity around our defence industry, and we can tap into that. I mean the vision here and what I really want to share with you this morning is what we think we can do with this industry because it's about making sure that Australia can become one of the top ten defence exporters in the world. This isn't about providing weapons or arms to rogue regimes or anything like that. We've got strict controls in place, and those controls make sure that we only supply defence assets in the future to like-minded countries that have a strong human rights record and have protections in place.

Karl Stefanovic: Ok. Will any of those exports be going to places like Japan, for example?

Steven Ciobo: We will look at what opportunities there are for exports in the future. Japan could absolutely, potentially be a customer, as could other countries. As I said, what we're looking for are countries where we have got a strong human rights track record and, of course, have safeguards in place.

Karl Stefanovic: The point is you don't know when countries are going to go rogue. Do you ever worry that the arms you export will be turned against you?

Steven Ciobo: Well, no. That's why we would, of course, be vigilant about what we do there. The fact is though, Karl that defence around the world is, of course, a multi-billion dollar industry. Australia has real potential to tap into the innovation that we've got in this country. We can build an export industry far bigger than what we've got today, and it's critical if we're going to create jobs and economic growth into the future.

Karl Stefanovic: War is war. There's no real way to sweeten the sell though, is there?

Steven Ciobo: But it's not really about war, Karl. This is about having strong defence assets.

Karl Stefanovic: Really?

Steven Ciobo: That's right, it is. It's about having strong defence assets because strong defence assets are the greatest safeguard you can have against conflict. That's precisely the point of this. We know that when countries are strong, and others know that they're strong, then the likelihood of there being conflict is, of course, reduced.

Karl Stefanovic: Do comments, like from Barnaby Joyce yesterday, stating that, China is a bigger threat to us than ISIS, help with that matter?

Steven Ciobo: Well, that's I think, not precisely what he said. Barnaby's point was in response to a hypothetical question that was directed at him. The fact is that, of course, ISIS is a major problem. That's why the Australian government has worked so diligently to overcome them, together with Coalition partners like the United States.

Karl Stefanovic: You're in LA following the G'Day USA gala. Don't you think we'd be better off exporting actors?

Steven Ciobo: Karl, it was a great event last night. But, you know, G'Day USA is much bigger than just the gala dinner. There's a whole bunch of different components to it. We're focusing on cyber security, of course, the work that we're doing around Australia's tourism industry, we get about 710,000 Americans that come and spend around $3.7 billion in Australia. That creates jobs in Australia. I want to make sure that we keep growing our slice of the pie.

Karl Stefanovic: Good on you. Hope you had a great night. Richard Wilkins did behave himself, didn't he?

Steven Ciobo: I would never divulge any secrets that I think he might have had in G'Day USA. He's an important partner of the event, Karl.

Karl Stefanovic: Thank you, Minister. Good to talk to you.

Steven Ciobo: Cheers.

Media enquiries