January 25, 2017





MATTHEW ABRAHAMWe welcome Sarah Hanson-Young Greens Senator for South Australia, speaker for the Greens on finance, trade, and education. Sarah Hanson-Young, good morning.


ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham, Education Minister, South Australian Liberal Senator.


ABRAHAM: And Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Member for Port Adelaide.


ABRAHAM: Someone that would be very happy with the scrapping of the TPP is Sarah Hanson-Young, is that right?

HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, look the TPP was always going to be a bad deal for a variety of reasons but one of the biggest concerns of course is it was going to give big corporations the power through these ISDS clauses to sue governments if governments change laws or introduce regulations that the companies would then say affected their profits. So for example Tobacco companies sue the Government because of plan packaging, or big food companies in the US wanting to sue because we started introducing labels saying we were going to label Australian products better.

ABRAHAM: That sounds fairly alarmist. Is it not?

HANSON-YOUNG: No generally it’s the biggest problem that most people who have concerns about the TPP raise. These big corporations were going to have so much power to really restrict the will of the Government even if they were doing things that was implementing the will of the Australian people.

ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator for South Australia, Malcolm Turnbull your Prime Minister is pushing ahead with some form of trying to salvage it. Why?

BIRMINGHAM: Because open markets and international trade are good things for Australians and we see many Australian businesses, South Australian businesses, like Golden North ice-cream, Seppeltsfield wines, international seafood exporters, benefiting from things like our free trade agreement with China. There are increased opportunities, increased exports already happening -

ABRAHAM: The biggest particular trade agreement, the TPP did that – because of the nature of the parties involved – did that pose a particular threat to what Sarah Hanson-Young says to our sovereignty?

BIRMINGHAM: Well no. I mean if the scare tactics from the Greens were to be believed then why on earth would Donald Trump and America want to back out of it? Because clearly if all of those things Sarah says was true, wouldn’t that be good news for the American people? We have the Greens on the same page as Donald Trump, and indeed Bill Shorten on the same page as Donald Trump because apparently they all want to look inward rather than outward. Be protectionist rather than actually believe we can continue to get more jobs and economic growth by exporting more goods to the world.

HANSON-YOUNG: The crazy thing about all of this is actually the overall growth that was projected to come from having the TPP; we wouldn’t even get a bang for our buck in terms of exports vs imports. We were going to have a deficit when it came to our trade.

ABRAHAM: We do at the moment don’t we?

HANSON-YOUNG: We do, and it is getting bigger and bigger. And the TPP was only going to make that worse.

BIRMINGHAM: The TPP was also projected to show increased economic growth. Now it was a small level of increased growth but I’d rather have .7 per cent growth than not have .7 per cent growth. I’d rather actually seize every opportunity available to grow our economy and create more jobs. Rather than saying ‘well that one doesn’t matter because it is only .7 per cent.”

ABRAHAM: Mark Butler as the President of the Party that really started to dismantle our protection barriers under the Hawke/Keating Government, are you now winding back that clock?

BUTLER: The bizarre thing about the debate is that the only debate that Malcolm Turnbull has sought to lead about economic policy over the course of this year, and we’re almost at the end of January, is around an agreement that’s dead. The TPP is dead and as much as Malcolm Turnbull and his Trade Minister Steve Ciobo try to find new ways to seek to breathe life into this agreement, the simple fact of the matter is the agreement is not going to happen. Let’s get on talking with the rest of the world and let’s talk about trade agreements that might be able to be reached within our own region.

ABRAHAM: So a TPP light are you saying?

BUTLER: This is also what I don’t understand about Turnbull’s approach. He wants to resurrect an agreement that at its heart had the United States. The United States was a critical player in the TPP, a very serious reason why countries like Vietnam were going to sign up to it. Vietnam for example, the only reason why they made concessions in the TPP was that they were going to get access to the enormous American market.

There is another process in our region, ASEAN+6, which has China, Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand, all the ASEAN countries, who have been undertaking this process for a number of years. Why would you try to reconstruct the TPP around China, which I don’t think the Chinese are ever going to agree to, why wouldn’t you instead say, “well the TPP for better or for worse is now dead, let’s think about other arrangements that we might be able to reach in our own region that would be able to give different sectors of our economy different export opportunities”.

What this is really is a distraction from the fact Malcolm Turnbull has no other economic policy to talk about. It’s just extraordinary that he has spent the last several days seeking to breathe life into this corpse of a trade agreement.

HANSON-YOUNG: Well it’s a zombie, isn’t it? The idea that they can unscramble the omelette is just ludicrous. It’s crazy talk.

ABRAHAM: So you don’t support for instance a partnership that would include China because of their big corporations and the fact that they might oppose our laws. Is that correct?

HANSON-YOUNG: I think the issue here is that we need to make sure that trade agreements are about trade. I think we should be going ahead and saying alright let’s get back on the front foot go back to the drawing board, have negotiations around actual trade that expands the ability for Australia to export without having these stupid clauses that are effectively undemocratic. We don’t need them in order to increase exports.

ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: Let’s just very quickly on Sarah’s point. These types of protections are largely protections for businesses like Australian businesses doing business in countries that have less developed regulatory structures and laws then a country like Australia does. There’s very little risk for Australia. The bigger issue here is that you do have other nations that do have part of the TPP negotiations willing to discuss about how we go forward. Even without the United States. So why should we drop years of work under Governments of both persuasions rather than actually saying let’s see if we can work with these other nations including Japan who Prime Minister Turnbull has spoken with Prime Minister Abe on a number of occasions over the last couple of weeks about possible steps forward here; whether that is just the remaining TPP partners, or whether it is without US and China.  

HANSON-YOUNG: I just don’t understand this obsession with not just accepting that it’s dead. Yes we do need to get our trade agreements in our region. Go back to the drawing board start from the beginning and do it properly. And do you know what; stop hiding what is going on to the Australian people. The biggest concern that people had as the TPP was rolling out was how secretive the negotiations were.

ABRAHAM: I don’t think the Australian people had any concerns about the TPP. I didn’t hear anyone mention it as I was lining up at the Yankalilla bakery.

HANSON-YOUNG: I think there is genuinely concern out there. Particularly amongst the –

ABRAHAM: They didn’t say there were worried about the TPP they just said can I have tomato on my pasty.

BIRMINGHAM: Well when the Greens tell you that the world will come to an end because of it then the people they are talking to are concerned in return, Matt. But I agree that I don’t think people exactly were agitated and losing sleep over the TPP over the last couple of years –

HANSON-YOUNG: Partly because of how secretive it was keep –

BIRMINGHAM: The point is we should not just junk years of work if there is good things that you can still salvage from it and other partners to the TPP, even without the United States.

BUTLER: Well we don’t know that. The Trade Minister was asked -

BIRMINGHAM: Well you’re saying we should give up and we shouldn’t try. That’s your response Mark.

BUTLER: The Trade Minister was asked about whether the government had done any modelling about what benefit there would be for the TPP without the US. Leaving aside the probability that the existing nations won’t sign up to the conditions of the TPP without access to the American market; leaving aside that very significant problem. The Government hasn’t even worked out if it would be a good thing for Australia. They’ve done no modelling on whether or not it would be a good thing for Australia.

ABRAHAM: Is this like our version of Brexit, Simon Birmingham? In that it is happened and there is no fall back plan, there’s no Plan B?

BIRMINGHAM: There is a Plan B and that is to work through with other trading partners, both within the TPP and other options like China, as to what might be possible from here. Now of course we already have great trade access as a result of a number of deals the Coalition Government has done over the last few years; with China, with Japan, with South Korea, that have increased access and been very good for a number of South Australian companies as I said at the outset. But we should absolutely seek to actually do what we can and salvage what we can out of this rather than just give up and walk away because Bill Shorten or the Greens want to sound like Donald Trump rather than do what is in Australia’s best interest for Australian jobs.

ABRAHAM: This is Super Wednesday that was the voice of Simon Birmingham, Mark Butler is the Labor MP for Port Adelaide, spokesperson for the opposition for Climate Change and Energy, he’s President of the ALP. Sarah Hanson-Young is Greens Senator for South Australia, spokesperson for finance, trade, and education. On Super Wednesday we bring together local politicians that have big roles to play on the national stage.

This was on AM, this was Donald Trump and this may resonate with the voters who perhaps have abandoned all three of your parties. Have a listen to this; “we will build our own pipeline, we will build our own pipes, like we used to in our old days.” That’s Donald Trump talking to the people that put him in, isn’t it? We’re talking about the US sort of withdrawing back behind the walls of the castle are we not? Haven’t we started in a much more subtle way of doing that with our steel and other industries here? Should we be doing more of it?

BUTLER: Well the challenge for a country like Australia for as long as really we’ve been a nation, since 1901, has been that balance between seeking the opportunities from trade. We are a great trading nation, always have been, a much bigger trading nation as a share of our economy than the US. While at the same time nurturing our own industry, our own capabilities to have a good industrial ecosystem but also good well-paying jobs in Australia and that’s been a challenge really for the last 40 years. Since the economies around the world –

ABRAHAM: And we’ve seen a lot of those jobs go, particularly in South Australia.

BUTLER: Well particularly we are seeing that at the moment with the automotive industry. I think the greatest act of vandalism to our industrial system in living memory was the Government’s decision to walk away from automotive manufacturing.

ABRAHAM: Well General Motors Holden walked away from the automotive industry.

BUTLER: No, that is not right Matthew. We can spend a long time debating that and it is simply not right. You’ve seen good support from the Government along with Victoria for Alcoa, the aluminium operations over in Victoria. I wish there had been a bit more consistency around some of the other parts of our industrial ecosystem frankly, but look this is a challenge. And Trump’s having a debate in America about the balance in America. We shouldn’t simply follow what Donald Trump and the Americans talk about –

ABRAHAM: Unless it’s on the TPP.

BUTLER: No the TPP is not a question of following Trump. It’s a question of recognising reality. The fact is without Trump there is no TPP.

ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: Well we definitely shouldn’t be following American still protectionism if that’s what we are about to see a wave of. Because Australia’s economy has benefited from being outward looking from exporting many different products to the rest of the world –

ABRAHAM: There have been a lot of people in South Australia who have lost their jobs who wouldn’t agree with that.

BIRMINGHAM: And yes there has been transition. There has been transition in some industries. But overall we have record numbers of jobs across South Australia today. You see Victoria, where Ford closed its doors last year, jobs growth of around I think it was around 100,000 extra jobs. You can actually successfully transition an economy with the right types of settings in place. We have seen enormous growth in wealth over the decades including the decades where a lot of protectionist policies have been dismantled. But of course you always have to put Australia’s interests first so we won’t do trade deals that won’t increase Australia’s economic activity. Increased jobs for Australia, we want to make sure that everything we do is about Australian interest and Australian jobs coming first. So Donald Trump’s rhetoric about putting American jobs first I understand. But of course it is in Australia’s interest to remain a champion of being outward and engaging with the world as a country that can produce lots of food and provide lots of minerals, provide lots of services; as Education Minister we provide $19 billion worth of education related services to the region. It’s become a huge growth export opportunity for us that we’ve seized and we’re succeeding in and we should absolutely advance.

ABRAHAM: Sarah Hanson-Young?

HANSON-YOUNG: Look unless our political leaders start to recognise that there is a massive problem with growth inequality in this country, they are not going to be able to deal with the kind of Trumpism coming to our shores.

ABRAHAM: But you’ve got a lot in common with Donald Trump.

HANSON-YOUNG: There are a lot of things I don’t have in common at all with Donald Trump actually. I think the idea of blaming foreigners for everything is wrong, I think that simply pulling down the shutters isn’t the right way to go but I do agree with this. That people for far too long have been feeling as though the gap between the rich and everybody else is getting bigger here in Australia  and if the only options we have being put forward is growth in this country are some crappy view of trickledown economics from a $50 billion tax cut to big businesses. The Australian people know that is a fraud and they want us to focus on bridging that gap between rich and poor, investing in social services and ensuring when we talk about jobs we don’t just try and gloss over the figures. We know that people overwhelmingly are feeling the pinch of being underemployed as well as just unemployed.

ABRAHAM: Mark Butler, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting this morning that your leader Bill Shorten will tonight promise that if the fair work commission cuts Sunday penalty rates and reduces Sunday overtime Labor will change the law to protect workers take home pay. That’s a significant shift. Can you confirm he’s going to do that and why?

BUTLER: Well when Bill Shorten was Workplace Relations Minister in the last Labor Government, he put in place some changes  to the act to require the Industrial Commission, the independent umpire if you like on wages and conditions, to pay regard to work of unsociable hours when setting things like penalty rates.

ABRAHAM: But this goes a step further doesn’t it?

BUTLER: It’s really a further safety net if you like and it’s indicating that if those principles were not sufficient to protect what we think is important, which weekend penalty rates are, then we would look at making further changes to the act. To send a clearer direction if that is needed to the commission that penalty rates are a very important part of our wages system.

ABRAHAM: So you make those changes so you can’t take away Sunday penalty rates?

BUTLER: Well you’ll see in the speech tonight – what we don’t think should happen is the act shouldn’t be changed to set out every single percentage point of penalty rate. Whether it is a weekend evening or a week evening, but we do think the commission must when it is making these decisions have very, very clear regard to the fact that people working unsociable hours deserve to be paid a penalty rate.

ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham just quickly, you seem bemused?

BIRMINGHAM: I think what Mark Butler just said is when Bill Shorten was Industrial Relations Minister they wanted to make sure the independent umpire had regard to unsociable hours, which is something we back. But that now tonight Bill Shorten is going to say if the Industrial Relations Commission comes down with the finding that Bill Shorten disagrees with, he will disregard what the independent umpire says.

ABRAHAM: That will be quite popular won’t it?

BIRMINGHAM: I’m not sure it will be very popular with the people who aren’t opening their cafes or restaurants on Sunday’s. We saw a study just in The Advertiser today or yesterday about people out for the Tour Down Under finding many restaurants and many café doors closed. We have said for a long time now we should back the finding of the independent umpire but of course Labor, whether it is energy policy, wages policy, seems hell bent on of course actually pricing Australia out of creating jobs and doing business.