SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA
E&OE TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW ADELAIDE TUESDAY, 8 APRIL 2014 SUBJECT/S: Australia and Japan FTA; South Australian Defence industry; AL refor!; "e# Senate ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, SENATOR PENNY WONG: Thank you very much for coming, I’m here to talk about the agreement with Japan. And it’s quite clear, for all the big talk from the rime !inister that in the cold light of day the gloss has come off this deal. The gloss has come off this deal and the spin is unravelling as more and more representatives of industry come out and tell the truth about what’s been agreed. I "ust want to remind you, since we’ve had the big glit#y announcement from the rime !inister, Tony Abbott, some of what’s been said by key players who represent businesses, industries, who stand to benefit from a good deal with Japan. $rom the %ational $armers’ $ederation& 'the Japanese agreement falls short of the mark.( $rom )anegrowers& 'this is yet another kick in the guts for Aussie )anegrowers.( $rom the )attle )ouncil, they’ve e*pressed disappointment about the outcome on beef. $rom Australia ork +imited, they described the agreement as substandard and representing a missed opportunity for the pork sector. And, of course, the dairy industry council who’ve said they’re e*tremely disappointed with the deal. ,ven Tony Abbott’s own colleagues have e*pressed concerns about the detail of this deal. -overnment ! -eorge )hristensen has said that the Australia.Japan agreement has no significant benefit to farmers. /ell that’s what’s happened today in the cold light of day. /e are concerned, +abor is concerned, that this trade deal with Japan falls a long way short. /e’re concerned it falls a long way short. /e’re concerned that the rime

!inister, in his rush to get an agreement, hasn’t cut the best deal he could for Australia. The -overnment claims this is a free trade agreement. /ell it locks in high tariffs for e*ample on beef for years to come. I mean, "ust imagine, 0120 and we’ll still be seeing a tariff of nearly 01 per cent on Australia’s fro#en beef products. It’s not really a free trade agreement. /hat we have got from the -overnment is a lot of spin, a lot of headlines. /hat we haven’t got is a lot of detail. And I think Australians, particularly our agriculture producers, are entitled to that detail. +abor will be scrutinising this agreement very carefully. /e think it is an agreement that falls short of what could’ve been achieved. /e think there’s a lot of red tape in this agreement, it’s clearly very comple*. /e’ll certainly be scrutinising this agreement through the arliament to make sure it’s in the national interest. 3appy to take questions. JOURNALIST: 4ne of your former colleagues and a predecessor of the trade portfolio, )raig ,merson, has tweeted that the deal was the best Australia could have achieved and he says well done to Andrew 5obb and the !. WONG: And )raig’s entitled to his view and he was a very good Trade !inister. 3e was a strong advocate for trade liberalisation. I think it’s quite clear that it’s not only +abor that’s e*pressing concerns about whether this was the best deal that could’ve been had. A lot of people, a lot of industry representatives, even some of the +iberals themselves have e*pressed these concerns. /e’ll certainly approach the agreement sensibly, we’ll look at it in detail. 6ut I think there are a few people out there who say it’s a long way short of what they could have achieved. JOURNALIST: /ith some of the specifics like beef and dairy, wasn’t it the case that the Japanese were never going to lose on those key issues7 WONG: I think that’s something the -overnment might say. /hat I’d say is this& obviously industry were e*pecting a better set of arrangements than the one the rime !inister has signed off on. I think there always has been the risk, under Tony Abbott, that he’d seek to cut whatever deal he could in order to get the announcement. And I’ve seen the Americans e*press a view that this isn’t as ambitious as they were seeking. 8o I suppose it’s a question of having a look at what could have been achieved and what the Americans are likely to achieve through the other set of arrangements, which is the Trans acific artnership. JOURNALIST: Is there a connection between this treatment of the fair trade deal with the news that we’re seeing coming out now about the submarines and that

maybe we may have Japanese off the shelf models replacing "ob.generating pro"ects in Australia7 WONG: I’d make a couple of points about submarines. 6efore the last election, we made the point for some time in government that Tony Abbott and his 8hadow 9efence spokesperson hadn’t made the commitments that should have been made in relation to 8outh Australia and the submarines. And you might recall gradually, under more and more political pressure and in the lead up to an election, Tony Abbott finally said to 8outh Australians what he tried to avoid saying, he said we will commit to building :0 submarines here in Adelaide. 3e finally said that. /ell what’s being said today, or overnight by the 9efence !inister, 9avid Johnston, is not consistent with the rime !inister’s commitment. And I think the rime !inister needs to be clear with people in this state. Are you going to honour your promise to build :0 submarines here in Adelaide, or are you going to do what 9avid Johnston is flagging, which is to say well look we might buy some off the shelf. /hat the 9efence !inister has said is that everything is on the table. /ell if everything’s on the table, that’s not what the rime !inister promised 8outh Australians before the election. JOURNALIST: /hat does that actually mean for 8outh Australians and for "obs here if this is going offshore7 WONG: As you know, I’m a strong supporter of the defence industry here in 8outh Australia, we were strong supporters in government. /e did a lot of work with A8) to improve performance and to put in the best position possible to ma*imise how much of this work it got. /hen the government made a decision to procure the subs, and I think everybody in 8outh Australia understands particularly with the auto sector under the pressure it is and 3olden going, that we need to ensure we have advanced manufacturing here in this state and defence industries are a critical and a core part of that. JOURNALIST: 6ut if it was an overseas design built here, that would still be consistent with previous commitments. WONG: 4ne of your colleagues in the A6) put that to me today and I said well if that’s the response from the -overnment then the -overnment should tell people that. /hat have you got as 8outh Australia’s "ournalists, what has the 8outh Australian public got7 ;ou’ve got one set of statements from the rime !inister before the election, a very different set of statements currently being made by the 9efence !inister < e*plain to us how the two match up. JOURNALIST: 8enator John $aulkner is calling for some rule changes in the +abor arty, in the %8/ branch, looking for e*clusive integrity pledges to be made, and the like to address corruption. 9o you think that’s a good move7

WONG: +ook, we’re having a very important discussion which has been going on for some time but still has some way to go, about how we open up our arty, how we strengthen our party, and how we ensure we have the strongest +abor arty we can and the strongest labour movement we can. That’s part of this discussion. There are a number of other propositions on the table. I’m up for this discussion. I was one of the people that did advocate for the changes in the way in which the $ederal +abor leader was chosen, because I think part of a strong +abor arty is an engaged membership and if you give people a vote on a critical issue like the leadership of the +abor arty, that’s a good way to engage them. /e’ve got more work to do and it’s a useful contribution by 8enator $aulkner to what is a very important conversation inside +abor. And it’s not "ust important for us, it’s important for the country. I do believe Australia is a better place for the reforms that +abor -overnments historically have put in place. If you think through, whether it’s fair wages and conditions, superannuation, !edicare, disability insurance < these are important +abor reforms and they are able to be delivered when our party is strong and we have a responsibility, particularly when we are in 4pposition, to strengthen our party and our movement. JOURNALIST: 3ow do you think the new 8enate is going to operate7 WONG: It’s going to be interesting, isn’t it7 It’s the largest number of crossbenchers in history and Tony Abbott, to get his legislation through, is going to have to negotiate with some pretty disparate groups. I have to say the -overnment hasn’t demonstrated much capacity to negotiate well until now. And it’ll be interesting to see whether they’re up to the task. I can say, as +abor’s 8enate +eader, we will take the role we always have in 4pposition, we will hold the -overnment to account, we will uphold the standards of the 8enate as the chamber of review and the chamber that scrutinises legislation properly. JOURNALIST: 3ave you had any negotiations or discussions with )live almer himself7 WONG: I have had some discussions with !r almer, but obviously the new 8enate doesn’t take office until the :st of July. JOURNALIST: /hat sorts of issues are you negotiating with him on7 WONG: I don’t talk about private discussions but you’d anticipate that as +abor’s leader in the 8enate I’m going to be talking to all of the crossbenchers and, you know, he leads a party that has representation in the 8enate. Just as I’ll talk to John !adigan and )hristine !ilne and %ick =enophon. That’s part of my "ob. JOURNALIST: 8peaking of matters as +abor 8enate +eader, your lead 8enate candidate, 8enator elect, in /estern Australia has threatened to quit the party in the past, particularly if he were to be put in a position where he was asked to vote

against his conscience on the issue of gay marriage. 9o you have any concerns about keeping 8enator 6ullock in line7 WONG: +ook, Joe’s a long.standing member of the +abor arty and a person who’s advocated for the interests of working people in the conte*t of his being an official of a trade union. That’s a core role that +abor has < to protect the wages and conditions of working people. 4n the issue of marriage equality, he like a number of other people have a long.standing position. !ine is a different position but I respect that that is the position that they hold. JOURNALIST: /e often hear in stories of government that governments and oppositions agree far more than they disagree but with the make up of the new 8enate < will +abor play more hardball and leave Tony Abbott at the mercy of )live almer more often7 WONG: /e’ll always look to the national interest. I have to say this government has not demonstrated any willingness to have a genuine bipartisan negotiation on anything. They never miss an opportunity to behave like an opposition, in fact, spending more time on trying to work out how to kick the +abor arty than how to run the country. JOURNALIST: 6ack on the subs < the ne*t section of the )oles 5eview into the )ollins )lass has been released < WONG: 3as it been released7 I haven’t seen the release but as you know, it was commissioned by the former +abor -overnment, by !inister 8mith and I. And I think it was a very important part of ensuring that we work to improve the performance of the A8) and the operational capacity of the submarines. JOURNALIST: It talks about a remarkable transformation that came from significant problems in building the subs. 9o you think that poses any scepticism about the A8) workforce going forward and potentially building the ne*t generation7 WONG: I was the shareholder !inister of A8) and I thought they had a lot of e*traordinarily skilled people there. They’re skills we want in 8outh Australia. They’re skills we want for Australia. These are big engineering challenges, these pro"ects. 4bviously governments of both political persuasions have had to look at how you improve your performance in terms of constructing those pro"ects and dealing with those pro"ects. The review you spoke about I think been a really important contributor to improving performance. JOURNALIST: I find the timing interesting. There’s obviously this story out today and suddenly this review gets popped out a day early. /hat are we to make of that7 Is that maybe the -overnment signalling you know these submarines are being managed well now so maybe we’ll "ust hang onto them for a bit longer7 8hould we be concerned7 /hat does it actually mean7

WONG: 8ome of that you’d have to ask the -overnment. I’d go back to my core proposition, which is you had one thing said before the election about what a +iberal -overnment would do. And I would remind you all, and some of you might have been at some of the press conferences, it took Tony Abbott a long time to make that commitment. 3e kept dancing around it, using weasel words, but he finally got there before the election and said, yes, we make this commitment. eople are entitled to be told by the government whether they’ve changed their position. Thank you. ENDS

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