SENATOR THE HONOURABLE CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS

Transcript

Patricia Karvelas (ABC Channel 24 – Afternoon Briefing), 11 June 2020

SUBJECTS:

Inquiries with China, Trading with China, Reliance on China, Diversification of Australian Trade, Black Lives Matter, America, Protests, Justice System, Indigenous Australian’s.

 

E&OE …

 

Patricia Karvelas:

Last night centre light Senator Rex Patrick moved a motion to establish a Senate Committee inquiry into Australia’s relations with China. And one Liberal Senator crossed the floor in support the motion which ultimately didn’t succeed. That was Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. She was formally a minister in the Turnbull Government. She Joins us now. Senator, welcome.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Hello Patricia. How are you?

Patricia Karvelas:

Good. Why did you cross the floor?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well on principle I thought this was an important inquiry to support. I have been critical of the communist, communist regime in China. Indeed, my warnings have been long-standing. And I think that post Wuhan Corona Virus, Australians expect that it won’t be business as usual and therefore I see an inquiry of this kind to be very timely and most appropriate at this point in time.

Patricia Karvelas:

So, what would you want the inquiry to do?  Because the Governments obviously constantly watching these things. What do you think it would deal with or expose in that parliamentary context?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well what I think Patricia when you look at the extent of the involvement or the ways in which the communist regime is active in Australia and it’s actually interesting to see a couple of days ago Alex Joske’s paper, ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) paper, in relation ‘The party speaks for you’ paper, really does show the extent and at times insidious nature of the communist regimes activities in Australia. I think Australians are concerned, particularly post Wuhan, and they do not believe that this relationship should be business as usual. And so, I do believe that having or being in the senate where the committee system has operated so well and indeed, this morning we actually had the president of the senate telling us and commemorating 50 years of the establishment of the committee system. And yes of course at times committee, committee inquiries have been controversial. But I think this is one which would’ve afford the Australian public the opportunity to put forward their point of view in relation to a relationship which has become one, which is an overwhelming relationship.  One which is a third of our trade. 26.4% of our two-way trade. Involves Universities, involves Confucius Centres, it involves a whole spectrum of Australian society.

Patricia Karvelas:

But on, on those relationships. Australia’s already, it seems, facing trade ramifications from China. We rely on these trade relations, this trade relationship, very deeply as you know for our economy. Do you think we should be cautious about provoking China at a time where the relationship is just so fragile?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

But Patricia the point is, it is not a good business model to put a third of your trade eggs in one basket. And I mean this is something the universities have seen. They obviously haven’t followed the edicts of all their teachings in their business schools in terms of diversifying their investments. The point that needs to be made, particular after what we’ve seen in the pandemic, is that we have to reduce our reliance on overseas supply chains. We have to reduce our dependency on this one economy which is a communist regime. It is not, it’s a totalitarian regime. It is not a democratic country. And I think what we’ve seen through this pandemic is a growing need for us to decouple from China to reduce our dependency on the communist regime and build up our domestic resilience, particularly in relation to non-reliance of overseas supply chains.

Patricia Karvelas:

Okay you talk about diversification of our trade. That’s something the Government is already talking about and talking about quite heavily. India for instance, recently with a sort of deep agreement that’s been forged there. Do you think the government is already doing what you’re saying?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well I think that’s there’s scope to do a lot. When you look at this whole relationship it’s not just about universities, it’s not just about iron ore, it’s not just about all those daily household things that we import every day from China. This relationship is one that traverses a whole range of different things. I am not saying that we ought not to have a relationship. The point that I am making is that we have got ourselves into a situation where we are now so dependent on this economy in the absence of having other relationships or other stronger relationships. And that’s really the point that I’m making and that’s where, certainly, I know from the extent of the contact that’s made with me, particularly about the concerns of what I say, the silent majority. There are concerns about foreign investment. There are concerns about the national interest. There are concerns about a whole range of different things. And that’s really why it cannot be business as usual. Now, whether we’ve got the political fortitude to go through with this and do reduce our dependency and do diversify our activities across a whole range of different areas remains to be seen Patricia.

Patricia Karvelas:

Just finally, there’s something significant that’s happen in the Senate. Pauline Hanson was trying to get her motion up the All Lives Matter motion. The Government, the Greens and Labor, minor parties everyone kind of ensured that that wasn’t, didn’t ever go to a vote. Why did you all work together on that?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well I have to say I’ve, I’m actually on leave at the moment so I haven’t been in the chamber so I’m not fully across what’s happened this afternoon in relation to that. So in relation to this, look can I just say, all lives matter and therefore as far as I’m concerned I have to say that the activities that we’ve seen, particularly of some of the protesters, at a time when we are in these very difficult circumstances, I think it’s demonstrated a degree of irresponsibility.

Patricia Karvelas:

But, but that’s actually the language of Senator Hanson’s motion that All Lives Matter. The reason the movement is called Black Lives Matter is that black people around the world, in the US but certainly here as well, are disproportionally represented in, in these kinds of cases with the police and justice system. That’s why the movement exists because…

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…Well.

Patricia Karvelas:

…. There is, there is a different treatment.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Patricia can I just say, I respect the right of people to express their point of view and to protest. The point being in this point of time, given what we are going through, it wasn’t the appropriate thing to do. Now, I appreciate events in the United States. Can I also say though in relation to the events in United States, I think we do need to distinguish what’s happening in the United States and what’s happening around in other parts of the world. I do respect this issue but at this particular point in time I would’ve liked to have seen a lot more responsibility on the part of Australians. And I know that this is an issue that a lot of Australians are very upset about, I mean there are people who weren’t able to go to weddings…


 

Patricia Karvelas:

…Sure…

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

 …Weren’t able to mourn…

Patricia Karvelas:

…. But on that issue…

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…Mourn their families. Sorry Patricia…

Patricia Karvelas:

…That’s about the actually act of protesting but I’m talking about the substantive issue. Black Lives Matter. That’s because black people are not treated the same in the justice system. Do you agree with that basic contention?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well Patricia, Patricia I think that as myself being a lawyer, I think that the justice system has served us well in Australia. As I have said I think that in the end what is really important is that all Australians have the opportunity to be their best and that includes, most especially, having a job and so therefore…

Patricia Karvelas:

…. Sure…

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

 …The focus of our government has been on ensuring jobs, jobs, jobs…

Patricia Karvelas:

…Yeah but just, I have to interrupt you …

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…. That means jobs for all Australians

Patricia Karvelas:

…You say, you say that the justice system has served this national well. Do you really think it’s served Indigenous Australian’s well?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

I think that the justice system has served Australia well. There are of course concerns and there have been concerns in relation to deaths in custody. But I think in the end Patricia, when you do look at the reasons why young people go off the rails or things happen, it’s because ultimately there has been a breakdown either in their family’s circumstances or their economic circumstances. And as somebody worked with Father Chris Riley Youth Off the Street as his chairman over quite a of number of years, there are many, many things that contribute to young people or people going off the rails. So ultimately, stability and a very important component of that is work, and so therefore I come back to my original point. It is vitally important for us to have a strong economy and part of that strong economy…

Patricia Karvelas:

…Okay.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…Is to ensure that as many people are in jobs as is possible.

Patricia Karvelas:

Senator thanks for joining us.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Thanks very much Patricia.

Patricia Karvelas:

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells