David Penberthy: When we play John Blake pieces — it’s 7:50 and 8:45, 8:50-ish — all of Adelaide stands up and takes notice. It’s appointment setting radio. We never understood the true power of the segment, though, until this: when we were contacted immediately following a John Blake piece earlier in the week by the Trade Minister in the Federal Government Simon Birmingham. This is the piece that has the attention of the Federal Government and shortly the attention of the European Union, and next the world.
[John Blake song on prosecco]
David Penberthy: Well that’s the campaign, and you can only hope when you start a campaign that it’s heard in the highest offices in the land. And the Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is with us in the 5AA Breakfast studio, as is the architect of our bold new strategy to protect the name prosecco, John Blake.
John Blake: Good morning David and Will, or David and Will, or is it David and Will?
David Penberthy: You can decide. Good morning Senator.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning Blakey and David and Will.
David Penberthy: Can’t wait to hear how you explain Parafield Airport Liquor Store to the EU.
David Penberthy: Get a load of that.
Simon Birmingham: The biggest unknown and unanswered question out of it all is, first off, what were you doing Blakey looking for sherry?
John Blake: Ah, well because I put it in my steak tartare, that’s why.
Simon Birmingham: Ah, well that will help with the EU then.
David Penberthy: You’ve got to get the creative juices flowing somehow.
John Blake: I did literally stand in the grog shop looking for sherry for about 15 minutes. I was too scared to go and ask someone because I felt like an idiot until I realized it’s called apera. Did you know that? I didn’t know that.
David Penberthy: Yeah. I had no idea. But then again, I clearly don’t have as much steak tartare as you.
John Blake: No, I’m into raw meat.
David Penberthy: Well, that’s the example though, because Seppeltsfield make great sherries and they’ve had to go through and change them all now because of the naming issue. And I guess the fear for us as a country is we don’t have to do that to all these other products, do we, like feta or you know certainly prosecco, Minister.
Simon Birmingham: Indeed, and this is what we’re negotiating with in terms of European Union. So our wine industry did a deal about a decade ago, which was where they decided that they could live without champagne or sherry or Rhine Riesling and that they would adopt different terms at the time. And in the end, that’s played out pretty well for the wine industry on the whole. But there’s obviously a few areas of adjustment there. But now we’re trying to get a much bigger trade deal with the EU. It’s, you know, 500 million people. It’s already one of our biggest trading partners and we want to make sure that we can sell much more of our farm produce, much more of our other produce, many more services into the EU in the future, but they’ve got their demands…
Will Goodings: Which is where Blakey comes in.
David Penberthy: Well yeah, do we protect any names that the European John Blake is currently singing wistfully about?
John Blake: Yeah, exactly.
Simon Birmingham: Well not- I mean, you know, we basically think that trademarks do the job.
Will Goodings: Right.
Simon Birmingham: So, think about cheeses and of course, you know, whether it’s Udder Delights here in SA – and it’s CheeseFest on the weekend, so plug in there for CheeseFest – or, you know, really famous, well-known Australian cheeses, such as King Island Dairy, they’re all trademarked. And trademarks do the job.
Will Goodings: Right. Yeah, okay.
Simon Birmingham: The EU tries to bring it right back to this idea of geographical indications. But as Blakey pretty well hit the nail on the head, and you guys chimed in with, where’s prosecco? So, you know, if it’s a geographical indication, an example I’ve often used in this is they want to protect Camembert de Normandy. Well that’s fine. No Australian cheesemakers make- selling Camembert de Normandy and pretending they’re from Normandy in France.
Will Goodings: That’s right.
Simon Birmingham: They’re just selling Camembert.
John Blake: Yeah.
Simon Birmingham: And that’s okay. The EU’s not saying they want to protect Camembert, so we can make Camembert, we can sell it, all good. But if it’s not actually tied to a geographical region, then it’s a bit rich to make the claim.
David Penberthy: So how does this work with the John Blake song now? Is it a bit like that famous scene from a film, you’ll be standing with some sort of old fashioned boombox out front of the giant building in Brussels playing it and hoping someone comes to the balcony? How does this play out?
Simon Birmingham: Well, you know, I may have sent Blakey international. I took a little audio clip of it and I’ve sent it through to Phil Hogan, who’s currently the European Union’s agriculture commissioner, and he’s about to be their trade commissioner.
Now, you know, I sort of made sure I sent it all in good humor to him. Phil’s a gruff Irishman, so I trust he’s got a good sense of humour.
John Blake: Oh god, Simon’s something else, oh god. Put this in the bin, will you.
Simon Birmingham: Well, I will have to get Phil on air next time he’s in Australia. He’s a good guy, but in the world of international diplomacy, I got a thumbs up back from him. So we’ll read that as for what it means.
John Blake: Oh okay, okay. What does that mean?
Simon Birmingham: The emoji diplomacy.
Will Goodings: So the world of diplomacy now, it used to have, you know, boring terms like urging restraint and calling for, you know, calm. Now there’s thumbs ups.
John Blake: This is a brave new world,
Will Goodings: Apparently that’s how Brexit is going to work from now on, it’s just a thumbs up, no thumbs.
David Penberthy: Yeah, they did. They keep sending the thumbs down by accident.
Will Goodings: It sounds like a thumbs up means …
John Blake: Yeah, thumbs it must be.
Will Goodings: It sounds like that’s a first crucial win for Australia, because thumbs up means your concerns have been noted, doesn’t it?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I think this could be Blakey’s breakthrough moment for prosecco, and if that’s the case, he’s going to be a hero, particularly in the Rutherglen region. I mean, you know, you think of Australia’s wine industry, but it’s actually across the border in Victoria where they’re most worked up about it.
Will Goodings: You know if it gets to the stage, Minister, where you have to make a formal presentation to the WTO, you know, get up on stage with your PowerPoints and all your- you get a crack team of advisers around you, would you take Blakey with you to perform the song live?
Simon Birmingham: Well, now look, I think I’ve got a bit of a dilemma here because you know, whilst Blakey does clearly a great Elvis Presley in the way he’s presented that song, Michael McCormack, the Deputy Prime Minister rather fancies himself as Elvis too.
Will Goodings: Oh, oh, really?
Simon Birmingham: So I might have to take the big Mac with me. Listeners can go and Google it, they’ll find images and indeed YouTube footage of the Deputy Prime Minister dressed up as Elvis and singing away.
John Blake: Senator, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with the taxpayer having to cough up the enormous amount of royalties you’re going to have to pay me for this. I’m really not comfortable, so let’s knock it on the head.
David Penberthy: Are there any other sort of major sort of trade negotiations that we’re currently in the midst of that would benefit from the John Blake treatment? You know, do we need to send him to Beijing? Do we need him to nut out- maybe catch up with some of the members of unions in Australia they’re currently having issues with, Korea and Indonesia and Hong Kong free trade agreement?
Simon Birmingham: Well look I’m sure given the relations that Pembo struck with the CFMEU this week, there’d be huge opportunity …
John Blake: Yeah, I’ve got a Setka song all ready to go.
Simon Birmingham: And I’ve got some AFP security detail that we can- help you out with the follow up of that.
David Penberthy: I love that.
John Blake: I’m not going back to the Grand, I’ve had my fun down there this week.
Will Goodings: Well, this is an exciting development. I just think there’s so many other policy applications for Blakey, you know, tax, national security, border protection …
David Penberthy: I think I think he’s the best use on the diplomatic front. I think we just- we’ll just para-drop him into the Middle East with a guitar and some hope in his heart.
John Blake: Oh god. I’m nervous about going to Perth.
John Blake: Not going anywhere. I’m staying right here.
John Blake: Blakey and Birmo, this has been a lot of fun.
David Penberthy: Solving the troubles of the world, one prosecco at a time.
Will Goodings: Sorry, you called the Senator what, Birmo?
John Blake: Well yeah, you know, Blakey …
Will Goodings: What, Birmo?
John Blake: … that’s sort of breakfast radio …
Will Goodings: Disrespectful. I wouldn’t stand for it, Senator.
John Blake: I don’t think he minds.
Will Goodings: Birmo.
Simon Birmingham: Mmm, it’s kind of a- it’s carried through the Cabinet room, through a few Prime Ministers too.
Will Goodings: Alright. Blakey …
John Blake: Yes, please.
Will Goodings: … congratulations, you’ve saved prosecco.
John Blake: Thank you very much.
David Penberthy: we’re not there yet …
John Blake: Was my absolute pleasure.
Will Goodings: You have the keys to the Rutherglen region.
Simon Birmingham: I have high confidence that we’ll manage to find a good preservation point for prosecco on the way through and hopefully still get our, you know, our sheep farmers and everybody else the extra access they need.
David Penberthy: Hear hear.
Will Goodings: Minister, wish you all the best in your mission. Thanks for coming in this morning.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks guys.