TOM CONNELL: Thanks for your time today. Another free trade deal. We're talking a lot about agriculture. I was interested, as well, that Peru previously didn't recognize Australian university courses. Is that common?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, this is a great trade deal for Australia. It's a trade deal that not only deals with, of course, agricultural products, but increasingly in the modern age and more importantly, it deals with services, it deals with investment, and to your question about recognizing universities, this a key export industry for Australia, being able to export education, at both the tertiary level as well as vocational education, is a multi-billion dollar industry for Australia. Now, with Australian degrees recognized in Peru, it means we're a more attractive destination for students to come and study and know that their degrees will be recognized.
TOM CONNELL: Our unis are obviously pretty good quality. Is the reason they wouldn't be recognized for other countries to avoid a drain of students. Is it common?
STEVEN CIOBO: Look, every country makes their own decisions about what they'll recognize and what their curriculum is and what standards they expect people to meet. The point is that this helps to now continue to work it up. This is an important market. We have a lot of strong interest coming from South America. Peru is one country among a number that send large numbers of students to study in Australia. They, of course, bring with them tourism, in terms of friends and family that come and visit, as well as the money that they spend in Australia. It creates jobs in Australia.
TOM CONNELL: A year ago, the TPP was just about dead, the commentators and maybe I said as well. How close is it to getting done?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, look, we're very close. We aren't quite there, but I'm confident that with consistent applications and effort over the next 24 hours, we should hopefully be able to conclude a deal. But we've gotta see. There's still some areas of difference, so that process needs to work through. The people who make these major calls get them so fundamentally wrong. It's, without a doubt, the Australian Labor Party. Both Bill Shorten and my shadow minister ran around saying, "The TPP is dead." We kept indicating, no, this is a good deal; a deal that has strong national benefits for Australia, and that's why we continued to move forward with it. Frankly, Bill Shorten couldn't conclude this deal. Bill Shorten and the Labor Party have proven, once again, that they get all the big trade calls completely wrong. They got the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement wrong, calling it a dud deal. They've got the TPP wrong. The fact is, Labor cannot be trusted when it comes to making good trade deals for Australia.
TOM CONNELL: A concern raised by New Zealand and by Labor is on the ISDS. The fact that companies effectively can take a government to court. We saw that with cigarette companies essentially, not wanting us to legislate about our own health. Is that a concern of yours at all?
STEVEN CIOBO: This is one of the biggest furphies going around. The fact is that ISDS clause, as they're called, the better way to describe them is investor protection. Now, with Peru, we've got Australian businesses that have invested around 5 billion dollars in the mining sector alone in that country. Why would we not want to protect Australia's money in those countries? Why would we not want to protect Australia's superannuation? Money that's invested through these businesses, as well as shareholder money that's invested in these businesses. I mean, this is actually a critical part of making sure that we look out for Australia's interests, so of course we have this as part of the deal. It's part of a modern comprehensive trade deal that protects Australian investment.
TOM CONNELL: Isn't the case, though, with plain packaging, the other side of the fence?
STEVEN CIOBO: That was a very old deal. It was very different language to what we put in agreements today. And let's not forget, Australia won that case, so despite all the fear-mongering, scare-mongering, the outright lies that are consistently said about ISDS, the fact is, they fundamentally protect Australia's interests, and as I have said many times, the Prime Minster has said many times, these are not open to abuse at the drop of a hat. They're actually pretty important to protect Australia's international investments.
TOM CONNELL: You said it was an old type of deal, that action you're saying, the deals you're doing, and the Coalition government in recent times, that wouldn't be repeated? That case wouldn't even get to court?
STEVEN CIOBO: The language is very different in modern agreements. The language that we use now has very explicit carve outs on public policy grounds, including, for example, public health and those sorts of matters, so very different agreements these days. Agreements that are very cognizant of the need to make sure we carve out big exemptions for public policy, because that's what people expect. We're not foolish about it, but the notion that we would walk away from ISDS because of some historical 20- or 30-year agreement, and not only focus on the fact that this is about protecting the billions of dollars of Australian investment abroad, just shows how lopsided Labor is when it comes to their approach on these matters.
TOM CONNELL: You're enjoying the opportunity to talk all things trade here. Back home, it's all things citizenship. Is there a point at which there could be too many by-elections for it really to be a feasible act? Can you have 10 or 15 by-elections, or do you need to have a general election?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I think there's a whole bunch of assertions in your question and assumptions in your question, which I'm not going to get into. What we need to do right now is have this process taken back into Parliament. The Prime Minister's put out a very clear direction about the way in which the government believes that we should deal with this disclosure around citizenship. Ultimately we get that Australians want this matter resolved. That's what the government is working to do now. Frankly, a better engagement than the Australian Labor Party. We've put forward a pathway, but in the interim, people like me, as Trade, Tourism, and Investment Minster, focus on what we're actually elected to do, which is pursue Australia's national interest as much as we possibly can.
TOM CONNELL: Steve Ciobo, thanks for your time.
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