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Transcript of interview with Andrew Bolt and Steve Price: Radio 2GB: 9 September 2015: The unions' campaign against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis



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Radio 2GB - interview with Andrew Bolt and Steve Price

Subjects:…the unions’ campaign against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), the Syrian and

Iraqi humanitarian crisis.

Transcript, E&OE

9 September 2015

Steve Price:

We’re joined by

the Trade Minister Andrew Robb. Mr Robb,

regarding the Chinese free trade deal;

is it still possible it could fall over?

Andrew Robb:

Well we require, in all likelihood, the Labor party

support in the Senate. So, there's not much

legislation, but there are two very

simple customs bills which change the tariffs because of the agreement, but

interestingly there's no migration bill in there because we don't have to amend

anything because nothing's

changed, despite what you hear in the ads and the rhetoric

from the Labor party and the unions. But yes, if they do

stay bullied and

beholden to the CFMEU this deal could go under and we will literally as a

community, as

Australians, pay for it for decades and decades.

Steve Price:

It's been a very

dirty, dishonest ad campaign.

Andrew Robb:

It's been atrocious. The interesting thing is if you

look back to when the text became available, I

signed the agreement with

Minister Gao, my counterpart, in June. Late that afternoon, the text became

available.

An hour or so later, literally hundreds of thousands of what they

call robocalls - telephone calls - were made in a

whole series of electorates.

Bear in mind there are 70,000 households in each electorate, so I believe there

were

calls in around 12 electorates that night; 12 times 70,000 is the number

of phone calls they made. And the next

day they had ads running on the

television. Now the unions had no opportunity to look at what the detail was.

They

were ready; they'd obviously spent two or three months minimum, to get all

of that campaign ready. It ran the night

that we signed the deal and the text

became available, so that's why I called it racist from the outset, because

they

didn't do this with Japan, they didn't do it with Korea, they didn't do it with

Chile; all of those agreements - the

workers' protections are identical.

Andrew Bolt:

The thing that people have struggled to come to grips

with perhaps Andrew is the deal says that

companies that invest in projects

more than $150 million - which isn't that much in terms of really big projects

-

don't have to check under certain categories; they don't have to do labour

market testing etc. And you say, ‘Well if

you go to another document or other protocols or whatever, they do have to

prove that Australians can't do the job’.

Why is it in one part of the deal

that they don't have to prove it, but it is in another part?

Andrew Robb:

The thing is that in all of the agreements that we've

done and in fact some of those Labor

concluded like the Chilean one - they

didn't conclude too much, but that was one they did conclude - there have

been

the exclusion from labour market testing, of a couple of categories. Now, it

largely refers to senior executives

of companies; the team that they bring -

the senior engineers, it's like Lendlease…

Andrew Bolt:

Things like nurses and all that kinds of stuff? I just don't understand how you can say no

market

testing in one part of the deal, but insist to the public that there is

market testing to show that Australians can't do

the job overall. I just don't understand why the same demand

for market testing isn't in every part of the

documentation?

Andrew Robb:

Well the thing is that labour market testing was

brought in originally by the Howard Government

and then it was removed because

it wasn't deemed to be an effective way of measuring whether there really were

people available or not. Then in 2013 the Labor party reintroduced it but it is

quite limited; 84,000 of the current

100,000 people who are here under 457

visas, haven't gone through labour market testing. Now that's under the

Labor party

system as well as ours. The thing is that standard business sponsors currently

are required, so if

you've got a business and you want to bring in 15 people

who are writing code or they've got certain skills - they

are specialist welders

or whatever they might be - and you can't find them in Australia, you're

required to

demonstrate labour market testing, unless they're exempted from certain

professions.

Andrew Bolt:

Are they blue collar professions?

Andrew Robb:

Well unless they're under international trade

obligations, invariably no they're not. They do include

nurses and engineers but

they have degree courses.

Andrew Bolt:

So it doesn't apply to blue collar workers, so then you

can't actually say can you really, that labour

market testing, under the China

free trade deal, applies to all workers, because it doesn't.

Andrew Robb:

No it doesn't and it didn't under Labor.

Andrew Bolt:

No that's fine, I'm just saying let's put it on the

table.

Andrew Robb:

They're saying you're not doing labour market testing

and my best defence is that all through this

negotiation, I knew that if we strayed

from what already existed as our requirements in Australia, if we strayed

from

the worker protections that were put in place by Labor, I knew that we would

have a hell of a dog fight. So

every time my negotiators came to me and said, ‘We're

looking to offer this or make this concession’, I'd say, ‘Is

that still within

our worker protection legislation?’

Steve Price:

Well the reason

we get hung up on this is the scare campaign works.

Andrew Bolt:

On the blue collar workers anyway.

Steve Price:

On our radio

station last week, Minister we got caller after caller after caller with all of

these very

strange conspiracy theories about the invasion of Chinese workers; ‘We

won't be able to drink milk because

there'll be none left’, all of that stuff is out there, and an

audience that listens to this station is believing it. So the

sales job's got

to be a bit better doesn’t it?

Andrew Bolt:

And in fact to pick up on that, weren’t there poll

indicators that in the seat of Canning which is going

to a byelection in a couple

of weeks - lots of fly-in-fly-out workers - the issue is biting with them?

Andrew Robb:

No it is biting everywhere; I’ve never disputed that.

If you spend $12 million scaring the pants off

people all over the country,

that's the consequence. Now, $12 million they've spent on calls, television ads

and

they’ve got billboards up and down the coast - all in marginal seats by the

way - that is having an effect. You tell

people you're going to lose your job

because of this free trade agreement, there's no explanation or anything; it

cuts through. But we haven't got $12 million.

$12 million is about half what either the Labor or Liberal party spend

on each campaign. The unions have spent it in two and a half months on this one

issue.

Steve Price:

So how do you

counter it and how do you convince the Chinese that we're not somehow backing

away from this deal because we're worried about it?

Andrew Robb:

Well I went to China two weeks ago for this very

purpose, to assure them that we're 110 per cent

committed, and I think in time

common sense will prevail, by the time we get to the legislation. Secondly, I

think Bill

Shorten is now totally isolated with the CFMEU around this issue.

All of the former Labor luminaries - all the

former leaders and the current

leaders at the state level and people like Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson -

they've all said, ‘This has to pass; this has to go through; there are no

problems associated with it’. We have to

progressively try and build the

pressure on the Labor party that their economic credentials will be absolutely

trashed.

Andrew Bolt:

But you know what's going to happen; they are going to

maintain this front until the Canning

byelection to get maximum, and then

they'll give in after that because it doesn’t matter if the result’s bad for

you.

That’s what will happen. What’s needed is some simple lines: ‘This does

not apply to blue collar workers’. That

would be a good message to go out. Just

straight like that: ‘Doesn't apply to blue collar workers’, because that's

where it's biting hard; doesn't apply - it just applies to white collars. Let

them worry about it.

Steve Price:

And the economic benefits have got to be sung a lot

louder.

Andrew Robb:

The farmers are out today with ads and there’s been

endless amount of…

Steve Price:

But how about

having a few press conferences on dairy farms saying, ‘Look, this guy is going

to

expand and put on all these workers’. I think instead of defence attack, attack.

Andrew Robb:

Yes but unless you've got a dog fight, no one's too

interested.

Andrew Bolt:

No, I know that. Now the Syria deal; I find it really

interesting. The Government has been saying

that this deal will apply to

persecuted minorities, by which we're supposed to hear, Christians. Except it

doesn't

dare say Christians. Why don't you dare?

Andrew Robb:

Well, because it is a persecuted minority but there

are Druze; there's Kurds, there's Turkmen,

there’s Yazidis. Now probably, the

most significant persecuted minorities are a whole raft of different Jews and

Christians and a lot of non-Muslim minorities. And the criteria we're really

seeking to use is that, we're the other

side of the world, right? So if they

come here, we have to have the frame of mind that we're trying to resettle

these

people for life. Now, that is the

principal criteria. I suspect it will apply more to the persecuted Christians

and

Jews.

Andrew Bolt:

That they will fit in more?

Andrew Robb:

Well they fit that category more. But having said

that, there are still Kurds, and there's Druze and

there's Turkmen…

Andrew Bolt:

I know, but basically a lot of people in Australia are

worried about the idea of how well Muslims from

war zones fit in to our

society. And they've got reason to worry about that. Now when you say

persecuted

minorities, you're sending a signal that you do not need to worry,

we will be taking in predominately Christians.

Now I understand that there's an

argument that you don't need to go down that way, you just need to say, ‘They're

more persecuted than anyone else, that's why they're getting there’. But why

don't you dare say ‘Listen. We will

take in Christians’, and assure people that

way?

Andrew Robb:

Well because amongst that there will be Muslims obviously;

there will be because there will be

some persecuted minorities, but a lot of

the Muslim-persecuted groups - many of them would prefer to stay near

where

they came from or in Europe…

Steve Price:

But you’re

making the assumption. Would your preference be for Christians to come?

Andrew Robb:

No there are Christians who are persecuted and Jews

and others, Armenians, who we could fairly

accurately assume there is no place

for them back where they came from; that's not going to happen. Whereas

there

are Muslims who are persecuted, some of whom we can assume the same - that

they're not going to be

able to go back to where they came from - but others

who are more likely to be able to go back in due course. So

they - if they're

in Europe or somewhere - have that choice far more readily than if they

relocated to Australia. So

that's why we set the criteria that our focus is on

the persecuted minorities, who have been displaced and are very

unlikely - that's

a very important point - ever to be able to go back to their original home.

Steve Price:

Our colleague

Ross Greenwood, whom I know you talk to on a regular basis, has done the

numbers, and he's better at numbers than Andrew and I; he says no way is this

going to only cost $700 million.

Andrew Robb:

Well I was the Minister for a year, responsible for

refugees, and that was back in 2006. That

year

we had 12,000 refugees under our humanitarian normal program and we had

the 12,000 from the year before and

the year before and the year before. It was

costing us then about $600 million for 12,000. But that was per year,

and we

had all the ones from the years before etc. So prices have gone up, I think

we're talking about $750 million

Andrew Bolt

: $750 but it's closer to the round billion, actually.

Andrew Robb:

I was thinking to myself in Cabinet - because I was trying

to compare it to when I had

responsibility - because of course Cabinet was asking

‘what is it going to cost?’, and I didn't think it was that far

out of whack,

to be honest.

Andrew Bolt:

All right. You're more travelled than the average minister,

and certainly more than the average

Australian, being Trade Minister, just being

reflective; you look at Europe, the illegal immigrants now are about

4,000 a

day that it's gone up to, mostly Muslimist third-world. How is that going to

change Europe if that doesn't

stop? Because I don't see any way at the moment

of Europe actually stopping what's happening.

Andrew Robb:

Well, I don't know if they can or they can't. You can

see what happened in the UK; you could

understand it all the colonies could

come in. But even if they’re usually sympathetic and all the rest of it, they

do

change the community. You’ve got whole cities that come from different

countries and that could well occur in

Europe, so it will change very

much. But I think despite all the

numbers you hear coming out and all the rest -

Europe's talking about settling about

4,000 per country per year for three or four years - but what they do with the

rest, I don't know.

Steve Price:

Can I ask you a

question on that? You spent more of your last two years out of Australia than

in,

most of it in places like China, Korea, and Japan. How it is that none of

those countries put their hand up to take

anybody?

Andrew Robb:

Well, as developing countries…

Steve Price:

Developing

countries; Japan and Korea?

Andrew Robb:

No, Japan is not of course. Japan has never embraced immigration for one

second, much less

resettlement. Look, I don't have to defend any of these

countries...

Steve Price:

You can be

diplomatic, that's fine. I just thought I'd ask. I find it unbelievable. And

even the Middle

East countries.

Andrew Robb:

They are now suffering a consequence; we bring in, quite

apart from the refugees, which we're

one of three countries in the world that

has - in an uninterrupted fashion - brought in refugees for 60 years. But

we've

controlled it; we've chosen them. And we spent serious money on helping them to

settle. Even then we've

had problems, but…

Andrew Bolt:

We still have problems. Look at some of the suburbs of

Sydney.

Andrew Robb:

I accept that but overwhelmingly, we have been very

successful with many groups. Very

successful; the Vietnamese, the people from

Myanmar and…

Andrew Bolt:

The Afghans, the Somalis, the Sudanese. I think we're

coming into a different era now, I'm afraid.

Andrew Robb:

Well no, the Myanmar people are not different.

Andrew Bolt:

No.

Andrew Robb

: But okay, they’re quite different cultures and it's

going take us more time. But we have, as a

country, been remarkably successful

in bringing in people from many different parts of the world. Sure, many of

them came from Europe with a lot of similar sorts of values, but we have been

remarkably successful. And I do

feel that we still are benefiting enormously

from the 250,000 a year of skilled people coming in who are young…

Andrew Bolt:

Yeah that's different. But I tell you what, Andrew; I

bet you a lot that there wouldn't be a Japanese

politician looking at what's

going on in Europe and Germany or whatever and thinking, ‘We should take in

more,

too’. There wouldn't be one that would think that an Asian-Japanese

population is better as long as it's still mono-

cultural.

Andrew Robb:

Well they're struggling; the Chinese are struggling

now - they have a one child policy. Within five

years, they will be looking to have

people come into the country. Which is quite counter to the argument the

CFMEU

is putting up, but they are running out of young people who are ready to work,

and do all the things that

are necessary in a country and support the seniors

in their community.

Now Japan is really up against it

in terms of the age profile of their country; it's becoming seriously out of

whack.

And I don't know what they're going to do about it and I'm not going to

tell them what to do about it, but they've got

an issue and I'm sure it’ll be

making them think about it.

Steve Price:

It’s great to

talk to you. Thanks for giving us your time. You're doing a great job. Thanks

for your

time today.

Andrew Robb:

Thanks a lot. Thanks for the opportunity.

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