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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 7 August 2006: China FTA; wheat exports to Iraq; Middle East conflict.

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7 AUGUST 2006



Rudd: We now have a rift within the Howard Government on Australia’s negotiating strategy on the free trade negotiations with China. This is bad news for Australian exporters. The reason is if you’ve got a public rift between Ministers on our negotiating strategy with China, it undermines our negotiating strategy. That’s the bottom line. Australia has to be a hard-line, hard-nosed negotiator with the Chinese, just as China is a hard-line negotiator with us.

When you have such a public split between Ministers on a key element of our negotiating strategy with the Chinese, it undermines Australia’s negotiating strategy. It’s time these Ministers got their act together. This is a big export market for Australia and there are big national interest questions at stake for Australia’s manufacturers in the FTA with China. They’ve got to get their stories straight. You can’t have public disunity on display like this.

Also on the AWB, we see it is now confirmed from the United States Wheat Associates that they now have 72 per cent of the wheat export market now with Iraq. The Wheat Associates, frankly, had very little of that market only two or

three years ago. Australian wheat exporters to Iraq have suffered as a consequence of the mishandling by the Australian Government of the AWB scandal.

Australia’s hardworking wheat farmers are now paying the price for the Howard Government’s mismanagement of the wheat for weapons scandal. The Wheat Associates of the United States are laughing all the way to the bank. Australian wheat exporters are the ones who are suffering. There is a hard economic cost now being paid by Australia’s wheat exporters for this level of government mismanagement.

Reporter: On the China free trade deal, what do you actually think of the dispute over whether our manufacturing protection should go?

Rudd: When it comes to our manufacturers, we’ve got to be hard-nosed ourselves. That is, our manufacturers right across this country are doing it tough, therefore it is important that whatever negotiating strategy is adopted by Australia, that our manufacturers are not sold down the drain. We’ve not been briefed by the Government on the detail of their proposed negotiating strategy with the Chinese, but I’ve got to say, they have to be hard-nosed about this. Public displays of disunity like this, serve no benefit for Australia whatsoever.

Reporter: Does that mean that the tariffs should stay or go?

Rudd: When it comes to the negotiating strategy itself, when it comes to the content of what they’re putting on the table, I want to be briefed by the Government first before taking a position on any element because it relates to what else is in the negotiating strategy as well. What are they doing on services? What are they doing on agriculture? That’s the important thing here. I’m just disappointed that they have put all this disunity on display.

Reporter: But why would China ever bother signing an FTA with Australia, if it wasn’t for improved access for manufacturing goods, that’s where they’ve been…

Rudd: Well the Chinese are very hard-nosed negotiators - that’s the bottom line here. They’ve been like that in the past, they’ll be like that in the future. I’ve dealt with the Chinese Government for over twenty years on a whole range of negotiations - State level, Commonwealth level. I think the important thing here is for the Australian Government to get its act together. What is damaging here is the public display of disunity, on such a key element of the negotiating strategy. What do the Chinese see, when they see that? They see weakness. That’s the problem for us. We’ll be getting a full briefing from the

Government on their negotiating strategy very soon and we’ll be commenting on it further.

Reporter: On AWB, is it time for the single desk to go so we can start getting back into these Iraqi markets?

Rudd: When it comes to the future of the single desk, our policy hasn’t changed. We support the continuation of this arrangement and we’ve done so for more than sixty years and unless industry presents us with a convincing case for change, that will continue to be our position. This damage however to Australia’s wheat export interest in Iraq has happened because Mr Howard, Mr Downer and Mr Vaile fundamentally have got wrong their management of the AWB’s

handling of the wheat export market in the past. This wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had the wheat for weapons scandal.

Reporter: Do you support the ceasefire plan from the Security Council?

Rudd: It’s a small step in a long term march towards resolution of the dispute. Obviously it’s not ideal. Everyone knows that. What’s needed is a ceasefire. The carnage has to stop. We need a ceasefire which has the cessation of hostilities by Hezbollah against Northern Israel, the return of Israeli soldiers and Israel ceasing its attacks on Southern Lebanon.

Tape breaks.