SENATOR THE HONOURABLE CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS

Transcript

Sky News Tom Connell, 11 June 2020

SUBJECTS:

Trade Relations with China, Corona Virus, Communist Regime, Made in Australian Framework, University Sector.

E&OE …

 

Tom Connell:

Joining me now live Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Thanks for your time. You crossed the floor on this vote to have an inquiry into Australian and China relationship. Why did you do this? What is the Government not doing that it should?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well Tom good morning. As a matter of principle, I supported Senator Patricks motion to refer a reference and inquiry to the Senate Defence Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee. It is very clear that post Wuhan Corona Virus it cannot be business as usual with the communist regime in Beijing. I think that at this point in time it is appropriate and timely. I have been a long-standing critic. I have been long-standing in my criticisms of the communist regime in China and consistent with that view. I thought it was appropriate for me to support this motion. I mean let’s not forget Tom that just this morning the President of the Senate is celebrating fifty years of the committee and the establishment of the committee system here in our senate and he lorded the work that has been done over fifty years. And so therefore as the primary chamber as he indicated and given the success of our committee system, I think that is more than appropriate for us…

Tom Connell:

…Right

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

… To look at this relationship and into the future.

Tom Connell:

Everything that this committee though would talk about in terms of the relationship will decide, would be headlines. Would be big headlines. And could further inflame the relationship. I mean you do concede that traditional avenue is this for the government to handle this type of, let’s be honest, diplomacy.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well Tom that’s a matter for the government. We are a senate and accordingly our senate has from time to time over fifty years undertaken controversial inquires and so therefore it’s appropriate for us to look into this issue as it is for us to look into a whole range of other issues. But Tom can I come back to the point. It cannot be business as usual post Wuhan virus, and I have been very strong on that. I have called for us to decouple from China to reduce our dependency on the communist regime. I ‘ve even looked at looking at potential compensation and some plan. The reality is we need a plan to move forward here. And…

Tom Connell:

…Right

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…whether it’s in the area of foreign investment. In very different areas. I mean let’s not forget that the activities of the communist regime in Australia has been insidious at times. And one only has to look at what Alex Joske just released a couple of days ago. The ASPI (Australia Strategic Policy Institute) paper which looks at the activities of the communist regime in Australia. So, I think Australians do expect that post virus the situation does change, and I think it’s important for us…

Tom Connell:

…Right

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…To examine the whole gamut of this relationship.

Tom Connell:

So just on the trade element though when you say decouple. China’s obliviously going to be a customer, if you like, of Australia’s. They buy a lot of what we sell. Even if you just look at iron ore. Are you saying to reduce artificially to enforce a reduction of the percentage of our trade for example with China? Because the Government says we do our bit. We open up free trade agreements and avenues. And then eventually if China’s an unreliable partner these producers will shift partners. Are you saying this needs to be the force of hand from government to reduce the amount of trade we do with China?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Tom it is not a good business model to put a third of your trade eggs in one basket. A third of our exports are now with the communist regime. Twenty-six-point-four percentage of our two-way trade is with China. What we have seen during the pandemic is the need for our economy to reduce its dependency on overseas supply chains and that of course includes our dependency on the trade relationship with China. I think it’s important for us to diversify. I mean when you look at Tom the things that we import from China. Everyday household items and there is now a legitimate question as to whether some of those items ought not to be made in Australia. There will be no doubt a push for a made in Australia framework and we have seen comments from the government in relation to, to that and I support that. But the reality is Tom…

Tom Connell:

…Right.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

… it is not a good business model. But having said that let’s not forget that what we do import to China, particularly iron ore and coal, is vitally important to the economic growth of China…

Tom Connell:

…Right.

 Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…and in addition, …

Tom Connell:

…Yeah just.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…to feeding it’s one-point-three billion people.

Tom Connell:

Yeah now of course China trades with us because they…

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…So therefore, I have…

Tom Connell:

…it benefits them…

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…I have no…

 Tom Connell:

…We know that…

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

…I have no doubts…

Tom Connell:

…I just wanted to ask you finally. Yeah so, we’re nearly out of time senator. Can I just ask you finally one of the sectors, the University sectors? Because you spoke about government assistance might be needed. It’s going to be pretty hard for this sector to find the same number of international students even over a few years. What’s the solution there?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well for a start the business, the university sector ought to take heed of what’s being taught in their own business schools which is you don’t put all you eggs in one basket and so therefore I think this is an opportunity for the university sector and for those universities that have diversified. International students are important but so is diversification of the source of those students and we’ve seen some successes around Australia. The problem has come here for those universities that have pretty much saw the rivers of gold with Chinese students and predominantly Chinese students and so now the avenues for…

Tom Connell:

…Alright.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

 …Those universities have to be diversified.

Tom Connell:

Alright well its’s another interesting contribution of course from the senate. We appreciate your time today Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Thanks Tom.