Sky News
AM Agenda

Sky News
AM Agenda

16 October, 2018

Subjects: Senate Voting, Indonesia FTA, Wentworth By-election


LAURA JAYES: Now live from Canberra is the Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo. Minister, thank you for your time, is it okay to be white? What’s the government’s position on this?

STEVEN CIOBO: Look, I don’t really think there are needs really feel the discussion of this. The motion was dealt with yesterday.

LAURA JAYES: Really? But I thought it was not quite clear what the government’s position was, so what is it?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well of course, it’s okay to be white, it’s okay to be brown, it’s okay to be whatever colour the spectrum you wanna rely on, provided there’s not underlying medical condition, so I think that’s fine Laura.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well some of your colleagues that I’ve spoken to this morning that voted for it have told me that it was, well you can’t really use the language used, but a cluster so and so it was confusion and still there was a “what the hell” moment after the vote that some of them didn’t back it, had no intention of backing it, and yet found themselves in support of this motion, it’s not great, not a great law.

STEVEN CIOBO: This was a motion in the Senate, frankly I think it was dealt with yesterday and you know, I’m not gonna continue focusing on it.

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you see why there is some criticism of this particular phrase. While you say it’s you know, I’m stating the obvious, it’s okay to be you know, any of those particular colours you mentioned… I mean it does seem ridiculous, but the fact is, this is a phrase that’s used by white supremacists, is that appropriate.

STEVEN CIOBO: That it’s a phrase that’s used by white supremacists?

KIERAN GILBERT: That it’s adopted and supported in a motion by the government.

STEVEN CIOBO: I mean this was a motion that was moved in the Senate, it was something that happened yesterday, this is really… I’ve spent more time talking about it with the two of you now that I have spent talking or thinking about it for the balance of my life. So I think that probably says volumes about the significance that this actually has.

LAURA JAYES: Okay, you negotiated the Indonesian Free Trade Agreement, we now see reports that Labor are concerned about this, they will not ratify this in Parliament if two things aren’t done, and that is: not including the Investor Dispute, the ISDS, and also having labour market testing. Why when you negotiated the Indonesia Free Trade Agreement did you not look at these two things?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well, I mean we haven’t announced the final particulars around the Indonesia Australia Free Trade Agreement, but I’ll make a couple of observations Laura. The first is this is a really important agreement; an important agreement for Australia, and an incredibly important agreement for Indonesia as well. We know that our trade-investment relationship with Indonesia is underweight, and frankly, the FTA that I’ve negotiated and largely put in place in which Minister Birmingham is finalising is an FTA that will help propel both countries forward and grow our trade investment ties.

Now frankly, for the Australian Labor Party to now shift their position on policy, on trade policy, just exposes the Australian economy to a huge risk. This is a very inconsistent Australian Labor Party, they won’t even stand by the precedent that they themselves put in place when they were last in government, and it just shows what a weak leader Bill Shorten is, that Bill Shorten has to capitulate to the trade union movement. He can’t stand up to the trade union movement, he’s gotta capitulate because his leadership is so weak and so invested in doing whatever the union movement says to him that he needs to do.

LAURA JAYES: Right, so you did waive labour market testing. I know we haven’t seen the final design, but let’s assume you have, why?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well look I… the final agreement isn’t out there, but what I can say to you Laura is that pretty much on every step of the way, especially on major issues like this, I kept the Australian Labor Party and my Shadow Minister fully informed. They know precisely what has been looked to be incorporated into this agreement, and frankly, anything that was in this agreement, let’s speculate for a moment, wouldn’t go any further than what Labor themselves did in government when they were there and they negotiated the Australia-ASEAN- New Zealand Free Trade Area. So this is what goes to the point about this being such an incredible risk of the Australian Labor Party. They won’t even stand by their own precedent.

KIERAN GILBERT: Is there room to tighten some of this up in terms of the labour market testing? Is there room to push this a bit harder in terms of talks with Jakarta –

STEVEN CIOBO: The problem here is that Labor is now saying that what has effectively been something that I’ve focused on for two and a half years to bed this down, to lock it into place, to really create an incredible opportunity for Australian business, for our trade investment ties, and Labor’s now saying that they’re gonna look at possibly ripping it up. But not ripping it up because this has been a longstanding problem that Labor’s had, this is potentially Labor ripping it up because they’ve suddenly done a back flip on their trade policy-

KIERAN GILBERT: In relation to this broader issue though, is there room for greater transparency as well because it’s something that Jason Clare, the Shadow Trade Minister’s saying that there should be greater transparency, that you should be open governments when negotiating these sorts of things. Why aren’t they more clear?

STEVEN CIOBO: You know Kieran, another complete and total furphy. Let’s be clear about this, industry is consulted, think tanks are consulted, non-government organisations are consulted, the opposition’s consulted. There are many many people that are spoken to around these trade negotiations. Now the question is well why do we put all the cards on the table? Well you know what, if you’re going into a negotiation, and your starting point is to put all the cards on the table, then guess what, you put yourself in a pretty weak negotiating position. We get back to one fundamental issue here, which is that this agreement, which has taken years to negotiate goes no further than Labor has gone in terms of their previous agreements, but now because Bill Shorten does not have the backbone to stand up to the union movement, Labor’s now looking at capitulating on something as fundamentally important to the Australian economy, and more importantly, to Australian jobs, than this potential trade agreement with Indonesia.

LAURA JAYES: Okay minister, a few other things. Other than the Wentworth by-election and the importance of the Jewish vote in this, this Saturday, why would we move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well the first point is that this is something that’s being looked at. It’s not a promise that the Prime Ministers made or anything like that. But we’re looking at this because frankly Australia has firmly for some time that we have got to have a two-state-

LAURA JAYES: For how long though Minister? Because this was ruled out by senior ministers, including Julie Bishop just a couple of months ago?

STEVEN CIOBO: Well you cut me off, what I was saying was that the Australian Governments had the view for some time that the solution to the issue with respect to Israel and the Palestinian authority is to have a two-state solution. Now it may very well be that in part of delivering this two-state solution, recognising Jerusalem as the capital may in fact be an important contributor to that because that could satisfy both Israel and potentially the Palestinian-

KIERAN GILBERT: But the timing’s not great is it because it comes ahead of the Wentworth by-election, and whether or not this is pure foreign policy design or you know, others will argue that this timing is suspicious. You can see that in terms of the Wentworth by-election where there is a big percentage of Jewish voters in.

STEVEN CIOBO: No, this has been an approach that the Prime Minister wanted to make clear. We’ve got a relatively new Prime Minister; he’s been asked about this repeatedly, and it’s part of obviously a vote that’s coming up as well, potentially at the United Nations.