TopicsSA Premier visit to China; Voice debate; Senator Marise Payne

09:20AM AEST
15 September 2023

Laura Jayes: Joining us now from Adelaide is the Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham. Thanks so much for your time. Simon. Do you think this is a good thing for premiers to be making these kinds of representations, or should it be just left up to the federal politicians?

Simon Birmingham: Good morning, LJ. Premiers have a role to play in terms of undertaking promotional exercises, and it’s entirely within the realm of premiers to go and undertake trade promotion, investment promotion and those types of exercises to try to get more investment dollars to their state, help local businesses secure more deals. Premiers should equally make sure they are appropriately briefed on national security sensitivities or the like before having discussions. They should be mindful in those terms for any deals they might strike with, particularly other governments or institutions in other countries, and tread carefully in relation to that. Mindful of those national security briefings and sensitivities. The ultimate issues, though, of the trade sanctions that China has put in place they’ll will be resolved between national governments. They’re not something that different premiers are going to make much of a difference to. But as a promotional exercise, that’s something premiers have long done and I’m no doubt will long do long into the future for.

Laura Jayes: Any sign of particularly these tariffs on wine and lobsters being lifted. And do you know how much that has affected the South Australian economy? How can you quantify it?

Simon Birmingham: It’s difficult to quantify, but I speak with many winemakers and wine industry business leaders across the state. I have a history of working in that sector before entering the Senate and have stayed very close to them over the years. And it’s certainly having real impacts upon particularly red grape growers, winemakers, who had large export markets but also flowing across the sector as there have been price pressures as a result of that. So, the impacts there are real they’re acknowledged. I think the industry has shown enormous resilience. It sought to diversify where it can, other impacts in the live seafood sector, etcetera are real as well. We all do our bit to try to get China to move on this. I met once again this week with China’s ambassador to Australia. These were all important issues I raised along with other security concerns, along with the issues around detained Australians.

I would expect if Peter Malinauskas is meeting with Chinese government officials, that he should raise all of those issues as he’s indicated. But I think we also need to be realistic. State missions are overwhelmingly promotional undertakings. They’re unlikely to shift the dial in relation to matters that will genuinely be resolved between national governments and we want to see the Albanese Government continue to pursue that and for the Prime Minister when he is visiting China this year to make sure that he is doing so with outcomes achieved for Australia, including removal of these trade sanctions.

Laura Jayes: Okay, let’s talk about the Voice. Now. I’m so reluctant to talk about it because the last week has just shown how divisive it has become. Linda Burney as well, I’m not even quite sure whether she knew the camera was on her this morning, but this is a very honest moment from her. Just show you because you may have missed it at the top of our bulletin.


Laura Jayes: So, it’s hard to hear. But Linda Burney is saying the last week in parliament has been quote, unbelievably racist and bullying. I’m not sure who she was referring to there, but have you seen any of that?

Simon Birmingham: I can’t say that I have in the Senate, frankly. We’ve spent a lot of time on other issues these last two sitting weeks. But we also have very strong, powerful indigenous voices in the Senate who have conducted the debate both within and elsewhere in the community and in the national media. And I think we do need to acknowledge that there are these strong indigenous voices on both sides of this debate for both the Yes campaign and the No campaign. They bring their different perspectives. They are the voices that I would urge Australians to be listening to and to be thinking about the messages that they have and that they convey. It’s why I’m perhaps willing, happier and on this debate to take a lesser role, as I think those indigenous voices, be it Linda Burney, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price project their opinions to the country. All should make sure that it is as respectful a debate as possible. I think yesterday Jacinta put in an incredibly powerful performance to the National Press Club in terms of the arguments that she mounted, and also a big reminder, as she has long, long argued well before this debate started, that Indigenous Australians shouldn’t be seen through a lens of victimhood. That we actually need, and I hope whatever the result of the referendum, that after it we can heed those types of messages from Jacinta and really focus on the economic empowerment, creating the opportunities, the need for responsibility in families and community, while also ensuring that we work to move on from the referendum in putting a positive lens over areas of indigenous history, culture and language.

Laura Jayes: Yeah, she also went further, I think, and said that she doesn’t see that colonisation has had a long-term impact on Aboriginal people. I don’t want to, I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but that was generally the sentiment of what she said. Do you agree with that? Is the sentiment there that there has been no long-term generational trauma from that?

Simon Birmingham: Well, I think the mean I don’t want to put words in Jacinta’s mouth either. There are no doubt challenges in Indigenous Australia today, but we should also acknowledge that the whole world has changed dramatically over the last couple of hundred years. The technological changes, the globalisation, a whole range of changes that means whoever had colonised Australia or even if it had not happened but other engagement with the world had occurred, it would be a vastly different country today than what it was a couple of hundred years ago, and there would be many challenges that would have occurred under different types of circumstances. They are things for academics, others to look at. Jacinta brings her very unique perspective as having far closer understanding of Indigenous communities, particularly in Central Australia and the Northern Territory, than I would pretend to have. I respect her viewpoint there and as I said before, I think a key thing I take out of her remarks in the last 24 hours is a reminder of what she has so long stood up for, which is to drive home a message of responsibility about Indigenous families, Indigenous communities needing to be responsible for themselves, whilst of course the responsibility of government to create the policies and settings and try to help those communities. And I hope that post the referendum, whether there’s a Voice or not a Voice. Governments and society can get back really to looking at how we create the types of policies and outcomes that can address those disadvantages and ensure the opportunities are seized that exist for so many Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians in areas of disadvantage to it.

Laura Jayes: I well said before I let you go. This was, of course, Marise Payne’s I think her last sitting week in in Canberra as a Senator. She concludes her career after 26 years in the Senate. Have you lost your formidable moderate wing woman in the Senate?

Simon Birmingham: Well, I’ve lost a lifelong friend as a Senate colleague, but certainly still a lifelong friend for ever there. Marise was certainly a champion of liberal values as well as the Liberal Party. She’s left a huge mark in terms of Australia’s foreign policy landscape. Magnitsky sanctions laws, the passage of foreign interference legislation and better structures around how it is that foreign arrangements are entering into the future. The Pacific step up that saw big new infrastructure funding, climate financing, opening of new embassies and missions across Pacific Island nations. And that’s before we get into her time as defence minister and the overlap there in defence and foreign affairs of AUKUS, the Quad, the challenges across Afghanistan and Iraq that she played a big role in. So, a big, big legacy that she has left big shoes to fill for whomever the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party chooses to put in there. But I know that she’ll continue to contribute to Australia and, and no doubt to the Liberal Party in some ways and the rest of us will keep on making sure that we maintain our fight for good liberal values and good outcomes for Australia.

Laura Jayes: Okay, we’ll speak to you soon, Senator. Thanks so much.