Alan Jones: Trade Minister Andrew Robb welcome, it’s good to see you again.
Andrew Robb: It’s my pleasure; nice to be here.
Alan Jones: The Wine Equalisation Tax; shouldn’t we get rid of it?
Andrew Robb: Well I think that it is badly designed, because the way it is designed, it does contradict World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that we have signed up to many decades ago, and we have got in the tax review the consideration of the design of that tax.
Alan Jones: Meanwhile the grape growers are going broke…
Andrew Robb: That’s right…
Alan Jones: …and the poor old wine maker. And you’re the government.
Andrew Robb: You’ve had a great opportunity there for a few minutes, but Seppeltsfields – in anticipation of the China Free Trade Agreement – have just quadrupled their contract of their premium wine; four million litres, that’s nearly 10 per cent of all the wine into China. They’ve just – off the back of the deal – quadrupled their orders into China.
Now the opportunities; the wine increases into Japan and Korea since the trade deals started this year; we are seeing a 56 per cent increase in meat sales into Japan over the last 12 months because of the free trade deal; 34 per cent increase of meat trade into Korea; we are seeing enormous opportunities coming up in China if we can get this deal through. We are creating tens of thousands of jobs, and it is because we are opening up some of these markets in our region where all of this growth is taking place. We are leading the field in terms of our relationship with these countries.
52 per cent of all our exports now go to North Asia and these deals have provided us with opportunities that no one else has got. The trade argument of the unions – with their head in the sand – they are looking after their own jobs not their members’ jobs, and I will defend the sort of direction we have been taking. Actually both sides of politics has taken this.
We are an open economy. Why have we had 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth? It’s because we are an open, flexible economy and it is because of this sort of exposure to the winds of competition around the world that has given us this flexibility, this resilience, this ability to move from one area into another. Look at the export growth yesterday; we have seen services go up in the last year by seven per cent, we’ve seen manufactures go up by four per cent, we’ve seen agricultural products go up by nine per cent. This is in the last 12 months when we have done these deals so I defend what we are doing in the most aggressive way; it is creating jobs. What are we here for? I’ve got kids, I’ve got grandchildren and I feel that I am helping secure a magnificent future for those kids and grandchildren.
Alan Jones: Do you understand that there are people out there who are in exactly the same boat as you and they don’t support some of these things. For example, you say – and the Government says – your free trade deals have secured greater access for our beef and dairy products to Japan and China. They say – and I say – Japan and China are too smart for us, so what are they doing? They are like Qatar; they don’t worry about the fact that they’ve granted greater access, they won’t need our exports, they’re going to buy up our dairy farms and buy up our beef farms.
Andrew Robb: This is just a scare campaign.
Alan Jones: It is not a scare campaign.
Andrew Robb: It is; one per cent of agriculture is owned by the Chinese, one per cent, and yet most people would think that it’s probably 20 per cent with all the ranting by the unions and everyone else.
Alan Jones: I’ve got a list here; in July this year the Chinese billionaire Xingfa Ma bought the Wollogorang and Wentworth Stations in the Northern Territory – 705,000 hectares – and the Wollogorang Station extends along 80km of coastline.
Andrew Robb: Let me take you back 100 years – Vestey’s owned all of the north, they couldn’t take it away.
Alan Jones: Well hang on, you are saying this is a scare campaign but in May China’s Chongqing Hondo Agriculture Group said it wanted to spend $100 million buying up Australian cattle stations in the next 12 months. So they won’t need our export stuff, they will paddock to plate buy our paddock and put it on their plate. Andrew, you are welcome to it, I’ve got page after page – there they are there – and only the other day the Korean company Ho Myoung Farm, which owns 250,000 hectares of grazing and cropping land west of Bourke, and we had this Professor Zhang-Yue Zhou in Australia saying China has $3 trillion at its disposal to be used for overseas acquisition. That’s what he said.
Andrew Robb: Well they have got money at their disposal…
Alan Jones: To buy our agricultural land. Do you think that’s okay?
Andrew Robb: To put money into the development of our supply lines for agriculture, our rail, our storage, the whole infrastructure of agriculture; we cannot get Australian investors to put money into agriculture and Australian investors won’t…
Alan Jones: Have you tried?
Andrew Robb: Macquarie Bank for instance, they’ve got a rural fund…
Alan Jones: You must be a bad arguer.
Andrew Robb: Hang on…
Alan Jones: Must be very unpersuasive Andrew.
Andrew Robb: Macquarie Bank have got a rural fund, $750 million and they have had it for about five or six years. Now I said to the chap that runs it a few months ago: ‘How much Australian money is in that?’ and he said: ‘Try as we might, over the last few years we’ve got $17 million out of $750 million in that fund.’
Alan Jones: So what do we do then, let China just buy it up?
Andrew Robb: It’s not just China, what about Saputo?
Alan Jones: We will come to them, I am talking about China. I am simply saying the facts are an unnamed dairy conglomerate last year – 49 per cent owned by the Chinese government – bought 50 Victorian dairy farms for $400 million.
Andrew Robb: No they didn’t; they proposed to do that. Who in the end bought those dairy farms? Actually, it’s 68 now and it is an Australian – with JP Morgan backing – that’s taken up that deal, and an Australian has done it because the idea was seeded by the Chinese, they didn’t pull it off. The thing is Alan, over the last 200 years…
Alan Jones: The Chinese millionaire Xingfa Ma bought the Balfour Downs and Wandina stations in WA – 639,000 hectares – is that okay?
Andrew Robb: Alan, in my lifetime I have never seen a farm leave Australia…
Alan Jones: No it doesn’t…
Andrew Robb: No this is important…
Alan Jones: …but the money does, the milk does, the beef does.
Andrew Robb: But we get the taxes from it, we get the jobs from it, we get the infrastructure from it. We get the capital coming into Australia; we are a capital limited country. We are a great country and we’ve got enormous resources, but we have needed for 200 years other people’s capital to develop those resources, and we’ve still got thin capital markets and we still need other people’s capital to come and develop those resources.
Alan Jones: No one is arguing that, we are talking about ownership or investment.
Andrew Robb: Like I said, Vestey’s owned all of that land, right?
Alan Jones: We are talking about China, South Korea and Japan.
Andrew Robb: No, you’re just…
Alan Jones: No I’m not, it’s no scare campaign and I’ll tell you what; you’re in trouble and …
Andrew Robb: No it’s a racist…
Alan Jones: Oh racist now? Oh come on, hey don’t come at that…
Andrew Robb: Well, the CFMEU; I can’t believe that you’ve been peddling last week all of the CFMEU lines.
Alan Jones: Hang on we will come to that…
Andrew Robb: They are the most corrupt union in Australia. They are in bed with the bikies who control 15 per cent of the drug trade in Australia. Give me a break.
Alan Jones: I spoke to Alan Kohler on this program who wrote a story in October 2013 about the free trade agreements with Thailand and Malaysia. An Australian car which costs around $39,000 - $62,000 here, costs $100,000 in Thailand or Malaysia. Why? Because despite the free trade agreement, which eliminated tariffs, Thailand and Malaysia found other ways to block free trade. Instead of tariffs they imposed all sorts of internal excise taxes, so if you think that China is somehow going to be exempt from that sort of behaviour – are we exporting more cars to Thailand and Malaysia as a result of the free trade agreement? No.
Andrew Robb: No because what happens with trade agreements Alan is that what it tends to do, because you are opening up your market to other countries…
Alan Jones: You shouldn’t be talking to me, I’m racist.
Andrew Robb: I’m just concerned Alan that you are peddling the CFMEU lines, that’s what I’m concerned about.
Alan Jones: No, you’re concerned that there is an argument being mounted that you can’t handle, other than throwing those slogans around.
Andrew Robb: No, the CFMEU have not bothered at any stage to look at the detail; they have totally misrepresented the China agreement. And why do they use the word ‘China’ every second word? Because they know it produces a nervous response throughout the community, rather than looking at the facts.
Alan Jones: Tony Abbott visited China a couple of years ago and said he couldn’t see any circumstance where Chinese state-ownership of Australian companies could be justified. We’ve got a Chinese government-owned company on the Liverpool Plains which will have an 8,000 acre hole in the ground, 300 metres deep.
Andrew Robb: It’s not on the plains Alan, it’s on the ridge.
Alan Jones: You don’t know what you are talking about. You are only quoting and parroting the stuff that you are told in Canberra. I know the area, I‘m telling you.
Andrew Robb: I don’t know it as well as you do, but I do know the area and I have looked at the topography of where this mine is.
Alan Jones: I’ve been there Andrew and you are welcome to come with me. We’ve got to go but John Howard signed a 2005 agreement with the United States. We were told it was going to be brilliant. We have a massive trade deficit with the United States. How come?
Andrew Robb: We’ve got a massive trade surplus with China. How come? $100 billion. Let me finish on this Alan, the thing about trade deals is we get the opportunity to do what we do best; follow our strengths and other countries do the same. That’s why you get changes, but we are better off – with 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth – because of these free trade deals, and other freeing-up of our economy.
Alan Jones: Now we will talk again won’t we?
Andrew Robb: We will.
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