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Transcript of interview with Marius Benson: ABC NewsRadio Breakfast: 3 September 2015: China Free Trade Agreement; Australian economy



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MEDIA TRANSCRIPT

MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT

The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP 3 September 2015

ABC NEWSRADIO BREAKFAST

INTERVIEW WITH MARIUS BENSON

Subjects: … China Free Trade Agreement, Australian economy.

E&OE…

BENSON:

Andrew Robb is the Free Trade agreement with China set in concrete, it can’t be changed, because it hasn’t been to the Parliament yet has it?

ROBB:

No it hasn’t. There is still a report from the Treaties Committees to establish whether they support the agreement as struck. But there has been a public debate for several months, the details have been out there and there has been nothing that has been raised which suggests that there is any issue with the Free Trade Agreement.

BENSON:

Can I pursue one point that was raised by Craig Emerson with me on News Radio yesterday? He is a predecessor or yours as Trade Minister and he says it is great to have this deal but and the but is this; that there is a loop hole there which means that market testing, now labour market testing is the ability to determine if local Australian workers are available for a project from China. He says it’s just optional labour market testing not compulsory, that the Government retains the discretion to say ok to a Chinese enterprise, bring in your own workers. Is that the case? Is there such a loop hole?

ROBB:

No there is not. Craig would know that the conditions, the workplace relations arrangements that underpin this agreement are identical to those that operated for six years under the Labor Government. In fact they are the rules that the Labor Government brought in. Now if there was a problem why didn’t Craig fix this as Trade Minister in his six years?

BENSON:

Can I just reinforce that and ask the same question in another way. There is no way that any Chinese workers can be brought to Australia without there being a test in place to see if Australian workers can do the job and if there are Australian workers there, then no Chinese workers will be brought in?

MEDIA TRANSCRIPT

ROBB:

The thing is there are some exceptions that were made, but they were made under Labor for senior executives that come in. It is for senior people within a company and it is the same if Lendlease goes to New York to build as they have, 14 high rise towers, they are entitled to take with them their senior managers and maybe their principle engineer, their team, the team that puts up structures all around the world. Now those things are allowed for in the agreement but they are only allowed for because they already exists as provisions that apply with any other country. Why should we discriminate against the Chinese in that regard when every other country can have a consideration. So Craig Emerson and others are actually undermining the very laws that they brought in. Nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing, there isn’t a cigarette paper between what is in this agreement and what underpins this agreement that what was in place under the Labor Government recently.

BENSON:

Can I just ask you a quick question on the economy more broadly because obviously it has been discussed off the growth figures released yesterday? You came into office promising stronger growth, you’ve delivered weaker growth, more jobs; unemployment up and now the Government’s argument has seemed to switch from ‘things will be better when you elect us’ to ‘things would have been worse if Labor was there.’ A big rhetorical retreat there?

ROBB:

Well, you are making a number of assertions. What we have said all along is that the terms of trade, as the Labor Government itself had conceded that ultimately the mining boom would come off and there would be a significant terms of trade affect. No-one anticipated that the price of iron ore would go from $160 a tonne down to $40 or less and that is what is reflected in the figures that were released yesterday. But we are in a position where the economy is transitioning from a mining boom based economy to a much wider based economic performance.

Consumer spending is still staying high and confidence is still there, in fact confidence has been rising over the recent weeks. So we are confident that we can weather the storm of dramatically reduced commodity prices and we can help transition this economy into a far more services based economy and that we will have stronger growth over the longer term than Labor would have had and one of the key planks of that of course if the free trade agreements to increase trade and investment in the country in a time when we’ve had this dramatic fall in commodity prices.

BENSON:

Andrew Robb, thank you very much.

ROBB:

Thanks Marius.

ENDS