KIERAN GILBERT: First though, to Steve Ciobo and I want to ask you about the Huawei story today. Suggestions by some reports in the ABC and elsewhere that the national security concerns will preclude Huawei from bidding for the 5G network. What's the official Government response to that at this point?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I mean, obviously we're still looking at all of these things, so I'm not gonna comment on matters of national security. We'll have a look at it. Obviously, the decision that we will take Kieran will be consistent with Australia's national interest. We've done that time and time again, and we'll continue to make decisions that are good for Australians and good for our national interest.
KIERAN GILBERT: It's one where Huawei, obviously, was blocked from participating in the NBN, back in 2012 so if you look at that as a track record, you would expect the same decision in terms of the next generation 5G network.
STEVEN CIOBO: No, no, I think that's overly simplistic. The fact is, what we need to take into account are a whole range of variables. Obviously, we wanna make sure that our telecommunications network is secure. Everyone understands that is, of course, the predominant concern that any government has around the world, whether it's Australia, the US, Canada, China, or any other country. They're all looking at the same considerations, and that's all we'll look at.
KIERAN GILBERT: Well, we'll touch on some of those other nations, the Five Eyes nations, as well. Some of them, like Canada, New Zealand, the UK, have, in fact, embedded Huawei technology within their telecommunications systems. And they are our Five Eyes allies, aren't they?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, that's right-
KIERAN GILBERT: Intelligence sharing, yeah.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, it goes to the point, Kieran, that in every time you make one of these decisions, you need to take into account a range of different factors. Now, the type of technology will impact, and what I mean by that it's not one size fits all. There are different threats that come from different pieces of kit, so to speak. We need to look at what it is, what the threat profile is, what the potential vulnerabilities of that particular technology are. All of that is taken into account. You know, Kieran, the great thing for Australia is that we have some of the very best people in the world that can make that assessment, do so in a sober way, in a very methodical way, and then of course the Government takes the decision, as I said, that's consistent with our national interest.
KIERAN GILBERT: And as Trade Minister, obviously, you're sensitive to the, that side of things in terms of investment and trade relations with our biggest trading partner in China because there is a concern, you know, underlying all of this, that there could be some retaliation if Australia were to undertake a ban on Huawei. That is certainly something that's being canvassed.
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, you know, Kieran, there's nothing unique about that. What I mean is that there are always, in any government decision, sort of a multiple range of factors that we need to take into account. It's a matrix, so to speak. There's nothing new about this. In any decision that government takes there will always be some people that like it, some people that don't like it. There's a whole range of different considerations. This is no different.
KIERAN GILBERT: When it comes to MP's travel, the Strategic Policy Institute released some numbers in terms of Huawei sponsoring politicians' travel. You're on that list of politicians to have undertaken Huawei-sponsored visits to China. Is it something that causes concern? Or, what's your response to that particular report today, in terms of Government deliberations?
STEVEN CIOBO: Sure, not at all, I mean, I was one of, I think, five or six of us that went on that particular delegation. The simple fact is, Kieran, I make no apologies for the fact that I've gone to Telstra, I've gone to Optus, and gone to Huawei to have a look at the equipment that they've got. Now, Huawei's research centre is based in China, and you know what, I think that people expect that any Member of Parliament would have a good knowledge of what they're speaking of, including what is one of the most rapidly evolving, fastest, cutting edge areas of technology in existence today. 5G in particular. Now, I went many, many years ago, but for those that have gone more recently, 5G, in particular, holds, you know, incredible promise for what we are able to do as a society, and the functions that we have. You know, artificial intelligence, the impact on autonomous vehicles, all of these types of things. So we need to take all that into account, but you know what it's all declared. It's all utterly transparent.
KIERAN GILBERT: So, you're argument is that if it's declared then, therefore, people shouldn't doubt-
STEVEN CIOBO: What is there to...
KIERAN GILBERT: -decisions that are made after sponsored travel.
STEVEN CIOBO: Correct. There's nothing to hide. It's put out there in the public domain, and frankly, as I've said, how is it any different to visiting Telstra's centre or to visiting Optus's centre?
KIERAN GILBERT: Well, I guess the difference is that it's a sponsored travel that's the issue, I guess, that's been raised here.
STEVEN CIOBO: Yeah, but you know, Kieran, the flip side of that coin is that I've also been on the other side where tax payers have funded travel for me to go to events, and people said, "Oh, tax payers shouldn't fund that. If a business wants to see you then the business should pay for it." I mean, you see, this is the thing about public life. Whether you do it and the business pays and that's wrong, and if you do it and tax payers pay then that's also wrong. So-
KIERAN GILBERT: But if you're transparent, and it's declared, then-
STEVEN CIOBO: This is the point. Exactly.
KIERAN GILBERT: Then the viewers-
STEVEN CIOBO: What is the concern here?
KIERAN GILBERT: It can be judged on its merits.
STEVEN CIOBO: The concern here is, is there a conflict of interest? Is someone doing the wrong thing? Now, I would put to you that if someone is openly disclosed, has it on the register, everyone knows who's involved. Then you've got Government members, you've got Opposition members, Liberal, Labor, Nationals, you know, crossbenchers, all of these who've been exposed to this. And as I've said, this isn't some small thing here. This is actually about the technology that in many respects will power the economy into the future. And I actually think it's a big positive that people take the time to go to Telstra, to go to Optus, to talk to Huawei and have a look at this kind of, and what the impact of this is.
KIERAN GILBERT: On the company tax cuts Simon Benson reports in the Australian in relation, to the urging of John Berry, the biggest beef producer, and also BHP as well, urging the crossbench to support the company tax cuts, and if they don't there'll be job losses. If you don't get the entire amount through, shouldn't the Government be looking at getting as much as you can through in terms of, say, a 500 million dollar turn over?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well, we're gonna keep talking to the crossbench because we want this reform to go through. This is a reform that's good for Australia. And the simple fact is this, under the Coalition there's gonna be lower taxes, there'll be simpler taxes, and there'll be fairer taxes. Under Labor, they're proposing 200 billion dollars of new taxes. Labor stands for higher taxes, and Labor's doing everything that they can to make sure that there are higher taxes on Australian business and Australian individuals. Now, that's all part of their plan to be able to spend more. So they wanna tax more so they can spend more. We have a different approach. We're trying to reduce the levels of tax in Australia, both for individuals and for companies. So we will continue to engage in a really constructive way with the Senate crossbench because we know one fundamental thing, Kieran. If we do not have a competitive company tax sector, a competitive corporate sector, we will see less investment in this country. Less investment means less economic growth, and it means fewer jobs.
KIERAN GILBERT: There's a lot of work to do there by the looks of it. From the language that we've heard from Centre Alliance and Pauline Hanson, but you, at least, I guess, in the terms of your argument, you've got the support of big business. They're certainly mobilizing when it comes to National Energy Guarantee and also on company tax. They're everywhere.
STEVEN CIOBO: Kieran who employs tens of thousands of Australians? Hundreds of thousands of Australians? Who employs these people? Large businesses in Australia. And guess who owns these large businesses, 'cause this is of course the other thing that we hear from Labor, is they make out like these large businesses exist in their own little bubble. You know who owns all of these large businesses, who owns all the banks, who owns BHP, who owns Rio? Ordinary, mum and dad Australians. That's who own them. And they might go, "Hang on, I'm not a shareholder." But the point is, they are shareholders because they have superannuation funds. And the superannuation funds that Mr. and Mrs. Smith who, one might be a police officer, one might be a nurse, or a school teacher, or whatever they are, these people put their money into superannuation, and the superannuation funds own these companies. So when we reduce the company tax on these businesses, the beneficiaries are ordinary mum and dads who own these businesses through their superannuation funds.
KIERAN GILBERT: Minister Ciobo, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.
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