Radio interview with Adam Steer, ABC Radio Darwin

  • Transcript, E&OE

ADAM STEER: How did you enjoy the track this morning? Did you go down the Esplanade?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes we did. We ran around the foreshore – we did a five kilometre route and a number of the Ambassadors came with me but the others went walking.

ADAM STEER: You're quite well known for your runs in the morning. How did you survive in the humidity and the heat of Darwin being used to running around in the more dry air of Canberra?

JULIE BISHOP: I am used to running in all sorts of places in all sorts of conditions but it was beautiful this morning.

ADAM STEER: You toured the Darwin Harbour yesterday. How comfortable are you with the Port being owned by the Chinese company Landbridge?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia welcomes foreign investment and in this particular case the investor intends to spend a lot of money upgrading the port. Our Defence Department looked at the matter; they had no security concerns at all so it will be a foreign investment that is very fruitful for Darwin. I think it will attract many more visitors. Already the refrigerator container capacity has increased some four-fold and that has seen significant increase in trade through the Darwin Port which is good for the Territory.

ADAM STEER: You weren't informed of the deal at the time though, Minister. Why did you change foreign ownership rules if you're not fussed about the Chinese ownership of our Port here?

JULIE BISHOP: The Northern Territory Government contacted the Defence Department and the Defence Department had no concerns and they expressed no security concerns and that is still the case. The changes to our foreign investment rules are because of a whole range of concerns not in relation to the Darwin Port.

ADAM STEER: So, it wasn't in hindsight after the deal done at Darwin Port?

JULIE BISHOP: No. These are matters that are under constant review. We are always ensuring that our foreign investment rules reflect our national interest.

ADAM STEER: Chinese officials will be in Darwin next week to conduct a conference promoting possible business opportunity through China's One Belt One Road policy for the Pacific. Do you see a problem there?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't see any problem with China conducting its seminar here in Darwin. I think that is a very good opportunity for people to ascertain how One Belt One Road might apply in the Australian circumstances and I am sure government officials will be represented there. In the Pacific we do need more investment. There is no doubt that more infrastructure is required. In fact, Australia is stepping up our infrastructure investment in the Pacific. You will have seen that recently we have agreed to build an undersea telecommunications cable for PNG and Solomon Islands. This is the kind of infrastructure that will help the Pacific be more secure, more prosperous, more stable.

ADAM STEER: You say the Northern Territory is the natural gateway to Asia. What do you think the NT should be doing – or Darwin – to achieve that because we have talked about it for a long time, whether we are actually it or not is questionable?

JULIE BISHOP: I have hosted 70 diplomats from 70 nations around the world here in Darwin over the last couple of days and it has been a wonderful opportunity to showcase Darwin and its geographic location is quite evident. Darwin is just a couple of hours away from some of the major cities in Asia. I think that the diplomats here have seen the opportunities for more business, more trade, more investment, tourism, educational exchanges, research collaboration, and so I think Darwin's geographic location makes it exquisitely positioned to capitalise on the growing economies to the North.

ADAM STEER: But what should we be doing? I mean that is obvious that we are close.

JULIE BISHOP: What the Government here should be doing is making Darwin an attractive place to invest so ensuring that there is not an over burden of red tape, ensuring that investment is welcome, that the planning approvals are managed and from a Federal Government's point of view that is precisely why we are reducing the corporate tax rate. That is why we are making Australia a much more attractive place to do business.

ADAM STEER: The Federal Government has signed an MOU, a city deal, with the Northern Territory. There is still not a red cent, there is not a cent coming from the Federal Government more than 12 months after that MOU was signed and yet you are saying we need to make Darwin more attractive?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't think it is fair to say that there is not a red cent coming from the Federal Government. I come from Western Australia, I know how much GST the Northern Territory gets.

ADAM STEER: I am talking about the City Deal though.

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, I will come to that. The City Deal is a negotiation between the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Government and the details have not yet been concluded. I know it is about revitalising the CBD. There are a number of significant initiatives but when the deal has finally been negotiated then funds follow.

ADAM STEER: Yesterday Treasurer Scott Morrison announced changes to the GST carve up. The Northern Territory Treasurer Nicole Manison says the Territory will be $30 million worse off. Is she right?

JULIE BISHOP: No, she is not. The Territory will be $189 million better off over the transition period. No State or Territory will be worse off. We have ensured that no State or Territory could never find itself in the position that Western Australia has where we were getting 29 cents in the dollar and the Territory was getting $4.50. We have managed to come up with a model that ticks all the boxes. We have reformed the formula, we have changed the formula so it is fairer and it takes the volatility out. We have put a floor in of 70 cents that will rise to 75 cents so no State will be in the position as WA was and get 29 cents in the dollar. We have also increased – significantly increased – the size of the GST pie so that the actual pool to be distributed will be much larger because the Commonwealth will throw in a component. Up until now the GST pool has been the tax collected, the goods and services tax, but now the Commonwealth has added a component that tops it up permanently so no State or Territory will be worse off. I think it is a fantastic outcome.

ADAM STEER: The concerns are this morning that we could go back to the old days of premiers and chief ministers battling over buckets of money, particularly because the Federal Government said (INAUDIBLE) to places like the Northern Territory?

JULIE BISHOP: No. We are topping up through the transition period to ensure that the Northern Territory for example, and Western Australia, are fairly treated but then after the transition period there will be a permanent increase in the size of the GST pie because the Commonwealth will through in extra amounts each and every year so there is more to distribute. The GST will grow anyway as our population increases.

ADAM STEER: I will get you to put on your Foreign Minister hat for a moment. The young soccer players trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand, they have been practising scuba diving in preparations for swimming out hopefully in the next 48 hours. Are you confident in a successful rescue? What do you know there?

JULIE BISHOP: We are at a very critical stage and some significant decisions have to be made over the next few days. We have sent more support. We now have eight Federal Police officers, specialists in this kind of rescue. We have Defence Force personnel also there and last night I signed off to send medical practitioners. The Thai Government is asking for help, Australia is responding, as is the United States, Britain, China and other countries in the region are sending whatever support they can. It is at very critical stage and we just hope and pray that they be safe.

ADAM STEER: Minister, what is on the agenda for you today?

JULIE BISHOP: Today we are going to the INPEX site. We are going to showcase our LNG capacity here in Darwin. We are also going to Charles Darwin University looking at some of the research projects there and I will be announcing the New Colombo Plan winners for Mobility Grants from Charles Darwin University, 60 young students from Charles Darwin University will be funded by the Federal Government to live and study and undertake work experience in one of 40 locations in the Indian Ocean Asia Pacific.

ADAM STEER: Minister, I appreciate your time on what is a very busy day for you. Thanks for coming this morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.

- Ends -

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