MICHAEL ROWLAND: We are joined by the Trade Minister Steve Ciobo from Canberra. Minister, good morning.
STEVEN CIOBO: Good morning Michael.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Doesn't this leave, harking back to our former story, the TPP's as dead as a dodo?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well Michael, no, we've got up to two years for all the 12 countries to ratify the TPP. And Australia's going to be pushing forward, other countries are pushing forward with their ratification. The reason why we're doing it Michael, is because this is a big trade deal that's great for boosting Australian exporters; giving us great access into a number of key markets; harmonising trade regulations around all of those countries that have joined and that's part of the reason why we know this is a good deal for Australia.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister says you can't have a TPP without the US. Is he right?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well technically, that's correct, because the United States does need to ratify in order for the TPP to come into effect. But we have a number of options before us. If in two years' time the United States still persisted with the view that they would not ratify the TPP, well we have the option, for example, of making some changes to the agreement to make it come into effect excluding the United States if that was the prevailing mood. Likewise, we could look at other countries like Indonesia or China, for example, if they chose to become involved in the TPP, wanting to harness its benefits as well.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Of course, China is pushing its own trade block, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership if the TPP doesn't work. Is Australia prepared to put all of its eggs in the Chinese basket in that respect?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I wouldn't put all of our eggs into any one basket. I think there's a lot of prevailing wisdom as to why we wouldn't do that. But the good news is that we are already part of RCEP negotiations, RCEP being the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. So Australia already has a seat at that table. And that's consistent with the Coalition's focus on making sure that we actually are pursuing our national interest across a range of different options when it comes to these trade agreements that are good for Australia, good for Australian workers and are ultimately also going to help our exports.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Donald Trump is living up to his promise to pull America out of a trade partnership. Do you also expect him to live up to his promise, Minister, to slap a 45 per cent tariff on all Chinese goods imported into the US?
STEVEN CIOBO: I think we just have to wait and see Michael. There's a lot of –
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Should he drop it? In the interest of preserving global trade harmony?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I'm not going to provide a running commentary for President-elect Trump. What I would say though is that we need to allow the new administration time to get their key personnel into position. And then we'll have to see, once we see the passage of time, ultimately where they decide to go on a number of these big trade policy fronts.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Would you agree with former Reserve Bank board member and prominent economist Warwick McKibbin that if that did happen and there was a trade war, which would be inevitable, with China, that would drive Australia into recession?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well you know Michael, that's very interesting. I have seen media reports this morning about Warwick McKibbin's research and it really highlights what it is that I and others have been saying which is that as a nation we are very actively engaged in trade. Trade is a key growth driver for our economy. Because we do drive our economy through trade, it's a key factor in terms of creating job opportunities for Australians. So it does reinforce that trade is a central part of the Australian economy and a key to continued job creation and economic growth into the future.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Just a couple of quick issues before you go. As a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, are you aware of any consular assistance being offered to this young man Jamie Murphy arrested in Bali on suspicion of drug possession?
STEVEN CIOBO: Yes look, I mean, these developments overnight are concerning of course, Michael, and I can only imagine the stress that he and his family feel. We are providing consular assistance and he'll have a visit, I understand, from consular officials today as well. So we will be providing, as we normally do, for Australians that get themselves in trouble abroad, we will be providing consular support.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Do you agree with your colleague George Brandis that the Queensland LNP is mediocre?
STEVEN CIOBO: I think that the Queensland Labor Government's very mediocre Michael, I'll tell you that.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: I'll ask Labor about Labor, but do you agree with him about the Queensland Liberal National Party?
STEVEN CIOBO: No look I think that Tim Nicholls and his team in Queensland are doing an outstanding job and I think they're well placed because not only have they developed a good set of policies that are going to help drive Queensland forward, but I'm confident that once they communicate those the Queensland people, at the next election, will see that they've got a better pathway forward.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Those comments weren't exactly helpful were they, from George Brandis?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well again I'm not going to provide a running commentary. Clearly it was a conversation that he thought that was a private conversation. He didn't realise -
MICHAEL ROWLAND: They're the best conversations, the one where you're not expecting to be picked up.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well Michael, I'm sure there's lots of conversations that you all have there in the commercial breaks too that Australia would love to be privy to. But I reassert my comments, which is that the Queensland Opposition I think are doing a very good job and will be a very good alternative Government and I hope at the next election they'll have the opportunity to govern Queensland.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Our conversations are always scintillating on this show, as you know. Steve Ciobo, thank you very much for joining us.
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