SKY NEWS – FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2019
SUBJECTS: Trade War; Gas Reservation Policy
LAURA JAYES: Jason Clare joins us live as we see this escalating trade war. As a former Shadow Trade Minister, how do you watch on as this plays out? Is Australia just at the mercy of these two economic behemoths?
JASON CLARE: Well when two elephants collide, you don’t want to be in the middle of it. You’ve seen the impact of it overnight. Anybody that thought that the talk of a trade war is overhyped has been proved wrong by this. $38 billion ripped right out of the share market. That’s $38 billion ripped out of people’s superannuation accounts. All of us have less money in our super nominally today than we did yesterday. So anybody who thought this isn’t real or it’s overhyped has been proved wrong. This is a real war, it has real costs, and the sooner it’s over the better.
JAYES: Australia can do really little in this situation as this trade war escalates. Is it more important than ever to be maintaining a surplus?
CLARE: Well look, there are limits to what Australia can do, that’s absolutely right. We can urge the United States and urge our friends in China to work towards a solution as quickly as we can, and we should be doing this. Remember China and the US make up half the world’s economy, so when you have a trade war, and that’s what this is, there’s going to be implications. Not just for China or the US, but for the whole world, and we’re seeing the consequences here in Australia now. I think it’s only going to be resolved when you get President Xi and President Trump in the same room committed to resolving this. I’m not saying that’s going to happen overnight, there have been plenty of opportunities in the past. But we should be using every effort we can to try and urge the two parties to resolve this. Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has been in China, he made a very good speech last week, he pointed to this, and whatever we can do to encourage China and the US to resolve the differences, the sooner the better in my view.
JAYES: Outside of those urgings, what more can Australia do to support freer trade globally? The Indonesia Free Trade Agreement hasn’t yet been ratified. Will Labor support that ratification process through the parliament?
CLARE: Well that process is happening now, and you’re right Laura, I’m no longer the Shadow Minister for Trade, Madeleine King has that responsibility, and she’s doing a great job. But the committee responsible for examining that has now started its work. Obviously anything that we can do to build and expand trade with Indonesia is very important. Indonesia is our next door neighbour and we barely look over the fence. We don’t trade enough with Indonesia. Indonesia’s going to become the fourth biggest economy in the world and its literally right on our doorstep. So the work that committee does over the months ahead is going to be very important.
JAYES: Labor did want more protections going into the election. You didn’t win the election, obviously, so have those demands… are you seeing that with a different perspective on the other side?
CLARE: Well we’ve got to look at all of that in the context of that agreement as it’s being considered by that committee…
JAYES: But would you hold up a free trade agreement?
CLARE: But you’re right Laura, we didn’t win the election. And Labor is committed to free trade. We want to make sure that we expand the number of businesses and jobs that are created through exporting all of the things that we grow and produce here in Australia right across the world, and Asia is the key to that. We make 2 in 3 dollars from trade in Asia, with the prospect of so much more, particularly in places like Indonesia, but also India. India’s said to become the third biggest economy in the world in our lifetime too. Over the course of the past month or so we remembered the passing of Bob Hawke. If Bob Hawke and Paul Keating taught us anything it’s that we create a stronger economy through ripping down tariff walls, not by building them up. That’s what worries me so much about what we’re seeing between the US and China at the moment, and any effort we can take to expand trade and create more jobs and more businesses here in Australia through trading with our Asian neighbours the better.
JAYES: The government will announce a gas reservation scheme later today. This is essentially part of a deal, or non-deal that was done to get the tax cuts through the Senate. Rex Patrick likes the idea, he’s happy with these announcements that will be made later today. What do you call this? Is this a deal without being a deal? Because it seems, according to Luke Howarth, that Jackie Lambie might have got her way on housing in Tasmania as well.
CLARE: Yeah we don’t know yet. I guess we’ll see more about that deal on a gas reservation policy today, so we’ll wait and see the details of that. We’ve been trying to drag the government like a prize bull at the Easter Show to get to this point for a long, long time. There’s a gas reservation policy in Western Australia, it works pretty well. To the last election, we took a policy called a National Interest Test, which would say that wherever there’s a new gas facility being developed that a board would have to have a look to see how much of that gas should be reserved for Australian manufacturers and for Australian mums and dads. The government didn’t buy that when we put that policy to the last election and the one before that, so let’s hope that they’ve had a change of heart, whether Rex Patrick has forced them to it or not. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
JAYES: Will you want to see a lifting on the fracking moratorium in states such as Victoria and New South Wales too?
CLARE: Well ultimately this is a decision that’s got to be made by the New South Wales Government and the Victorian Government. This is not a red-blue thing, or a Labor-Liberal thing. You’ve got a Liberal Government in New South Wales and a Labor Government in Victoria; they’ve both got the same policy there. Then you go up to Queensland, you see a Labor Government where there is major expansion of gas exploration, same thing in the Northern Territory with the development of the Beetaloo Basin. It’s for the Federal Government to talk to the State Governments there about whether they’re willing to reconsider that, and whether they’ve got the confidence of their local communities to be able to develop those gas reserves. But the bottom line here is we do need more gas, we want it at a cheaper price so that Australian manufacturers can continue to produce the goods they do and continue to export overseas.
JAYES: Jason Clare, we touched slightly on your portfolio area. Appreciate your time this morning.
CLARE: Thanks Laura.