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Andrew Robb a hard act to follow, says incoming Trade Minister Steve Ciobo -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: One of the biggest winners from Malcolm Turnbull's ministerial reshuffle is Gold Coast MP Steve Ciobo.

The Minister for International Development and the Pacific has been handed the Trade and Investment portfolio.

He was recommended for the role by his predecessor Andrew Robb, the man Malcolm Turnbull has described as the most effective trade and investment minister is Australia's history.

He'll be sworn in on Thursday but first he's joining us in our Sydney studio.

Steve Ciobo, good morning.

STEVE CIOBO: Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Congratulations, this is now definitively a Turnbull ministry, isn't it?

STEVE CIOBO: Well look, it has been and it continues to be, and this reflects I think a couple of things.

One, it reflects renewal within the Coalition, I think that that's a big positive - it demonstrates that as a Government we continue to be focussed on the task that we're elected to do, but also take the opportunity to bring, for lack of a better term, new blood into the frontbench and I think that's a big positive.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, let's look at your portfolio, your new portfolio.

Andrew Robb of course, as we know, signed a bag full of trade agreements - what are the trade priorities now for you?

STEVE CIOBO: Well look they're very big shoes to follow.

Andrew Robb, I think, on any measure, if not the greatest certainly one of the greatest trade ministers Australia has seen and that's a difficult act to follow.

From my perspective though, there's really several things to do.

One is those initiatives that have already been commenced that need to be concluded - issues such as for example the negotiations with India around a free trade agreement, discussions that we've had with respect to, for example, Indonesia.

Then there's more medium and longer-term objectives in terms of trade policy, and that includes work that's happening with respect to the European Union and whether we can secure an FTA with the European Union, as well as more broadly architecture surrounding of course, the TPP - that's the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as the regional comprehensive economic plan for the area.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: India has proved to be a difficult one, hasn't it, because it was supposed to be wrapped up in the first half of the year.

Why is it so difficult?

STEVE CIOBO: Well free trade agreements, by their definition, are not straightforward - they require discussion, negotiation, between two bilateral parties in the case of a bilateral FTA.

Australia and India of course are going through the process of having negotiations and like any negotiation, Michael, the starting point really consists of each country saying well look, we're prepared to do this and we'd like everything in return and then you negotiate from there.

It's a long and complex process because it includes a number of domestic pressures that of course both sides of the negotiation are sensitive to.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that's another one that seems to be stuck, certainly stuck in the US Congress.

How hopeful are you that that's going to be ratified, and how long could we be waiting for that?

STEVE CIOBO: Well the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP as it's called, is a really exciting trade deal - I mean it represents 40 per cent of the global GDP, it's an incredible opportunity for Australia in terms of the region.

In terms of the US Congress - look, it takes a brave person to predict what the US Congress might do.

I'm certainly very hopeful that we'll continue to see pressure brought to bear within the United States and general recognition that it's in their national interest for the TPP to actually pass through the Congress.

The way in which that might occur, the circumstances in which it might occur, I think we'll have to wait and see.

I wouldn't be surprised though, and most commentators expect that's more than likely going to happen in what's called the "lame duck session" post the presidential election, but, you know, time will tell.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Takes a brave person at the moment to predict what a Turnbull Cabinet's going to do on tax reform as well.

What do you think about what's going on?

I mean clearly the Government, the Turnbull Government, your Government is starting to rule things out and taking some things off the table, but they seem to be the big reform ideas like a GST increase and is sort of playing politics around the edges with negative gearing.

Is this the economic leadership Malcolm Turnbull said was lacking in the Abbott government?

STEVE CIOBO: Well let's be clear about the broad principles that underscore the debate that's currently taking place in Australia.

And Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister, together with Scott Morrison as Treasurer, indicated we wanted to have a discussion with the Australian people, we wanted to flesh out arguments for and against tax reform.

The guiding principle for the Coalition is to say well what can we do to have more efficient taxes in place? How can we use those taxes and the change in the tax mix to reduce the personal income tax burden that Australians have?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Malcolm Turnbull also the country was lacking economic leadership.

STEVE CIOBO: Well and we're providing that by having a discussion with the Australian people.

I mean it's not a top-down, impose our approach and don't bother listening to anyone else. This is actually a period of consultation.

And I think that's a good thing, I think Australians expect that.

But to go back to those principles, as I said, guiding the Coalition is the approach that says: what can we do to address the structural deficit that we have in this country and how do we reduce the personal income tax burden?

I contrast that with Labor's approach, which actually is a tax and spend approach, because I am not shying away from the fact that Labor's putting forward their ideas around tax, clearly they are.

But the problem with their ideas around tax is that it's only about driving additional revenue to government so that they can continue to spend more money.

Whereas the Coalition's approach is different - we're about changing the tax mix to reduce personal income tax burden.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, but we are in a situation now where we know more about the Opposition's tax policy and economic direction than we really know about the Government's.

STEVE CIOBO: Well but you know Michael, I don't think that's a problem. And the reason I don't think it's a problem is because the Government said that we wanted to have a discussion around tax reform and that we had always intended and will do so to take a plan to the Australian people.

I mean the Australian people will know at the next election what Labor's plans are, and what the Coalition's plans are. And they'll have the opportunity to vote on both of the major parties' positions and proposals at the next election.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, can we just turn to Stuart Robert, who is a colleague of yours and a member for a neighbouring seat on the Gold Coast.

Just this week you expressed your support for him.

There are new reports out today, I'm sure you're aware, that he spent more than $1600 of taxpayers' money in 2013 to fly to a north Queensland gold mine in which he had recently bought shares.

Does he still have your support?

STEVE CIOBO: Look, each of us in federal politics have the obligation to indicate the link between travel that we might undertake which we say is for parliamentary, electorate or official purposes and the reason why we took that.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: If that's the case, he hasn't done that, has he?

STEVE CIOBO: Well, I don't know. I've seen the reports and obviously it falls upon his shoulders to be able to justify why he took that trip and indicate whether it was for parliamentary, electorate or official purposes.

I'm sure that in his mind he would say that he did it, and I'm sure in time he'll furnish the reasons why he did that travel.

I can't possibly predict you know, what he was doing, I don't know if it was...

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: If it wasn't for official purposes and if it was used to go and inspect an investment, should he stand down?

STEVE CIOBO: Any member of Parliament who charges taxpayers for travelling in a private capacity, who hasn't done it for parliamentary, electorate or official business, is of course in breach of the rules.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay. Steve Ciobo, thanks very much for joining us.

STEVE CIOBO: A pleasure, thank you.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That's the new Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo.