Interview with Kieran Gilbert – AM Agenda – Tuesday, 22 May 2018

TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2018

SUBJECTS: Australia’s relationship with China, Ged Kearney’s maiden speech

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, with me now is the Shadow Trade Minister Jason Clare. Thanks for your time. You must welcome the fact that the Foreign Minister has had that meeting with Wang Yi her counterpart – it went for more than an hour. Apparently constructive and she’s been invited to visit Beijing within the next few weeks. That’s a good thing to see those relations on a firm footing again.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT: That is good news. That’s what our ministers should be doing. China is our biggest trading partner. We need to work professionally and constructively with them. It’s true to say we’re not always going to agree on everything, but where we disagree we should sit down and try and work those issues out. Part of the problem Kieran we’ve had over the last few months is that government ministers have said some pretty unwise and some pretty stupid things. That’s aggravated the Chinese and as a result some of our exporters are dealing with the consequences of that.

GILBERT: On the Treasury Wines issue Julie Bishop says some people are disproportionately magnifying any difficulties between Australia and China. Do you accept her assessment?

CLARE: Well it’s not just Treasury Wines Estate it’s other wine companies as well. It’s the Australian beef industry. Just over 12 months ago the Australian Government signed an agreement with the Chinese Government to export chilled beef to China and we’re still waiting for that to happen. What exporters are telling me is that because of some of the stupid and silly things that government ministers have said over the last 12 months, they’re being delayed. They’re having to wait to get their products off the dock.

Remember Barnaby Joyce last year said that China was a bigger threat to the world than ISIS. We had the Prime Minister come out and spit back the words of Mao Zedong to the Chinese. Now that’s obviously made them pretty angry. What exporters are telling me is that they’re wearing the consequences of that. I’m not arguing we should be pandering to the Chinese, all I’m saying is we should act in a professional way and avoid saying silly and stupid things. So if the Foreign Minister and the Trade Minister have sat down with their counterparts to work these issues out that’s good. It should have happened a long time ago.

GILBERT: When you look at where things are at now, as I say Julie Bishop visiting in the next few weeks as part of those annual talks between Australia and China. The Prime Minister before the end of the year as well going to Beijing. Is this sort of a bump in the road? Is this normal when you’re dealing with a country with a very different world view to ours?

CLARE: Look it happens. It’s happened in the past. I remember in the first year that John Howard was Prime Minister there was a clash over Taiwan. What John Howard did was sit down with the Chinese President…

GILBERT: What about when Kevin Rudd called the Chinese you know, I don’t want to repeat the term but rat so and so.

CLARE: It’s another good example. We’re two different countries with two different sets of values. We’re a democracy, they’re not. There are always going to be issues where we disagree and there are going to be trade issues that flare up from time to time. When that happens it’s the responsibility of government ministers to sit down and work those issues through. If the Foreign Minister has done that then that’s terrific and I’d urge the Prime Minister to sort those issues out at his level as soon as possible as well because there are exporters that are hungry to export their goods to China. It’s a big market with enormous opportunity. It’s already our biggest trading partner. One in three dollars we make from exports goes to China… 

GILBERT: It’s still growing and growing…

CLARE: … and growing. And has the potential to grow even more. That’s why it’s important that we take a professional approach to the work that we do with China.

GILBERT: Finally I wanted to ask you about Ged Kearney’s comments. What did you make of them? You’re a former Minister for Home Affairs and you had coverage of these issues. Is Bill Shorten under pressure from the Left of the Party to soften the approach? Certainly from Ged Kearney he is.

CLARE: No he’s not. Well I heard what Ged said and what she said is that she’s opposed to indefinite detention. My question is who supports indefinite detention? Even the Liberal Party doesn’t support indefinite detention. They’re seeking to transfer people form Manus and Nauru to the United States. Our position is pretty clear Kieran we’ve said that we will turn back the boats, we’ll maintain offshore processing and we will support the regional transfer of people from Manus and Nauru to third countries. That’s what we will do. But that won’t stop Peter Dutton or any of the rest of them from trying to scare the Australian people because that’s all they’ve got left. Their only policy is a $17 billion tax cut for the big banks.

GILBERT: That’s true. What you’re saying is right in terms of her speech but on Twitter she said: “I’m deeply passionate about this issue. You’ll be hearing more about my push at the upcoming National Conference to humanise our policies on asylum seekers and refugees.” Clearly she doesn’t think you’ve got the right balance.

CLARE: Let me just repeat what I said before. We support turning back boats. We support offshore processing. We support the regional transfer of people to third countries. That’s what we’ll do in government. But I’m not under any illusions Kieran that’s not going to stop Peter Dutton and the rest of them from putting on the scary face and trying to scare the Australian people because frankly that’s all they’ve got that. Only that and a $17 billion tax cut for the big banks.

GILBERT: That’s your view, that’s Richard Marles’ view, that’s Bill Shorten’s view but it’s not Ged Kearney’s view. She said it in her own words she wants to humanise your policy so that means a change in policy at the Conference. He’s going to be under pressure there. There’s no doubt about that.

CLARE: Kieran we’ve been totally transparent. We’ve put out our draft platform. I’ve just expressed  what’s in it. You don’t see many other political parties do that.

GILBERT: Mr Clare thank you so much we’ll talk to you soon.



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