Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
ABC News Breakfast -

View in ParlView

Main Topics - Uranium sales to Russia, Stern Hu, trade with China , beef imports, Trans-Pacific
Trade negotiations

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Australia has objected to parts of the Rio Tinto executive's trial being held
behind closed doors. For more the Trade Minister Simon Crean joins us now from Canberra. Simon
Crean, good morning, thanks for your time.

SIMON CREAN: Pleasure, Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Can we just start this morning though with news that Australia has - the Federal
Government's cleared the way for Australian uranium to be sold to Russia. Can you guarantee that
uranium sold to Russia won't find its way into atomic weapons?

SIMON CREAN: Yes, they're the agreements that we've had to satisfy ourselves about. We are
satisfied in that regard. We have had very deep consultations with the International Atomic Energy
Agency. We've also spoken closely with Canada and Japan who have similar agreements in place with
Russia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Can you detail for us the assurances that Russia's given Australia?

SIMON CREAN: Well, to comply with the strictest safeguard standards, bear in mind that Russia is a
signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the fact that we have to reach agreement and
have accepted the fact that that which we supply has to be used for agreed purposes.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: This expressly ignores the recommendations in Federal Parliament's Treaty
Committee. Actually it went through an outline that the real concerns that it had about the lack of
international inspections there in Russia.

SIMON CREAN: Well, that's why we've taken some time to consider the treaty's recommendations. We've
responded and that's what came out yesterday, we've responded to the Treaty Committee's
recommendations indicating that we are satisfied as a Government with safeguards.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So what will you say to India when it again complains that we won't sell to them,
that we're selling now to China, we're selling to Russia, but still won't sell to them?

SIMON CREAN: Because China and Russia are both signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
We've also entered into strict safeguard arrangements with them. India is not a signatory to the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That's the position that we've made clear from the outset and
might I say that this is the circumstance in which we've used our position as a significant
supplier of uranium to ensure safeguards are strengthened. I think that's using leverage in a
sensible way to ensure strengthening of safeguards around the world.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So might this just be the leverage then that works on India do you think?

SIMON CREAN: Well India still needs to make the decision in relation to the NPT.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But do you reckon this might be enough pressure then? I mean it desperately wants
our uranium and it's being left out in the cold, might this do it?

SIMON CREAN: Well I think this signals to India that this is the way in which they can be
recipients of our supply and it's for India to respond to. I think our position is clear and
consistent Virginia. And whilst it's true that this agreement with Russia, treaty with Russia was
first opened by the previous government, we have taken considerable time on our part to ensure
we're satisfied, the International Atomic Energy Agency is satisfied, that the safeguards, the
strictest of safeguards are in place and the purposes for which the supply of uranium would be
used.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Have you been aided in this task by the fact that you've got at the moment the
Secretary of State from the US Hillary Clinton, talking to the Russian President there and
negotiating a new deal to reduce nuclear arms? Has that satisfied you and calmed your mind as well?

SIMON CREAN: Well that's another dimension but I think it's a significant development. I think that
anything that can be done to advance the cause of disarmament needs to be done. That's why the
important conference in the US next month will focus on this, it's why we've had Gareth Evans as
our international advocate in terms of disarmament and developing this within the region. What
we're talking about here is the supply of uranium and ensuring that it doesn't backdoor undermine
nuclear - the disarmament thrust if you like. We are satisfied on that front but we've got to
continue to step up the efforts in terms of disarmament itself.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Now on the trial of Stern Hu, a long time China and mining industry watcher said
to us yesterday that he had no doubt in his mind that the prosecution of Hu is intrinsically tied
to iron ore price negotiations, that the legal matter is really just an extension of China always
trying to get the best business deal it can. What's your view?

SIMON CREAN: I don't agree with that. I think that...

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You believe the country's actually able to keep those two issues completely
separate?

SIMON CREAN: Yes. I do believe that. I think that China has long had problems with the question of
prices. They've sought to address those by pressures for government involvement. We've told them
that we're not going to deal government to government. We recognised China as a market economy
status. We keep telling them they've got to act like one. It's market forces that determine the
price and I must say that there hasn't been a representation made to us by government recently.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well they don't actually need to put that in such blunt terms do they? They've got
the ace in the hole, otherwise known as Stern Hu.

SIMON CREAN: No, I think it's true that when we first came to Government they were asking us to
look at the fact that they were a significant recipient of our resources and that should be
factored into the price. I gave them - the very first visit I made there - the very blunt message,
you wanted us to recognise you as a market economy, act as if you're in a market. Don't seek to
influence the market through government. This is a question of supply and demand. There are ways to
affect supply to meet the demand; one of them is to expand productive capacity. That's what we're
looking to do in this country through the big investments and infrastructure. It's what can be done
through increased investment in resource development in this country including foreign investment.

So there are different issues to approach it but the Government is not going to get involved and
there's no point talking to us about it so they can agitate as long as they like, within the
industry and try and pressure that point. We're not going to change.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: What affect though do you think as Trade Minister that this matter, as it now goes
through the Chinese courts is going to have on trade between Australia and China, and in particular
countries from Australia - companies from Australia that extensively do trade in China?

SIMON CREAN: I think the two matters are separate Virginia. I've said this consistently and indeed
if there were links you would have expected the trade had fallen, yet last year China became our
largest trading partner. The two matters are separate. We are treating the Stern Hu case strictly
as a consular case. We've never sought to make any link and neither have the Chinese in their
discussions with us.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Moving onto another matter, you've delayed for two years now a policy to allow
meat from mad cow-affected countries into Australia. Will this policy ever really be introduced?

SIMON CREAN: Well, what's been put in place, Virginia, is a further safeguard to ensure it doesn't.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Yes, but one would have assumed that you'd had those safeguards well established
at the time that you announced that it was going to happen.

SIMON CREAN: Well, I believe we did. I - and I still remain convinced about that, Virginia. We had
protocols in place that - so much so that the head of Food Standards Australia was able to say on
the record that he could guarantee 100 per cent no BSE-affected meat would come into this country.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well then, what's the point of this further review if that's the guarantee?

SIMON CREAN: I think the reality is that there was a huge scare campaign. People wanted additional
assurance. The Import Risk Assessment (IRA) is the basis for providing that additional assurance. I
might say, the other assurance that needed to be addressed, and I think that there was a bit of a
problem from our point of view on this, and that goes to labelling, what we didn't have in place
was appropriate labelling standards. That was the inheritance of what we'd got from the previous
government.

We had undertaken, when we came to office, to conduct an inquiry. We need to try and move more
quickly on the labelling process and Mark (Butler) has already announced such a process.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But it's an Australian consumer no go issue isn't it? Isn't this just one that you
want to quietly die away over the next two years?

SIMON CREAN: Well no. I think that what the Australians want to be satisfied about is that no
BSE-affected product will come into this country, and it won't. We've got the safeguards in place
to ensure that.

Now, if people are saying they don't want imports of beef, let them be honest about that, because
that's really saying, put up the barriers again isn't it? That's saying, let's become an island
state and just self-produce for ourselves.

The truth of it is, if we want to export to the rest of the world, and our beef is a huge export of
the rest of the world. We export two-thirds of what we grow. If we start putting up artificial
barriers, then we will have them put up against us. That's the truth of it. That's what's called
reciprocal action. And what we don't want to do, what we can't afford to do, is to invite that.

And so, this decision in relation to beef has to be conducted on the basis of the science. The
science says that we can test now in a way that absolutely keeps it out and we will.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: All right. Well, just finally this morning, Simon Crean, what's been the result of
the Pacific trade talks that have been held over the last few days? Any bottom line here?

SIMON CREAN: Well, they've gone extremely well, and I'm very pleased with that. So much so that
there's now agreement for three more sets of negotiations this year. The next one being in the
United States.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I love the way you guys work there when you have your trade talks, that the best
result is always more trade talks to talk about trade talks.

SIMON CREAN: I tell you, if you thought these things could be done overnight it would be a pretty
short-term portfolio, I can tell you, Virginia.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I would hate your job.

SIMON CREAN: One of the most frustrating dimensions of this job is the length of time it takes. But
you do need persistence, you do need determination, you do need to maintain that political will.
Fortunately, what we've got is eight really committed parties. And I spoke with the Vietnamese
Ambassador yesterday, they are really keen for it to progress. The US, I think, is a significant
injection into this. If you look at the eight countries involved, we're talking 470 million people,
we're talking a combined GDP of $18 trillion, and we're talking a high-quality trade agreement that
allows improved access for goods, for services and for investment. That's got to be good for this
country because that's where our future lies.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Simon Crean, good to talk to you, thanks so much.

SIMON CREAN: Thanks Virginia.