Interview with Kieran Gilbert on Afternoon Agenda, Sky News

Kieran Gilbert
Government's Indonesian visit, NASA rocket launches, international trade

KIERAN GILBERT: The Prime Minister has returned to Australia after a successful visit to Indonesia. Accompanying him was the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Industry, Ed Husic, who joins me now fresh off the plane from Darwin. And you were there in Indonesia, Ed Husic. How big are the prospects, do you believe, for our industry and business community in Indonesia? 

ED HUSIC: Hi, Kieran. Well, it was a pretty big trip, a really important one for the Prime Minister to do. And he was determined to make sure that the first trip was to Indonesia. Obviously, the Quad intervened, but this was the first bilateral set of discussions held with an important neighbour. What I detected, importantly, was particularly through – when the initial meeting was set aside [the] two leaders went overtime, it signalled that they were both obviously covering a lot of ground. The warmth of the relationship was evident. And I think we’ve got a very serious commitment to work with the Indonesians on issues that are of common interest, that we’re partnering together on those things. Having a business delegation with a number of CEOs from Australia that made the trip at very short notice. Also, I think, a lot of people should read into that our commitment to building the people-to-people links as well. And clearly, some of the announcements we’ve made, be it through the climate infrastructure investment we were prepared to make with the Indonesians, working with them on their new capital, and, finally, announcing our commitment to attend the G20 that’s going to be held in Indonesia later in the year, really important as well. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Now, the credit to the former Government for establishing a free trade agreement with Indonesia, unfortunately, happened just before the pandemic so unable to get any momentum. Where are there openings, do you think, and for what sectors? Which should complement the demand out of Indonesia? 

ED HUSIC: The Indonesians have flagged that they’re very keen, enthusiastic, to work with us on that to breathe life into that and get that moving. And so, they’ve said there’s a number of areas where they’re keen to – particularly in terms of automotive – work with us on some of those things. They, as we both do, want to see people-to-people links built particularly with movements through skilled migration between the two nations. There are things that we can work and have worked on together really well. I mentioned a few moments ago common challenges and we’re doing that in climate, health, food security, for instance, are very keen to do that.

I discussed with my counterpart the Indonesian Minister there, that he is keen to visit Australia, which I’m keen to facilitate, make sure we can host. And we’re also keen to lead another delegation back into Indonesia, Kieran, with the Chief Scientist and others, because certainly universities there are keen to partner up with Australian universities on big issues and apply that within the economy too. So, be it from trade or other areas where we can work together and partner up, really, there’s a lot of opportunity there for us to follow up. It’s not just a one-off visit, but it really does build and cement on this good start between the President and the Prime Minister. 

KIERAN GILBERT: I saw you had a discussion with Jokowi as well, the President; did he make reference or did you mention you are the first Muslim Australian to be a member of the Federal Cabinet, obviously something that would resonate in the world’s largest Muslim nation and democracy? 

ED HUSIC: Well, the Prime Minister was keen to emphasise that with the way that he’s shaped up his Cabinet and the broader ministry that reflects a lot more the modern face of Australia and obviously signalled to the President in terms of my own inclusion in the Cabinet, the first time a Muslim-Australian has been included in the Cabinet and obviously Dr Aly as well in the broader ministry. Indonesia itself, one of the largest Muslim democracies on the planet, our near neighbour, very keen to work with us and very well received and it was really good to be able to have those – that type of people-to-people contact, and knowing shared backgrounds, it does go a long way. And I think it was an important signal to send in terms of the new Government, new Ministry, the diverse Cabinet that’s there, and our willingness to work and build on those connections. 

KIERAN GILBERT: On a very different point today, in Darwin the Prime Minister announced a series of NASA rockets are going to be launched out of the Northern Territory later this month. What can you tell us about that? 

ED HUSIC: This is a big deal. I mean, this is the first time NASA has launched rockets from a commercial facility outside the US, and they’re doing it in Australia. Deputy Prime Minister Marles signed off on this – one of his first acts was to allow for all this to occur. It will see a series of rockets launched later this month, up from Arnhem Land, and they will be working in with universities from the US. The payloads seeing – equipment being launched 250km up. That part of Australia [is] seen as ideal at this time of year, close to the equator, less atmospheric disturbance and the data that gets gathered for a short – it will be up there for a short period of time, but the data it gets will be used for a very long time and it does reflect the confidence in Australia’s space industry and the fact that we’ve got really great know-how. And that’s one of the things, Kieran, I’m absolutely determined that we showcase and we celebrate more in Australia. We’ve got a lot of smart people, a lot of good know-how. We don’t really give ourselves a pat on the back for it, and it’s been recognised internationally and if we can use that talent in a local sense to build or rebuild capability in Australia, this will be big for us long term. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Ed Husic, appreciate that. Industry Minister Ed Husic just arriving back after that trip to Indonesia and the Top End. Thank you.