Karl Stefanovic: Well, we have seen nurses, teachers and train drivers all striking this week. That has a huge amount of disruption. Let’s bring in Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, for their take on this. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you this morning. To you. Deputy PM, first up, what’s going on with the unions? You’ve got control of them.


Richard Marles: Well, I mean, they’ve got issues and this is a matter that’s going to be worked through between the unions in New South Wales and the State Government. But what people can be pleased about today is that we’ve seen the minimum wage go up and that comes into effect as of today and that’s going to make a real difference for our lowest paid workers. And that’s something that is going to provide people with a better part of $2,000 every year for those on the minimum wage. And that’s something that the Liberals were not there supporting. So we’re doing everything we can to get wages going as a government.


Karl Stefanovic: Simon You weren’t anywhere near as generous.


Simon Birmingham: That’s well, what we backed was an independent process, and that’s what the independent process came out with. So that’s great. I look forward to seeing hardworking Australians receive that. But on your first question, Karl, there are so many Sydneysiders facing disruption today and what we’re seeing is really obvious game playing in the year leading up to the New South Wales state election by Labor affiliated unions, the New South Wales Government has increased its public sector wage offers and it’s time for the unions to stop hurting the average person across New South Wales and sit down and negotiate in good faith.


Karl Stefanovic: Yeah, look, the railway one’s a little bit strange, isn’t it? Anyway, let’s move on. The Prime Minister is making his presence felt on his whirlwind trip to Europe, issuing a strong warning to Beijing to learn the lessons from Russia’s failed invasion of Ukraine. And don’t even think about touching Taiwan. Richard, predictably, China’s not happy. They’re calling our prime minister ignorant and ill informed. You said you want to fix relationships. This is not a great start, is it?


Richard Marles: Well, Anthony’s been really clear from day one that we’re going to speak up for Australia’s national interest. And in talking about what’s happening in Eastern Europe, the point there is that while Ukraine is a long way from Australia, there are matters of principle at stake in Eastern Europe which apply right around the world, and that’s basically making sure that we are a country which stands up for the global rules of the road. They matter and it’s really important that countries abide by those rules. I mean, the UN charter doesn’t allow a big country to just invade a small one because they’re unhappy. And that’s what Russia has done. And Anthony is making that point and making the point that those rules not only apply in Eastern Europe, but they apply in the Indo-Pacific. So we’re going to keep we’re going to keep speaking up for our national interests.


Karl Stefanovic: Well, the issue for you is, I mean, you just a couple of weeks ago and well done to you and you received congratulations from everyone about meeting with your Beijing counterpart. And then, what, a couple of weeks later we have Beijing calling our prime minister ill informed and ignorant.


Richard Marles: Well, we’re going to speak up for our national interest. I mean, there is going to be a different tone from the former government, which was big on beating its chest. It wasn’t particularly big on doing anything which actually advanced the national interest, which advanced Australia’s national security. But we will be engaging with the world in a professional, sober, diplomatic way and that will take us as far as it takes us. But we’re not about compromise what is Australia’s national interest. And Anthony was speaking up for that.


Karl Stefanovic: Simon, free trade and negotiations will resume with the EU in a matter of months. The PM is repairing those relationships that you let go by the wayside. Well, I guess we’ll be exposed to sanctions though, because we missed those climate change targets that you missed. You really did mess a bunch of things up, didn’t you?


Simon Birmingham: No, no. Karl And indeed Australia has always exceeded its climate change targets, so we’re certainly not going to face sanctions for missing targets that in fact we have exceeded and most other countries didn’t, didn’t even necessarily meet those targets and certainly didn’t meet the type of reductions that we achieve. Look, I welcome the resumption of EU free trade agreement negotiations and Anthony Albanese being in France. It’s the right thing. It was the right thing to do last year to step away from the diesel powered submarine contract and to go for the nuclear powered submarine contract. That was about making a decision in Australia’s long term national interest, knowing it would hurt some feelings and caused some disruption at the time. But doing something that was right for decades to come into the future. It’s time now that the commercial settlement around that change of contract has been reached for France to move on, for everyone to get on with the job of working together on our shared values between Australia and France and Australia on the EU. And that’s exactly what I look forward to seeing.


Karl Stefanovic: Richard. There’s a bit to work out there with the EU, isn’t it? It doesn’t mesh together that easily. How are we going to go with quotas for beef, lamb and dairy?


Richard Marles: Well, again, it is really good that we are seeing these negotiations get back on foot. I mean, those points that you raise are really important and we’ve got to work through those issues so that we ultimately get a deal with the European Union that works for Europe but obviously works for Australia. And we’ve got to make sure that those agricultural products are front and centre because that’s a big part of Australia’s exports. But what you’re seeing now is us working with the European Union to get those negotiations going again and this is the Albanese Government fixing the mess that had been left by the former government where our relationship with Europe as a result of a whole lot of actions, including the way in which the former government dealt with France, had put ourselves in a position where we couldn’t even have these conversations.


Karl Stefanovic: I don’t know the European Union, I mean, give or take. I mean, when was the last time they made a decent decision?


Richard Marles: Karl, that’s a big call.


Simon Birmingham: Karl. Now, your question there is the key test.


Karl Stefanovic: I’m only joking. We just want to know when we can when when Australian Parmesan cheese can use the name Parmesan cheese again. Richard, come on.


Richard Marles: Yeah. Well, you know, I put I put Parmesan on my pasta.


Karl Stefanovic: Oh, there you go. He’s got himself in trouble with the EU. Good on you guys. Thank you so much. Appreciate your time today, as always.