Doorstop interview, Virginia
TPP-11; Research grants; Religious freedoms; Charter flights for country MP’s




Simon Birmingham: Thank you and thanks for coming along. It’s great to be here at Pasture Genetics, a family owned business, and it’s a living demonstration of how trade and market access through the TPP is going to make a positive difference for Australian farmers, Australian businesses, Australian researchers, all of those who work so hard to ensure that we can grow our economy and create jobs and prosperity across Australia.


I’m thrilled to announce that today, Australia’s High Commissioner in Wellington has lodged notice with New Zealand as the depository for information about the TPP and that Australia has completed all of the necessary steps and processes to fully ratify the TPP.


What this means is that now six countries Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Singapore and Australia, have come together to bring the TPP into force. And we’ve done so in a way that ensures that commencing this year, producers like Pasture Genetics will see the benefits of tariff cuts this year and again on the first of January next year. The double benefit that flows through in terms of tariff reduction and market access improvements that the TPP will provide.


This is outstanding news for our farmers and our small business who want to get out there and have a go at exporting more produce around the rest of the world. And we really do want to encourage business like this one to seize the opportunities that are there.


This is the first ever free trade agreement that Australia will have in place with markets like Canada and Mexico, and we’ll see as you’ve heard direct benefits in terms of seed being able to get into Mexico at a 15% cheaper rate. We’ll have real benefits for our wine producers who will get into Canada with a full elimination of tariffs on wine exported into that market.


You can see across the board in our services sector, in education in aged care, elsewhere that there will be improved opportunity for Australian businesses and entities to be able to get in and offer a better deal for our exporters.


I want to acknowledge the fact that the TPP would not have happened without the work of many different people. Our liberal national government stuck at it when the US pulled out. Donald Trump said no to the TPP and Bill Shorten said we should give up as a result of that but we didn’t follow Bill Shorten or Donald Trump’s lead, we got on with the job and thanks to the leadership shown by Malcolm Turnbull and Shinzo Abe in Japan at the time we brought still 11 countries together to make sure the TPP happened.


This is a demonstration that our Liberal-National Government who over five plus years now has delivered improved market access through trade deals with China, Japan, South Korea, the TPP and we continue to work at it in terms of with Indonesia, with Hong Kong, with the European Union with Latin American countries, we continue to pursue a very strong approach of ensuring we get the best possible deal for our farmers our business who will be able to get out there and export it. That’s what people expect the Liberal National Government to do. Get trade access and market access for our farmers and businesses so that the can get out there and sell more to the world and we are delighted that’s what’s going to happen now that the TPP comes into force. Questions?


Journalist: What qualifications did you have to reject 11 research projects that were already approved by an independent body?


Simon Birmingham: The law of the land requires the Education Minister of the day to approve each and every ARC grant that is made, so what hit my desk were hundreds of recommendations more than 99% of them I approved, a handful I rejected because I didn’t think they presented a compelling case that was in the national interest.


Journalist: Why do you know better than the experts that were appointed to award those grants?


Simon Birmingham: The law of the land requires the Minister to actually approve grants. I approved more than 99 per cent of those presented to me. But those that I didn’t think were in the national interest, wasn’t sufficiently convinced of, I sent back and asked for alternative proposals.


Journalist: When you say you weren’t convinced, were you worries about the subject of the projects or the cost?


Simon Birmingham: I didn’t believe they presented projects that were in the national interest.


Journalist: So Dan Tehan said researchers must be told who rejects their projects, is that an admission that you lacked transparency?


Simon Birmingham: No I never thought to grandstand on the matter, I made the decision, of course when asked at Senate Estimates we provided the answers.


Journalist: Dan Tehan also says the government is still considering exemptions to allow Anglican schools to fire gay teachers. What is there to consider?


Simon Birmingham: Look I haven’t seen Mr Tehan’s remarks in that regards. I know that Prime Minister Morrison has made it very very clear that we will be repealing from legislation provisions the Labor party put in that allow for schools to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexuality I believe that’s the right step for us to repeal those provisions and I look forward to seeing that legislation come to the Parliament which I know is subject of ongoing discussions between the Attorney-General and his counterparts.


Journalist: So he’s wrong you’re not still considering those exemptions?


Simon Birmingham: The Prime Minister’s been clear in the government’s position in negotiations between us and the Labor Party to ensure we get a consistent approach that gives absolute certainty that no student in Australia will be discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality and that we get rid of those provisions. That legislation will be brought to the parliament in due course once we have that agreement.


Journalist: I’m talking about teacher at school not students. Is the government actively considering those exemptions or not?


Simon Birmingham: Those provisions are there in legislation already, in terms of changes to be made to those there will no doubt be considered in the context of [inaudible] Religious Freedoms Review.


Journalist: Mr shorten has been out today saying any Labor government would increase the dole and out forward proposals to stop any multinationals avoiding tax?


Simon Birmingham: We are already yielding billions of dollars extra in the federal budget because of our clamping down on multinationals. That is action that we’ve already taken and we continue to look and close every available loophole.


Now Mr Shorten has got no firm proposal about what he plans to do with Newstart but what we’ve done is we’ve got 150,000 plus Australian off of welfare. We’ve ensured that Australians are actually, more Australians are in jobs, of course the best way to help people is to get more people into jobs. That’s why trade deals like this one are so important because they allow us to grow businesses and in growing businesses to create more jobs and to get more people off of New Start.


So Australia’s national income is forecast to be $15 billion greater per annum by 2030 as a result of this deal. That is billions of extra dollars in our national income each and every year which of course is going to create more jobs, more people off welfare and more opportunities for our farmers and businesses.


Journalist: Just in terms of the TPP, obviously it’s a win for regional, rural Australia. ABC South East SA has heard from the Member for Barker Tony Pasin that safety fears have motivated him to charter a $6000 flight to Renmark from Mount Gambier said that he feared himself or another MP will be killed or kill another driver on country roads because their jobs required excessive road travel. Do you agree with Mr Pasin that are country MPs putting their lives and lives others at risk due to their jobs?


Simon Birmingham: Country MP’s like Rohan Ramsay who represents more than 90 per cent of South Australia have vast parts of the country to cover and that’s why there is a budget to allow them to be able to get from one side of the state to the other side of the state to engage in very small communities who deserve to have their local MP turn up.


Journalist: So is it simply a case of occupational health and safety?


Simon Birmingham: I think there is a range of reasons why remuneration tribunal over the years has backed the fact that there should be a charter entitlement for those country MP’s representing vast electorates allowing them to get from one side of Australia to the other side of Australia.