Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News Afternoon Agenda

Kieran Gilbert
Bilateral talks with China; Australia-China trade relations; Senator Lidia Thorpe leaving the Greens

Kieran Gilbert, Host: The Trade Minister, Don Farrell, has met with his Chinese counterpart this afternoon. Here's a glimpse of that meeting a short time ago.

Don Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism: We have much to discuss and the outcomes of our discussions have the potential to be of great benefit to both of our countries.

Gilbert: I'm joined by the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tim Ayres. Thanks for your time. How much progress was made in the talks?

Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing: Well, as you can see from the early part of the footage, the early meeting that was shown publicly, it was a cordial meeting. It was a good, purposeful meeting, another step along the way. The government's been very clear from the outset, we want to take a careful and consistent approach. Every ministerial engagement is a good step forward, a good opportunity for dialogue, and this meeting was no different. I was pleased to see that invitation for Trade Minister Don Farrell to travel to Beijing was extended and that offer was accepted. And there's much more work to do, of course, over the coming weeks and months on the trade relationship between Australia and China.

Gilbert: So, the invitation extended for a visit. How soon before we can expect those tariffs to be removed?

Assistant Minister: Well, this is the question. These trade impediments are, of course, not good for Australian exporters, nor are they good for Chinese consumers. And it's very important that those trade impediments are removed. That is, of course, a matter for the Chinese side. Don Farrell has issued a statement this afternoon that reports on the outcomes of that meeting.

Gilbert: You are optimistic, though? We’re talking weeks or – 

Assistant Minister: Every ministerial engagement is important. Official and technical engagement on these trade impediments is important as well. We are cautious, consistent, advocating for the Australian interest at every opportunity. And, of course, it will be – it is very important that these trade impediments are removed.

Gilbert: And the coal shipment, the first shipments in years being shipped off this week. So that's good news, isn't it? The sign of the thaw.

Assistant Minister: Well, it's a good sign that a coal shipment is on its way from Australia to China. There'll need to be more concrete evidence of trade restrictions on all of these sectors being removed. It is, of course, a matter for the Chinese side, how they proceed here. But I make the same point that we've made every step along the way, these are not in the interests of exporters, they're not in the interests of Chinese consumers. We're going to consistently advocate for the Australian interest here for a stabilisation and a return to stable trading relations with China.

Gilbert: Lidia Thorpe, the departure from the Greens. Is Labor concerned in the Senate? You're obviously a key part of that team, how difficult Senator Thorpe might be to negotiate with on her own.

Assistant Minister: Well, the government has taken a consistent approach last year. We've said, from the Prime Minister down, Anthony Albanese said we will work across the Parliament with all sections of the Parliament to progress legislation. Last year, we got more than 60 pieces of legislation through the Parliament. We'll continue to take the same approach this year. We don't take any of that for granted. 

Gilbert: It’s got a bit trickier. 

Assistant Minister: We don't take any vote for granted, and we'll work in a respectful way with every part of the Senate crossbench and indeed right across the Parliament to achieve good legislative reform that's consistent with the agenda that we took to the government – with the agenda that we took to the last election. We've been pretty consistent on these questions, and we'll continue to do it. Notwithstanding individuals’ membership or otherwise, of the Greens political party. We’ll work right across the parliament to achieve good legislative reform.

Gilbert: Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Trade, Senator Tim Ayres. Appreciate your time.

Assistant Minister: Thanks, Kieran.