Topics: Controlled burns, Trans-Pacific Partnership, China Australia Free Trade Agreement, infrastructure for Victoria
Greg Hunt, good afternoon.
Hey, and good afternoon Tom.
Can you put out bush fires?
What I can do and what I will do is write to the Premier.
It's absolutely clear that controlled burns are critically important. But you do it when it's cool, not when it's hot and windy.
And we all knew it was going to be a hot and windy time – that's – it couldn't have been predicted more clearly and more accurately.
So I'll be writing to the Premier asking if they will review Victoria's controlled burn practices to make sure it happens early season – when it's cool – and to explain how we have a situation like this.
Yeah, because it does seem odd, doesn't it? I mean look, if somehow this hot weather had literally come out of nowhere, it wasn't forecast, I mean they could be forgiven then.
But we knew that today and yesterday would be hot. We knew that several days ago.
I – It has been absolutely clear. We all lived through a very warm Grand Final, and then we knew that the temperature was ratcheting up, the wind was picking up.
And Victorians know as well as any people in the world that high winds and hot weather are a dangerous fire condition.
I don't know. Your boss, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, hit the airwaves this morning to argue the case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Now can I ask – is it essentially a 12-way free trade deal?
Yes it is. So there are essentially 12 countries that are coming into this Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it's about immense export and job opportunities for Australia.
But you have 40 per cent of the global economy, it represents just over $100 billion of Australia's current exports, and you have Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile.
You know, these countries are going ahead. You have Singapore and Malaysia and Australia.
So it's an incredible opportunity. It's arguably – arguably – the biggest global free trade outcome in the last two decades.
Why – if we've signed a free trade deal with China as well, why aren't they also part of this Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Look, we got ahead of the game, we signed an agreement and then they haven't been in a position to do what they did with Australia with other countries. So frankly we've got a…
Okay, so they might join it…
…significant advantage with them.
Right. But they might join it in the future?
They might, and the more people the better.
The more that you get in terms of countries in, we can frankly sell more of our education goods, more of our manufactured goods, our minerals, our materials, in particular our agricultural goods.
That just means more jobs for Australians, and…
Okay now can I ask Mr Hunt – I mean there's a lot of disquiet about it – people are concerned about protections for US pharmaceutical companies and the area of biological med – biologics medicines, which are medicines derived from animals.
There's concern that Australian jobs could be at risk. The ACTU have said it doesn't agree with the TPP, Bill Shorten is sort of umming and ahhing over it, independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon – well he's not independent now because he's Nick Xenophon of the Nick Xenophon Party – he's also raised concerns about it.
Should people be concerned?
No they shouldn't, because in fact Australia had – and the Prime Minister was put to the test with – massive pressure from the United States.
And Australia had a major victory in terms of our pharmaceuticals.
Our standard, our laws, our rules – protected and maintained.
We were put under huge pressure to make major concessions and the Prime Minister said no.
This is one area where we've got it right.
And I think that if you ask in his first few weeks what has been the biggest test, you have a Prime Minister who – you know, in a polite but an absolutely clear way – made it clear to the might of the United States that at the end of the day ‘I'm an Australian Prime Minister and I stand for this country’.
And this was a major global victory, but it was an incredible victory for Australia. And all credit to Andrew Robb and to Malcolm Turnbull.
It occurs to me that if countries as diverse as Brunei – which is a – sort of like a very wealthy dictatorship, Vietnam – with which we were at war just 40 odd years ago, Peru, the United States, Australia, Malaysia.
If they can all agree on this, I mean they must all be getting something out of it because otherwise not everybody would agree would they?
Well that's true. I mean essentially what does free trade mean?
It means that you get better value for your dollar, that you can buy more in terms of overseas goods, and you can sell more, which means if you're a small business, a niche manufacturer, or if you want to have a job – whether it's in agriculture, manufacturing, education – there are better prospects for you.
That's what free trade really means – more jobs and better quality and better cost goods.
From the consumer's perspective, I mean we've already cut our tariffs on most things – I think there's still a five per cent tariff on cars for example – but is there anything obvious that we buy from overseas that will now become cheaper as a result of this deal?
Look, I reckon there will be a range of goods. I'll let Andrew Robb, who is going to be making some more statements on this shortly, run through that in particular.
But what you find is that whether it's different manufactured goods, and we'll be lowering other tariffs more, there's a whole series of opportunities for Australians.
So at the end of the day, if we're paying less for cars through the other free trade agreements that we've done, or we're paying less for white-goods through what we've done through different free trade agreements – these are things that actually make a difference to people.
And similarly, we are providing huge opportunities for our exports.
If we can export more sugar, if we can export more beef, if we can export more manufactured products that might be made in Geelong, or Hastings, or Dandenong, then at the end of the day it's jobs for Victorians.
Final question very quickly. Again your boss Malcolm Turnbull is quite a keen advocate of public transport, he seems to have a – how do I put it – more diverse view on investment in public transport than his predecessor Tony Abbott.
Will the Federal Government definitely help fund Melbourne's planned rail infrastructure?
We will definitely be helping with rail infrastructure around the country.
I won't pre-empt any announcements, but I've got to say the Victorian MPs are very supportive of both rail and road.
I know that the Monash is a big issue and we want to see some action on that, but I think that there is a real prospect of supporting, so long as the Andrews Government comes to the party, supporting rail in Victoria as well as around the country.
Greg Hunt, Federal Environment Minister, thank you so much for your time. Alright well there it is, Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement – a win-win.