Topics: NZ working holiday makers; Australia-China relationship; Last day of Parliament for 2020.
Simon Birmingham: … Australian farmers and industry in terms of getting the necessary workers by encouraging young New Zealanders to come and have a working holiday in Australia. For young Kiwis who might have been thinking about taking a gap year, to come and do it in Australia, to travel around, to work your way around our great country. And of course, they can do that because we have opened up across most states, quarantine-free entry into Australia. Ordinarily, at this time of year, there’d be around 135,000 working holiday makers in Australia, spending billions of dollars that they earn while they’re here, that they bring with them from their savings, even mum and dad’s money that they ask them to send over and transfer into their accounts. This is about, of course, making sure we support a key part of our tourism industry – the working holiday maker sector – but also recognise that as well as being big spending visitors to Australia, working holiday makers do valuable jobs while they’re here, supporting parts of Australian agriculture and Australian tourism industry and delivering real benefits across the country. This isn’t going to fill the entire gap we have for working holidaymakers, but it’s an example of the fact that the Government is supporting agriculture, but also investing in the sectors of our tourism industry everywhere that we see an opportunity to help get them back on their feet.
Question: Minister, can I ask you, your comments in the Senate yesterday in regards to China and the ChAFTA? The Embassy says last night, your claims are totally unfounded. They hope Australia can do more to enhance mutual trust in bilateral cooperation, in line with the China-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Given the 14 grievances from the embassy, what do you understand enhancing mutual trust and bilateral cooperation in terms of doing more to mean?
Simon Birmingham: Well, from Australia’s perspective, the first thing that could be done to enhance mutual trust and understanding would be to sit down and talk, to actually engage in ministerial dialogue. We’ve been clear all year of our willingness to have those discussions. They won’t see us compromise in relation to the types of principles we adopt around Australian values or the protection of our national interests, just as we don’t ask China to compromise in relation to their national interest issues. But clearly, clearly, the most sensitive thing that can happen is for parties to talk. In relation to the idea that there isn’t an issue, well the evidence clearly demonstrates otherwise. The pattern of disruption to a range of Australian export industries right throughout the course of this year does demonstrate that there is a real problem. We don’t accept the claims in relation to the individual evidence. There is clearly a bigger issue that requires China to come to the table and be willing to actually engage in dialogue.
Question: Is it Australia that has to do that?
Simon Birmingham: No, I think that China has to be the one to step up and be willing to sit down and talk and engage.
Question: Final day of sitting here. Is there a bit of a final note of school year(*) about today, Minister?
Simon Birmingham: 2020 has been a year unlike any other. And this place, the Parliament and the Government have sought to respond to unprecedented times in ways that has thankfully gotten Australia through the craziest of years, by keeping people safe, by keeping people secure, they remain our priorities. And one of the last acts I expect the Senate to do today will be to pass, hopefully, the extension of the coronavirus supplement, part of our economic response that has been so important to helping to keep Australians safe and secure through these tough times.