Interview with Kieran Gilber – AM Agenda – Wednesday, 26 April 2017



KIERAN GILBERT: With me now on the program from the Sydney CBD, the Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare. Mr Clare thanks for your time. This meeting secured with President Trump next week, my understanding it’s taken a fair bit of work to get this across the line with the Trump Administration. The symbolism is quite rich, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea with veterans from both the Australian and US sides in that key battle that drove back the Japanese in World War II. What’s your reaction to that news this morning?

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: That was a key battle, a turning point in the battle in the Pacific. It halted the Japanese advance then and from that the Battle of Midway, Guadalcanal, Kokoda and Milne Bay helped to push the Japanese back. It was a very important example of Australia and the United States fighting and working together. We continue to have a very important relationship with the United States. They are our closest ally.

I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister will be meeting with the President in the United States next week. Probably should have happened earlier given that well reported phone call back in February. It’s good to see. There are a lot of very important things to discuss that are happening in our region. But I do hope as the Shadow Trade Minister that the Prime Minister uses the opportunity with Donald Trump to talk trade.

Overnight the US Administration has announced that they’re imposing a 24 per cent tariff on Canadian timber. Throughout the election campaign Donald Trump talked about imposing tariffs on Chinese goods. Given the sort of things that are happening in our region now and the importance of the Chinese Government in tackling the problem with North Korea, I hope that the Prime Minister uses this opportunity to talk to Donald Trump about the risks of a trade war in our region. He’s lectured Donald Trump for months – without mentioning his name – about the dangers of rising protectionism around the world. Here’s an opportunity to have a very quiet and very direct and important discussion with Donald Trump about trade and the importance of open trade for our region and our country.

GILBERT: Well it is still the biggest foreign investor in this country by a fair margin, the United States. So obviously those issues will be on the table – the trade and investment discussion. But in the broader alliance relationship I know the Labor Leader’s said Mr Trump was entirely unsuited to be President, that he was barking mad. In the context of what we’ve seen recently of individuals like Mike Pence and the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis playing a role, are you reassured about the Trump Administration and its behaviour on the world stage?

CLARE: I think a number of commentators were concerned with the change of Administration about whether the new Trump Administration would be as focused on our region – the Asia Pacific – as perhaps the Obama Administration. The visit by Mike Pence, the visit by the Vice President, to our region and to Australia in the last week I think is very important. It sends an important message that the US is here, that they understand the importance of their role in our region in providing stability.

We need to send another important message to the US that their role in providing economic ballast in our region is important as well, and that means playing an important role in trade negotiations. We’ve seen the TPP abandoned and killed off by Donald Trump. There’s another big trade negotiation happening at the moment which may be concluded by the end of the year called RCEP. That involves us as well as the Chinese, the Japanese, the Indians and all the ASEAN nations, but it doesn’t involve the Americans. There is an opportunity for them to join that though, down the track. I think for economic security in our region a terrific thing would be to encourage the United States and the Chinese to be part of a regional trade agreement. Whether it happens this year or whether it happens down the track, it’s important that it happens long term for Australia.

GILBERT: Mr Clare, today Labor’s to announce a $400 million rail link to Badgerys Creek, that airport. Your colleague Ed Husic doesn’t support it. I’m thinking you would, particularly given the employment benefits to your area which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

CLARE: My views on Badgerys are well known. I said that we need a rail line into the airport from day one. What Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten are talking about today is also a rail line that connects St Marys in the north to Macarthur in the south so it provides an important north south rail link through western Sydney. They’re the sorts of things that the people I represent and people right across the country would expect an Opposition to do, which is come up with practical, useful ideas. At the same time you’ve got the Government involved in this sort of political cage match between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, which is derailing all of the pre-budget work that they should be doing. As well as all this talk today about Cory Bernardi creating an amalgamation of his party with Family First. So you’ve got all this happening off to the side in the conservative side of politics and on the other side Labor, we’re developing real, important, common sense policies that will help the people of Western Sydney.

GILBERT: The Government says you’re jumping the gun with a feasibility study being put in place for those sorts of transport links into Badgerys to report back by the end of the year, but it’s symptomatic of a region that’s been neglected. It’s been one of the biggest economies on its own, Western Sydney and the country, and yet its infrastructure is nowhere near up to scratch.

CLARE: That’s exactly right. This is just the Government putting off an important decision to tomorrow, when they should be dealing with it today. We’re talking about an economy made up of more than 2 million people. Anybody that’s looked at this knows it needs a rail line. We should be not just reserving the corridor but building the rail line, putting the tracks in place so that when the airport opens there’s a train that runs through it. There wouldn’t be many people watching today that think that we should put this off to the never-never. We should be building it now.

GILBERT: The Government says the end of the year, not the never-never.

CLARE: They’re saying the feasibility should be put off to the end of the year, but they’re not making any commitments about when they’d build the rail line. If they’re serious about this, then build the rail line.

GILBERT: Shadow Trade Minister, Jason Clare thanks for your time. Talk to you soon

CLARE: Thanks Kieran.