STEVEN CIOBO: The Queensland Premier needs to take a decision to revoke the policy that she's announced. The simple fact is that the announced policy, Labor’s so-called Queensland First Policy is going to do nothing except put Queensland exporters last. In April of this year, the Queensland Treasurer said that "one in five jobs in Queensland were trade-related." That's nearly 500,000 Queenslanders that are relying on trade for their livelihoods, and Queensland's Premier is threatening, directly, their livelihoods. This reckless Labor policy that will we see open discrimination against other countries, and indeed other states, with whom Australia has actually given commitments, with whom the Queensland Premier herself has actually made commitments, is a policy that will simply ensure that Queensland exporters are left behind and in fact are worse off. The consequence of that is lower economic growth and fewer jobs. The Queensland Premier is attempting to try and surf some kind of wave of protectionism, but all she is going to ensure that happens is fewer job opportunities for Queenslanders and actually results in what is a trading state losing preferential market access in a whole host of different countries around the world. Currently, under the free trade agreements and other agreements that we've got in place, we have government procurement agreements with Chile, Korea, Japan, and Singapore, these are all being jeopardised now by the Queensland Premier. So, this policy needs to be revoked. It's simply unacceptable. The Queensland Premier basically declares that New Zealand's Trade Minister doesn't know what he's talking about. This has been a monumental stuff-up by Queensland's Labor Premier. She's now stepping on toes globally. It is high time that this policy was reversed and reversed quickly.
JOURNALIST: How concerning is it for you that a foreign trade partner is already expressing concerns about this policy so publicly?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we know that we've given commitments not to discriminate with the United States, with Korea, with Japan, with a whole host of countries, including Singapore as well. And the reason we say we won’t discriminate is because in order to get preferential market access, in order to get our exporters the best opportunity to export into those markets, we of course have to open up our economy to competition as well. So, the Queensland Premier is attempting to have her cake and eat it too. She wants to say "we're going to open markets, but we're going to close down Queensland." Well, guess what, our trade partners will say, "well Queensland, if you are not prepared to honour your commitments, then why should we honour our commitments?" And that simply means that for a trading state like Queensland, indeed for a trading country like Australia, it means that our exporters are put under immense pressure, which makes it so much harder for them to be able to export. And as I said, the Queensland Labor Treasurer himself said that "roughly 500,000 jobs were reliant on trade." And those are now being jeopardised by this reckless policy of the Queensland Government.
JOURNALIST: Have you had any legal advice, Mr Ciobo as to whether the State Government can actually have a policy like this?
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm currently seeking legal advice about the ramifications of this policy announcement by Queensland's Treasurer and by the Queensland Premier.
JOURNALIST: Is the Federal Government effectively intervening in what is a state policy matter or do you think that it goes beyond state boundaries?
STEVEN CIOBO: This is an issue that's so much bigger than just the policies of the Queensland Government. This is an issue that goes to one; whether or not the Queensland Government can be relied upon to follow through on commitments that they make. It's an issue that goes to Australia's reputation globally. The Premier seems to be very happy to junk Australia's reputation, and that is not good enough. It is not good enough that we would see Queensland and Australian exporters having their livelihoods threatened and actually seeing those people who work in that industry all being threatened as a direct consequence of this reckless policy. And that's why this reckless policy, absolutely, should be abandoned.
JOURNALIST: What does it say about Australia as a trading partner when the Premier of a state comes out and says, "we're not gonna do deals," or "we're gonna focus on our own markets?"
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I noticed that the Queensland Premier, as I said, was quick to basically say that the New Zealand Trade Minister didn't know what he was talking about. That of itself is completely unacceptable. But we've also got a situation where the Queensland Premier has boasted she's going to turn her back on an agreement that has been in place for over 25 years. So, for over 25 years, the responsible Queensland Governments have recognised that this agreement has been important to give Queensland exporters the best possible opportunity. Now this Queensland Premier says she's going to tear it up, walk away from it, and also insults the New Zealand Trade Minister at the same time. I mean, the Premier needs to apologise, and she also needs to make sure that she dumps this reckless policy.
JOURNALIST: The Premier, this morning, sort of said that on Monday, you spent over an hour with her and didn't raise any concerns with her. What's your response to that comment?
STEVEN CIOBO: I have written to the Queensland Premier, and I've asked her to urgently clarify her comments. We've been getting legal advice all this week off the back of her announcement from Labor’s convention in Townsville on the weekend.
JOURNALIST: So are you for Queenslanders or Kiwis?
STEVEN CIOBO: Absolutely, I'm all for Queenslanders and that's precisely the reason why we absolutely must make sure that we keep international markets open up to Queensland exporters. Queensland currently exports $12-13 billion more than we import. This is a huge livelihood for Queenslanders, for Queensland businesses, 500,000 Queenslanders relying on the export trade in order to keep their jobs, all of this threatened by this ridiculous policy of the Queensland Government which threatens their livelihood.
JOURNALIST: Are you aware the M1 has been closed this morning because of a truck accident?
STEVEN CIOBO: I’ve seen reports about it.
JOURNALIST: What sort of a message, is that a warning sign ahead of the Comm Games?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, we continue to see the consequences of traffic congestion on the M1. It's an issue that I know many people are concerned about, it's raised with me on a regular basis. That's precisely why the Australian Government stepped up to the plate with funds to continue widening the M1. It's precisely the reason why, in 2007, I was pleased to secure funds for the widening of the M1. It just needs to happen now. The Queensland Government needs to come up with a long-term solution that they can put forward to provide the kind of traffic easing that's required on that major piece of infrastructure.
JOURNALIST: You were talking about getting legal advice. Once you've obtained that legal advice will you then seek to have an audience with the Premier about this situation?
STEVEN CIOBO: I'm waiting on the Premier to respond to my letter from earlier this week where I asked her to clarify exactly which agreements she was prepared to walk away from. I mean, it is extraordinary that a Premier, a Labor Premier, would stand up and boast openly about ignoring agreements that her government, and previous Labor governments, and others, have signed up to. I mean, when you have a situation where a Premier boasts about breaking commitments, then that is a very serious situation, and that's precisely why the Premier needs to stop pretending this is about Queensland jobs and saying this is good for Queensland businesses. It's not. Make no mistake. Queensland businesses and Queensland jobs will suffer as a direct result of this policy because the Premier wants to pretend that we're not an exporting state, but we are an exporting state.
JOURNALIST: Are you worried the Gold Coast will fall into an economic hole after the Comm Games or do you think there's enough infrastructure projects and what not to keep the Coast going?
STEVEN CIOBO: It's absolutely critical that we continue to make sure that we give as much momentum to the Gold Coast economy as we possibly can. In that respect, of course, we continue to see a range of investments across the Coast, but tourism is always going to be the principle driver of this economy, and that's why I'm committed to investing record amounts of money in Tourism Australia, continue to make sure we have a record number of tourists staying for a record length of time, spending a record amount of money, which powers this local economy.
JOURNALIST: Light rail stage three would be another option as well to help keep the economy ticking rightly.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, as you know, the Coalition Government contributed funding. We're the second biggest contributor to stage two of the light rail. Once the State Government and the Gold Coast City Council have completed their feasibility study, put together the business case and submit it to the Federal Government, we'll have a good look at stage three, which the Prime Minister himself acknowledged when he was last here on the Gold Coast.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555