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Transcript of interview with Mark Parton: 2CC: 16 November 2011: President Obama's visit, uranium sales to India, asylum-seekers

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The Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP Australian Minister for Trade and Competitiveness 2CC with Mark Parton Subjects: President Obama's visit, uranium sales to India, asylum-seekers

Transcript, E&OE

16 November 2011

MARK PARTON: Thirteen to nine. Big day for Canberra; big day for Australia, because we've got the President of the

United States of America visiting this town. Will touch down at 3.25 this afternoon. We've got the Federal Trade

Minister Dr Craig Emerson on the line right now. G'day Craig.


PARTON: How significant is this Presidential visit?

EMERSON: Any Presidential visit is very important for this country; no more important than President Obama's visit.

We're very excited about it. I think all of Australia is, and we've just had very good discussions in Honolulu with the

President on trade and other matters. So he's coming to Australia and then we're going off to Indonesia for the East

Asia Summit. So it's great that he is coming "Down Under".

PARTON: Okay. You speak of these significant discussions on trade. As Trade Minister, what is it that you would like

to see change in our trade relationship with the US?

EMERSON: Just some more openness: reduction of, and final elimination of, remaining trade barriers. That's what the

statement that came out of the APEC meeting - or really the Trans-Pacific Partnership meeting - in Honolulu said: that

the goal was the elimination of all tariffs. Australia's a great trading nation, and we really benefit obviously from greater

access to other countries' markets, whether it be our farmers or our small businesses operating on the National

Broadband Network in regional Australia. We don't only sell goods like iron ore and coal and beef; we also sell

services. And we think this is an opportunity for our small businesses to be able to participate in a great trading

endeavour as well.

PARTON: Surely they owe us some favours, too. We're certainly staying the long haul in Afghanistan, and now it

appears it's American advice that's forced the change in Labor policy on uranium sales to India.

EMERSON: I saw the PM being asked that question yesterday. It's her initiative, and we just think this is a change

whose time has come. India is a peaceful nation and is committed to using Australian uranium for peaceful purposes.

We do have the opportunity to negotiate an India-Australia agreement, a bilateral agreement to ensure that those

safeguards are put in place. And that's what we'll do. By the way, Mark, if I could just mention, to humanise this, selling

uranium to India really means more jobs for Australians, less poverty for Indians and lower carbon emissions. It's a

pretty good equation.

PARTON: Look, I think it makes extreme sense in all areas. I know that the Greens won't and, don't worry, I was

talking about that very fact of carbon emissions earlier this morning, because I know the Greens will be jumping up and

down at great lengths and making a lot of noise about it. The reality is it's going to reduce carbon emissions in India

dramatically, isn't it?

EMERSON: Well it is, and the Greens have been saying that they don't want any energy generated out of fossil fuels

or out of uranium. Well, what's left: wind and sun? You'd want to hope that the sun shines and the wind blows.

Otherwise the lights go out.

PARTON: Yeah, and when you look at the number of people in India, it's just absurd to believe that they could head

down that direction. I do wonder why, though, the Indians just don't sign the treaty.

EMERSON: It's the relationship with Pakistan: it's not the greatest relationship on earth. And they want to behave

peacefully at all times, but Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state. So, what's happened is that the United States and some

other countries in 2007 entered into special agreements with India to sell uranium. Here's Australia to this point saying

that we're not going to, so good on the Prime Minister for identifying this as a policy shift that just has to occur. Bearing

in mind, too, that 400 million Indians are below the poverty line, and most of those don't get more than 12 hours a day

of electricity. So, this is a great humanitarian effort as well as creating Australian jobs.

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PARTON: Dr Craig Emerson is with us. He's the Federal Trade Minister. So many fans of yours that listen to this radio

station. One of them has just rung and said: "Look, if the ALP can back-flip on uranium to India, why can't we just back-flip to Nauru?" [Laughs]. It just always comes up. Why not? Why not?

EMERSON: I think there's a fair bit of political upheaval in Nauru right at this moment. And Tony Abbott says 'pick up

the phone to the President of Nauru'. I think he'd be otherwise occupied. We do agree on this, though: that offshore

processing is the way to go. It's the way of breaking this people-smuggling racket. All we're asking is that Mr Abbott

change his "no, no, no, no and no" position simply to allow the government of the day to exercise the option that it, on

advice, believes is the best one. So your caller I think could ponder this: why wouldn't Mr Abbott allow us to use

Malaysia? If he became Prime Minister this legislation would allow him to use Nauru. And the fact is the advice that

we've got is that Malaysia would work; that advice by the same officials that advised the Howard Government.

PARTON: On the whole Indian, I hate to call it a back-flip - I just think it's a change of …

EMERSON: Well, policies change over time.

PARTON: Of course they do. Of course they do.

EMERSON: If people want to call it a back-flip, and that gets them excited, they can do it. I agree with you, Mark, that

policy changes. If we had the same policies as we had in 1901 we'd be going around in horse-drawn carts.

PARTON: That's absolutely right.

EMERSON: Is the introduction of a motor vehicle a back-flip?

PARTON: What difference will it make, though, to the bottom line for miners in this country?

EMERSON: We already have about 4,250 people employed in uranium mining. But to get a sense of this, India is

planning to increase its electricity generation from nuclear from 3 per cent to 40 per cent. So that's massive growth; it's

not a little bit around the edges here. And there's that very big mineral deposit with lots of uranium called Olympic Dam,

that is set for expansion. So that's really good, not only for the people of South Australia in terms of the working people

who will get jobs there, but also that's a lot of extra wealth for Australia more generally. And they're not the only

uranium deposits in Australia; I think we're the third-biggest uranium exporter, or we have the third-biggest reserves in

the world.

PARTON: Give our regards to the "Big O". Thanks for coming on this morning.

EMERSON: I'll pass on your best wishes.

PARTON: Dr Craig Emerson, the Federal Trade Minister.

Media enquiries

Minister Emerson's Office: (02) 6277 7420 ■

DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555 ■

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