PATRICIA KARVELAS: What now for the largest trade deal in history, can it be saved? Steven Ciobo is the Trade Minister, welcome to RN Drive.

STEVEN CIOBO: Good to be with you, Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So the US is out, which means the TPP cannot be fully ratified, how can the remaining 11 countries proceed with the deal now?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well there's a couple of ways forward. The first is that there's up to 24 months for the 12 original signatories, including the United States –

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And we no longer have the Trade Minister, but we're getting him back, 0418-226-576 is our number. We lost you there, but could you continue, Steve Ciobo?

STEVEN CIOBO: Have you got me back?


STEVEN CIOBO: Okay, terrific. So I was just saying, there's a couple of ways forward. With respect to the actual original signatories, they have up to 24 months to ratify. Now we're about eight or nine months into that process, which means that there is still some period to go, more than a year. Now it may be that the United States, with the time elapsing, may find other factors that they want to take into account are the considerations which might shift their position over the coming 12, 14, 15 or so months. By the same token, Patricia, we could also have an arrangement where those countries, excluding the United States, might make a decision to say, well look, we think there's such value in this that we press on with it regardless.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, now one of them is ridiculously optimistic, I'm just going to call it out. I mean, the President-elect has made this video saying that this is his top priority, so I don't see it as a very likely proposition that he would change his position, but the other option, which I'd love to hear more from you on, is Australia interested in pursuing that kind of deal without the US? Is that what Australia would be doing?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well we certainly think that there's a lot of merit in the TPP. I mean, the fact is with these trade agreements, the more uniformity you can get across multiple markets, the easier you make it for Australian exporters. Instead of having to comply with different rules and different regulations across different jurisdictions or different export markets, you bring everybody under the one umbrella. Now with the TPP, if we're able to secure the agreement, an endorsement of the remaining 11 including Australia, and even look at, for example, whether other countries like Indonesia or China might choose to join, potentially there is a lot of benefit there and so that is absolutely something that we would look at.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the TPP has no meaning without the US. Is that right? I mean, the US is a central part of this.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well each country makes their own determination. I believe that Japan has indicated at APEC that they wanted to press on and certainly it's my view that the benefits that we're able to achieve, the agreement that we're able to put into place under the TPP is one that is not only good quality but also provides some great commercial outcomes for Australian businesses, Australian exporters. And let's be clear about this Patricia, when we actually drive increased market export opportunities for Australian businesses, what we're doing is driving the Australian economy. As you get businesses scale up to meet the demands that come from foreign markets, it also creates job opportunities in Australia for more Australians to come and work in those industries and tap into that export potential. That's part of the reason why I, and indeed the Coalition, are so passionate about pursuing these outcomes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: What are the other options? Could China take the place of the US?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well there's always a multitude of different agreements that people are looking at. It's not a case of all eggs being in one basket with respect to the TPP. There are a number of other discussions that are taking place in international fora including what's called RCEP. RCEP simply stands for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. In other words, that's an agreement involving ASEAN countries plus six, so a total of 16 countries, who are looking at forming a trade agreement on goods, on services, on investment and we're currently in negotiations around RCEP. Now RCEP also includes China and India. It's more than 50 per cent of the global population represented among the membership, more than 30 per cent of global GDP, so again, a very powerful potentially regional agreement, that if we can get agreement on it, it will be good.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So instead of China entering the TPP, which is what I put to you, you see RCEP as the alternative. Would Australia then put more emphasis, more work into RCEP instead of the TPP, given what you've just described?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well to clarify, I mean, it's also an option for China to join the TPP if they wanted to as well. I don't mean to characterise them as either/or. The fact is that you could have potentially China say, well look, we think TPP is a good deal, we'd like to join. Indonesia has expressed an interest in possibly joining TPP. Now there are processes that need to be gone through, but if they like the text of the agreement and they're willing to sign up, then that provides tremendous scope.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Australia is a signatory to the TPP, as most people listening would probably know, but there is a provision for us to pull out. If the US position remains unchanged, will you consider withdrawing or will you do everything to make it work?

STEVEN CIOBO: No, we want to make it work. This is a good agreement. This is an agreement that's going to help to drive Australian exporters. It's an agreement that's going to help to drive a standardisation for businesses, which makes it easier for them to be able to engage in trade across those markets. It's a good agreement that will help to drive economic growth and help to drive jobs for Australians. So for all those reasons, Patricia, we absolutely want the TPP to fly if it possibly can.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: If you're just tuning into RN Drive, I'm speaking with the Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo and our number if you want to participate in the conversation. What do you make of Donald Trump's comments today about the TPP and Australia's view that it still will pursue the TPP? 0418-226-576 is the number you can text on and you can also Tweet, if you like Tweeting, using the hashtag RN Drive. What are the implications for generating jobs and government revenue? I mean, how much have you banked on the deal going through?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well we don't build that into the budget forecast. The budget, of course, represents policy decisions taken by Government but we don't build in what might happen under trade agreements. That's not part of the Commonwealth Government's budget process and has never been in terms of previous governments, whether they be Liberal or Labor or whatever the case may be. So the reason why we pursue these trade agreements, as I said, and look, we've got history here, Patricia, because we've in the last four years concluded free trade agreements with China, with Korea and with Japan. Now the Coalition did that because we know that they're opening up those export markets, the key North Asian economies to Aussie exporters and we've seen most recently, for example, inside of the last week, the new figures off the back of the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which shows an increase of around a billion dollars' worth of exports to Korea and notwithstanding the fact that in that same period we've seen significant declines in commodity prices.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: We've seen the backlash in the US over issues of trade, jobs, you're still very vigorously arguing for the TPP, very stridently arguing for the TPP, clearly though even in Australia if you see the vote for One Nation at the last election, if you look at the polling which shows that vote is now increasing, that there is an issue. You haven't convinced the public, in fact, I'm being inundated right now with many text messages questioning why Australia is insisting on the TPP. Have you failed in making the argument in Australia domestically, that this is worth doing?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I'll take every opportunity to be an advocate about good quality trade agreements. Trade agreements that help businesses to export, trade agreements that drive economic growth, trade agreements that drive jobs for Australians, trade agreements that ultimately mean that Australia enjoys a higher standard of living than otherwise would be the case. The fact is Patricia, that we as a nation have enjoyed 25 years of continuous economic growth. We are the envy of developed economies around the world for that reason. Earlier this year we've seen Australia's strong growth rate of more than three per cent, a direct consequence of our growth in exports that we've been able to put in place under these free trade agreements. So I will always take an opportunity to highlight why these are positive outcomes for all Australians but I'll still be respectful that others hold different views and provided people are open minded and willing to look at all the evidence, I'm very confident that we can present a very compelling case about why these trade agreements are good for our nation.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Three National Senators and Government Ministers didn't turn up for the vote on the Adler shotgun in the upper house last night in the Senate. The Nationals and Liberal viewpoint on the weapon differs, it's pretty amazing, isn't it, that people would just not turn up to vote on something like this and not vote with the Government? I mean, that's open dissent.

STEVEN CIOBO: Well first of all, the Nationals and Liberal's position isn't different. As a Government we have a position on it –

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Not one National turned up to vote with the Government on this.

STEVEN CIOBO: No, it was a Mickey, what's called a 'Mickey' division. Let's sort of unpick this because it's important that we actually go beyond sort of sensationalist statements and look at what took place. Now Mickey division is when you have a division that's called by sometimes a minor party or a crossbencher, which basically elicits next to no support. In other words, the major parties, the Coalition and the Labor Party are not supporting whatever it is that the vote's been called on. Now that's what happened. Now when that happens and you have, and I'm talking about the House of Representatives, because that's where I'm a member of and I'm not completely familiar with what the exact thresholds are in the Senate, but in the House of Representatives we have five or fewer members on one side of the vote, so out of 150, you've got say, for example, four members on one side of the vote and you've got the other 146 on the other side, well obviously we don't do the whole count because it's a waste of everyone's time. Now that's what happened in the Senate last night. So in a Mickey division, not every Senator turns up. The same as in the House of Representatives, because you know that a formal vote is not going to be conducted given how few are actually there.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Ok but Liberals turned up. It's the Nats that didn't turn up and they didn't vote with the Government, so you can go on about Mickey divisions, which most people wouldn't understand but –

STEVEN CIOBO: No but Patricia, this is exactly my point. A number of Senators didn't turn up, so I understand that elements of the media will try and sensationalise this and say this about a particular reason, what I'm saying is that it actually isn't. It's a process called a Mickey division where frequently in the same as in - we literally just had one in the House of Representative. Not every member of the House of Representatives will turn up because not the, entire vote is not counted.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Alright. The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been labelled hurtful, ignorant and a racist after he said yesterday that Malcolm Fraser had made a mistake in allowing Lebanese Muslim migration to Australia in the 1970s. Do you agree with Mr Dutton's comments?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I don't think that's an accurate characterisation. I think he said that there were some mistakes that were made and look, Peter Dutton's concerns, as he's expressed and made clear in numerous interviews now, flow from the fact that we see an over-representation of certain ethnic backgrounds in some of the, for example, those seeking to travel abroad to Syria to engage in terrorist activity. Now his concern, as outlined in his comments, was in relation to that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: These people, their parents were born in Australia. They are third generation now Australians. My parents weren't born in Australia. They have been here for a really long time. Do you think this is helpful?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well I think if we go to the point, which was about the need to make sure that we appropriately have people integrate into the Australian way of life, I think that's a valid point.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But they're not new migrants. They haven't integrated. They've been Australians for a long time.

STEVEN CIOBO: But I think Patricia, that's missing the point. Look, I'm someone who's, obviously with a surname like Ciobo, my father came to this country in the 1950s. My mother is of Australian descent, before that English descent, so now that's a very quick history of the Ciobo family tree, but my point is this, Patricia. I don't think that it's wrong to have a discussion about making sure that we put enough emphasis and resourcing behind having new migrants integrated into Australian society in a way where they feel welcome and they feel supported because we know –

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But these people aren't new migrants.

STEVEN CIOBO: But hang on, we actually know that when you don't provide that support, that the consequence of that is that people feel alienated, which can lead to radicalisation. Now I think the point that Peter was, and I don't want to get into sort of a running commentary of his statement, but to go to what I know he was driving toward, it was to say that mistakes were made, so people didn't feel integrated. As a consequence of that lack of integration, we're seeing some of the impacts that that has subsequently.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally, the ABCC's being debated in the Senate today, when are we likely to get a vote?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, I would love that to happen as soon as possible. I mean, it's a key part of the Coalition's agenda. We did the same thing with the so-called ROC Legislation, the Registered Organisations Commission Legislation, which went through the Senate last night. This is consistent with the Coalition's calm, methodical approach to getting through significant legislation that's going to put Australia in a stronger position going forward. So I would like it to happen as soon as possible but obviously we've got to see what the crossbench is doing and what the Labor Party opposition are doing.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Do you have the numbers?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we will have to wait and see. I think that there's a number of different parties that are engaged in constructive conversation and I frankly think that's a positive, Patricia. I mean, the Australian people want us to manage and want us to run the Government in a way that's respectful of different points of view, that incorporates the various views that are put forward by crossbench Senators and others. That's what we're focused on trying to do and we want to achieve an outcome that's going to be consistent with policies that we took to the Australian people at the last election but also make our nation in a stronger position going forward.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Steven Ciobo, thank you so much for coming on RN Drive.

STEVEN CIOBO: A pleasure, thanks.

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