Michael Brissenden: Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb has this morning returned from a whirlwind trip to Jakarta, where he met his Indonesian counterpart, key investors and business figures.
Andrew Robb good morning.
Andrew Robb: Good morning Michael.
Michael Brissenden: We'll get to cattle and Indonesia shortly, but first a response to that previous story; the criticism from Tony Abbott this morning saying Scott Morrison misled the public about his role in the coup. Just a week ago Tony Abbott promised no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping, but here we are. It's not such a good omen for the future stability is it?
Andrew Robb: To be honest I've got no interest in raking over the entrails of what happened. There's been a decisive vote in the Party Room; there's been a major regeneration of the Cabinet, the ministry. I think it behoves all of us to look forward and lock in and get united. We've got just a few months before a very important election. The overnight polls suggest a very encouraging start, but we've got a lot to do to lock it in.
Michael Brissenden: Certainly it suggests there's still quite a lot of bitterness, not surprising I suppose.
Andrew Robb: Well, I'm not sure. I think this is politics and things go up and down for individuals – all of us – and we have to accept it if we're going to get into this business. And it's the nature of it, and sometimes it gets a bit brutal. But I do feel that it has been carried out, in the end, in a fairly quick and constructive way in terms of the rebuild. It's had a lot of support, and that’s no reflection on any of those who have left; it's a question of bringing in new perspectives into the Government. And I think that's going to be a very healthy thing.
It's certainly got me excited I must say; motivated. The enthusiasm and the energy and the impatience, if you like, and the quality of a lot of the people who have moved in; it is going to give us all a big kick-start.
Michael Brissenden: Speaking of things going up and down, of course today's Newspoll has gone up considerably for you; you probably would have expected that, but is it vindication that the action was the right one?
Andrew Robb: Well it certainly must confirm that a significant majority of the community supported change; I think that's the big message out of the poll today. I don't think we should get ahead of ourselves, but it is certainly much better to be in this position. And it is a reinforcement in the community of what happened last week; there's support for it. So I think it gives us a foundation on which to build towards the next election, but more importantly, to get on with the job and do what we've been elected to do.
Michael Brissenden: Okay, well you've been making the case for annual cattle import permits in order to stabilise supply and beef prices with Indonesia; how has Indonesia responded and what's this going to mean for our producers?
Andrew Robb: I've had some very good discussions yesterday with my counterpart and some other ministers. Certainly I think that there's a view that we need far more stability, and there was strong agreement between us on the need to return to the sorts of arrangements that applied some years ago where there was a much longer-term quota announced, so that industry could prepare for it – at both ends of the market – and get themselves into a position where they could plan for it.
And now that demand for live cattle is heading towards exceeding the supply, it's all the more important for both Indonesia and for ourselves, that there is some certainty attached to the number of cattle that are likely to be required in any one year. So I think we're going to get there on this issue.
Michael Brissenden: Because when Tony Abbott took the leadership initially he promised famously, more Jakarta and less Geneva. Subsequently the relationship went through quite a rocky patch. How are Indonesians viewing Malcolm Turnbull's appointment?
Andrew Robb: Well there was interest obviously in the new PM, but I wouldn't overstate it. I think my assessment is that Indonesians are generally well disposed towards Australians, but not heavily focused on Australia, and in many ways we have been looking past one another over the last 15 to 20 years. And the very low investment numbers and the relatively low trade figures, underscore that.
And yet here they are nearly heading towards 300 million people on our doorstep; we're going to be neighbours for a long time to come, so I think there's so much we can do. We're very complementary in the skills and strengths we've both got as countries and I think they're starting to realise that, and I think Australians need to as well.
That's why I'm taking over 200 business people there in a couple of months' time; we have to get a stronger presence in Indonesia. At the moment there's 265 Australian companies in Indonesia; that's one company for every million people, more or less. It's just unsatisfactory; we've got 360 Australian companies in Dubai for goodness sake. So we've got to build a stronger presence that builds linkages, builds mutual interests, and builds trust. And we need that not just from a commercial point of view, but we need it from a geopolitical point of view.
Michael Brissenden: The revolving door of Australian leadership must be puzzling to some of them. It certainly doesn't give countries in the region a lot of time to invest in a relationship, does it?
Andrew Robb: Well these things happen. I find, as I'm working with many other countries in the region, it's a reality. And it is politics and people seem to accommodate it. There are many cases where the leadership might change or the ministers might change, but often there are relationships which are enduring, and they're still significant relationships, they still have an impact on the long term arrangements.
But in many ways it is getting in place not just at the political level. We have to have strong business and people connections with countries if we want to build the trust; that's where the trust really grows from, and then the politicians reflect that in the work that they do.
Michael Brissenden: Okay Andrew Robb, we'll leave it there; thanks very much for joining us.
Andrew Robb: Thanks Michael.
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