Sabra Lane: Senator Birmingham joins us now, good morning and welcome to AM.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning Sabra, great to be with you.
Sabra Lane: In the past deals, leaders of the nations involved have been on hand to witness the signing of the agreement, that won’t happen today, why not?
Simon Birmingham: Well Indonesia is already into their official election campaign period – it is a busy time for both leaders. It is not unusual, far from it, Trade Ministers historically sign these agreements and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing today.
Sabra Lane: Some economists in the past have criticised the deals that Australia has done saying that the benefits were over sold, what does Australia stand to gain from this agreement, in dollar and jobs terms, during the next 10 years?
Simon Birmingham: Sabra it’s always hard to quantify into exact dollar and jobs terms but I can tell you that we stand to gain greatly if you’re a cattle producer across flood ravaged North Queensland or indeed the Northern Territory or elsewhere around the country, you’re going to see huge growth in access for both live and frozen beef cattle. If you’re a grain grower you’re going to be able to export up to 500,000 tonnes of grain coming into the market. If indeed you’re working in horticulture growing potatoes or carrots, you’re going to see thousands of tonnes allowed and in all of these categories, tariffs are being eliminated or dramatically reduced. If you’re working in the steel industry you are going to see an opportunity for us to be able to export the equivalent of five Sydney Harbour Bridges each and every year in terms of steel production.
Sabra Lane: Alright but overall what kind of modelling – does the Government have any realistic modelling as to how much money and how many jobs Australians can expect within a decade?
Simon Birmingham: What we have is lived-experience Sabra, that over the last few years, as we’ve done similar trade deals with Japan, Korea and China, our economy has grown dramatically, $1.2 million jobs created under our Government’s watch and our balance of trade shift so that we are now routinely – in fact each and every month last year – recording a trade surplus, exporting more as a nation than we import. So, the trade policies implemented by our Liberal-National Government have created a stronger economy, more jobs and are seeing us with a positive trade surplus.
Sabra Lane: What guarantees does this deal give to Australian producers the next time Australia does something to offend Jakarta and we suddenly see imports cut?
Simon Birmingham: Well what we have under this trade agreement is the opportunity for both parties to benefit, to grow their economies and to have certainty. Indonesia is currently the 16th largest economy in the world but it is forecast to grow into the 4th largest economy in the world, and it is right on our doorstep.
Sabra Lane: Sure but next time we have a diplomatic hiccup and suddenly exports of Australian products to Indonesia are stopped, what is there in this agreement to overcome that or stop it?
Simon Birmingham: Well we have a mature, constructive, positive arrangement but this agreement does mean that each party is making firm commitments around access to one another – in terms of all of the areas I spoke about before as well as many, many others – and we will now have guaranteed access into the Indonesian market under an agreement that I have every confidence will be honoured by future Indonesian governments as of course it will, I’m sure, by future Australian governments.
Sabra Lane: So you’re saying there’ll be no sudden halts in response to a diplomatic hiccup, for example?
Simon Birmingham: There’s no reason to believe so and in fact this agreement will provide far more certainty, and that’s why we hope it will see many Australian businesses decide to invest and back the opportunities by exporting into Indonesia, by doing more business in Indonesia. By ensuring that this very close and strategic partner of Australia’s will have much deeper economic ties with Australia in the future. It’s a relationship that on the economic side has been somewhat underdone in the past, this is now an opportunity for a real gear change, and it’s quite an historic agreement in that sense
Sabra Lane: To domestic politics, do you think Julie Bishop could have beaten Bill Shorten at an election?
Simon Birmingham: I’m sure that she could have and I’m also confident Scott Morrison will defeat Bill Shorten at the next election. I’m confident that will happen because by Election Day, Australians will understand the starkness of the choice. The fact that if you’re a retiree, you face higher taxes, that if you’re a home owner, you face lower valuations, that if you’re a renter you face higher rents. All of those $200 billion of new taxes will be the reason why Scott Morrison will beat Bill Shorten, or indeed why many other people could beat Bill Shorten-
Sabra Lane: Ms Bishop has accused your South Australian colleague Christopher Pyne of duplicity, how helpful is her contribution to the political debate right now?
Simon Birmingham: Well I’m firmly looking forward to the next election and beyond.
Sabra Lane: Some of your colleagues aren’t.
Simon Birmingham: Well I trust everybody will be looking to the future, to the contest to ensure that the Australian people understand the choice and it’s a stark choice between a government that has delivered economic growth faster than most of our comparative nations, record jobs growth, balanced the budget, is cutting taxes and has secured our borders. All of these things are at risk from a Bill Shorten led Labor party that wants to whack an extra $200 billion of extra taxes on and has already started to unravel our border protection policies.
Sabra Lane: Given that many of your senior moderate colleagues are now leaving Parliament – Mr Pyne, Ms Bishop, Kelly O’Dwyer – what role do you envisage for yourself? Are you going to step up and take a greater role?
Simon Birmingham: I will always do absolutely everything I can in the interests of the Liberal Party and the nation. This talk about the numbers of people leaving Parliament – let’s remember there are eight Labor members of Parliament…
Sabra Lane: Sure and that wasn’t my question, it was about you and your role.
Simon Birmingham: And I said at the outset that I will play every possible role I can to help promote the objectives of the Liberal Party, because that’s good for Australia. What is good for Australia is to keep in place a Government that’s made Australia stronger, that’s created more opportunities for young people. The youth unemployment rate is at historic lows in terms of the type of job growth we’ve been able to achieve for young people. Female workforce participation in Australia is at an all-time high thanks to our Government’s childcare reforms as well as the jobs that have been created. These are things that nobody should want to risk and this is what we’ll be fighting the next election on.
Sabra Lane: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, thanks for joining the program this morning.
Simon Birmingham: My pleasure.
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