Tony Pilkington: Good morning and welcome to 5AA.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning Pilko, good to be with you. I might take you to task a little bit on that intro.
Tony Pilkington: Well yeah go ahead because I’m all set ready to go.
Simon Birmingham: Sure thing mate. Well I think under our government we will see $90 billion dollars’ worth of defence industry contracts that have been made, the announcement of the space industry agency just at the end of last year…
Tony Pilkington: Just on the bit about.
Simon Birmingham: … the Murray-Darling Basin Plan being delivered in full, on time…
Tony Pilkington: Wait a minute, wait a minute just on that bit of $80 or $90 billion dollars on submarines. By the time these submarines get into the water, the Chinese will hear them leaving the harbor right from the word go. Wouldn’t it be nice to be spending your money on medical research for the Hanson Institute and fixing up the hospital and doing things like that? That’s a bloody a lot of money $80 or $90 million dollars on submarines. Do we really need those submarines? Why don’t we have more patrol boats up along the coast of WA? I was talking to an AFP officer and he says there’s not enough patrol boats up there all the way from Port Hedland down to Perth and this is where so many of the drugs come in.
Simon Birmingham: Well its $90 billion across three different platforms. There’s the offshore patrol vessel which construction is already underway on, the deal has been cut in relation to those, the first few of those will be built in Adelaide followed by the Future Frigates program, to be followed then by the submarines which will be absolutely cutting edge technology. Each of these different platforms, different types of ships that our Navy need. This is one of the largest investments in Peacetime going into our defence industries, but of course this is also a big investment coming into our state and sits alongside of the fact that we committed funding for (indistinct) stage 2, and they are absolutely important there, the medical research investment as well, and all these sorts of things come to South Australia because indeed the likes of Christopher Pyne and I at the Cabinet table.
Tony Pilkington: Hang on a minute, I still don’t believe we need and we need these submarines for God’s sake, $80 or $90 billion dollars on submarines, the money can be spent better elsewhere. Senator onto the issue of some good news though for the farmers and businessmen. This is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that’s the agreement that actually started yesterday. Tell us what it’s all about.
Simon Birmingham: That partnership is a very exciting initiative, it’s a trade bloc, a trade agreement that exists between ourselves and 10 other nations. It started out including the United States, Donald Trump pulled out of it, but we persevered and worked particularly closely with Japan.
Tony Pilkington: Is it still going to be effective now that Trump, Donald Trump has decided to pull out of it? Does it make it less effective now that the United States are not involved?
Simon Birmingham: It reduces some of the economic benefit but there is still projected to be some $15 billion plus annual benefit to the Australian economy under this deal…
Tony Pilkington: That’s a lot of money.
Simon Birmingham: …and in this state we already export around $3 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services to different TPP countries. This will for the first time give wine makers tariff-free access to Canada, it will give cereal growers and grain producers’ preferential access to Canada and Mexico for the first time. It will help further our seafood producers getting into the Japanese market, they already get $100 million dollars’ worth of frozen seafood out of South Australian.
Tony Pilkington: Senator here’s the question why has it taken so long? Why is it only the beginning of this year that this this thing is kicking in?
Simon Birmingham: These things to take a long time to negotiate between countries and that’s true of course, what happened was we saw this stall at one stage when Donald Trump decided to pull the pin on it. At the time Bill Shorten said we should give up and walk away. We didn’t give up the walkway, we re-negotiated with all the other countries, we’ve done a deal now that doesn’t involve the US. They’re welcome to come back to the table anytime to join under the terms that everybody else has negotiated.
Tony Pilkington: Are there any countries that we’ve signed this agreement with that we haven’t previously had an arrangement like this before?
Simon Birmingham: Canada and Mexico being the two that I mentioned, they would be the most significant in that regard. But there are other countries such as Peru, who are part of the TPP partnership. With them, we have also separately negotiated a bi-lateral free trade agreement. This comes on top of the agreement that we already have with China, Japan and South Korea that we’ve negotiated over the last few years. It’s something that I think many of your listeners would be surprised and they’ll think about the time back in the Keating era when you talk about the banana republic trade deficit. You know, in the last couple of years we’ve recorded trade surplus for 21 of the last 24 months, so as a country we are actually out there with our exporters doing incredibly well selling more into the world than we necessarily import.
Tony Pilkington: It’s a quarter past nine, we’re talking to the Federal Trade Minister Senator Simon Birmingham from here in South Australia. Senator you claim that a Shorten government will not be able to implement or keep such a policy in operation because of the restrictions and pressure from trade unions?
Simon Birmingham: Labor had their national conference as it happened at the end of last year and they adopted some changes and those changes are to say they won’t agree to trade agreements that contain things called the ‘investor state dispute’ mechanism. These processes are really to ensure that those who invest in other countries, so if BHP goes and invests in other countries setting up, buying services there, or Rio Tinto or others, that they have some protection around their investment. Now equally, they apply for companies who might invest in Australia but Australia is a country with a very stable legal system, sound rule of law, people don’t tend, governments don’t seem to act in ways that undermine investments that have been used here. So these provisions have never been used successfully against Australia but they are occasionally used by Australian companies to protect themselves overseas. It makes no sense as to why the Labor Party would say well we’re not going to support an agreement that contains these provisions but in doing so they will make it so much harder to be able to actually seal trade deals in future. The important thing is these trade deals are delivering benefits for Australia, for our wine makers, for our agricultural producers, also in a range of increasingly manufactured food products as well. I was up in China late last year and the extent to which we are seeing the growth of Australian product that are packaged, branded, produced, labelled, and sent from Australia identifiably it’s an Australian branded juice product whether it’s shampoo or whether it’s food produced or otherwise, is people want quality assurance, safety assurance that comes with an Australian product.
Tony Pilkington: Senator, thanks for your time this morning Senator Simon Birmingham from South Australia.
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Authorised by Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, South Australia.