COMPERE: And joining me now is Sky News political reporter, David Lipson, at a trade ministers meeting in Sydney. And, David, sanctions against Russia - high on the agenda there this morning?
DAVID LIPSON: Absolutely, Tim, thanks for that and joining me is the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb. Thanks for your time. Have you met with your Russian counterpart so far at this meeting?
ANDREW ROBB: I had a session with my Russian counterpart, the trade minister from Russia last night and sought to convey a message to the Russian government which he undertook to speak directly with the Russian Prime Minister.
DAVID LIPSON: And what exactly was that message?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, I conveyed that Australia is looking for an unequivocal Russian assurance that they will fully cooperate with an independent and thorough UN investigation and urgently. I also conveyed, of course, the profound horror of the Australian people and suggested that the Russian nation use its particular position of authority to bring about a ceasefire amongst the separatists so that the investigation can be conducted with safety.
DAVID LIPSON: We saw yesterday the Russian ambassador meet with our Foreign Minister and attempt to blame Ukraine for this, something that the Prime Minister said was deeply unsatisfactory. Were you given similar assurances or messages from your counterpart?
ANDREW ROBB: No, I wasn't, thankfully. The Russian Trade Minister did convey their deep condolences and did in fact indicate that the government would cooperate with a full and thorough and independent UN investigation, did not though, give me an assurance that Russia would or could stop the separatists with their current activities which was an ongoing concern for me but did undertake to ring the Prime Minister directly in Russia and convey the messages from the Australian Government.
DAVID LIPSON: And is it appropriate for him to be taking part in this meeting today?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, I do think we need to wait and see. The priority needs to be on one, for Australia to look after the families of the 28 deceased and do whatever we can to assist them and secondly, to bring about a full and thorough investigation - independent. Now, if Russia is to fully cooperate with that, then we can't jump to conclusions and my sense was that given the assurances I got last night, we will continue to make judgements as time goes on but it was appropriate that the Russian minister should continue to participate in today's proceedings.
DAVID LIPSON: Because Australia had already frozen the assets and imposed travel bans on some 50 Russian individuals and 11 companies. Are further trade sanctions under consideration?
ANDREW ROBB: Look, these are things that we need to consider in the goodness of time. It is a matter of how in many ways Russia responds, cooperates, is proactive in seeking a solution, giving the answers, ensuring we get to understand where this equipment came from, what really happened, who trained the people to - who carried out this horror act and it is a function of how the Russian government in many respects seeks to respond in the days and weeks ahead.
DAVID LIPSON: Because this trade meeting today was largely about removing trade barriers and many of those barriers still remain since the global financial crisis, so will this tragedy make that more difficult? Will that throw a spanner in the negotiations?
ANDREW ROBB: Look, any tragedy around the world has an effect on confidence and it can dampen activity, economic activity, but look, we - this is a session about the years ahead, how we can deliver growth through trade and investment, how we can deliver jobs, not just in Australia but around the world and there is a mood, there has been a mood for the last year or two that a lot of the policies that've been adopted since the global financial crisis have failed. The massive government spending, the heavy regulation and there is a mood to move to much freer trade and investment and really we're trying to capture that mood and turn it into quite explicit actions, not just collectively but in each country that's represented here at the G20 which does cover 85 per cent of the world's GDP.
DAVID LIPSON: Yeah, because there was some progress in doing that at the Bali meeting last year. How do you continue that momentum to remove some of the barriers that remain in place?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, just the fact that the G20 really, for the first time, has put growth and trade and investment centre-stage. For the last few years they've focused on financial issues that need to be addressed and I do think now it is very much on the front foot and you capture those countries that represent 85 per cent of GDP. As I said, there is a great interest and a mood - you look at all the trade agreements that are taking place around the world and that Australia has been involved in, there is a search for an alternate policy mix which involves generating a lot more trade, a lot more economic activity for money coming in from other countries, through investment and trade and if we do that, there will be sustainable economic growth and sustainable jobs. Not just in Australia but throughout the developed world and the developing world.
DAVID LIPSON: And how does Australia convince some of the countries that have large trade barriers, have big issues with debt, to invest for growth when at this point in our political cycle there are some $40 billion worth of savings blocked in the Senate and reports this week that we're actually $7 billion worse off than had the Government done nothing?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, already I think there's been a profoundly positive reaction to so many of the things that we've done as a government - to get rid of the carbon tax, that's had a big effect - at the business forums up here as well as the trade ministers. The approaches we've taken to streamline approvals, the open for government approaches, the free trade agreements that we've already struck. All of these things have been really well received and I think are providing credibility for Australia along with its very open economy in any event because we're the only developed country that has had 23 years of uninterrupted economic growth. The others have suffered recessions at different times. That is due in many ways to the very open nature of our economy. We are in a position to show leadership and we are showing even by the first nine months we have engaged in a lot of actions which are being very well received by the international community.
DAVID LIPSON: Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, thanks for your time.
- Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555