Radio interview with Katie Wolf, MIX 104.9FM Darwin
KATIE WOLF: Julie Bishop, the Minister for Foreign Affairs is in Darwin for two days leading a delegation of 70 Canberra based Ambassadors and High Commissioners from around 70 nations and she joins me in the studio - welcome to Darwin Minister.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning. Great to be with you.
KATIE WOLF: It is lovely to have you here. Now, this is a two-day visit and an opportunity to promote the Northern Territory. Where are the delegates from that are visiting Darwin?
JULIE BISHOP: It is an opportunity to showcase the Northern Territory, and in particular Darwin, to 70 Ambassadors and High Commissioners from 70 nations around the world. They are from every continent. Importantly, there are a number from south-east Asia and north Asia and of course, Darwin is the gateway to Asia and so there are Ambassadors from Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, but all around the world. The US Ambassador is here, the British High Commissioner, the Ambassadors from Europe, the European Union and many from Africa and Latin America.
KATIE WOLF: Is this the first time a delegation of this kind has been to the Northern Territory or is it just that it has been a few years since the last one?
JULIE BISHOP: No. It is the first time that I have brought a delegation of this size to the Northern Territory. It is designed to not only showcase the best that the Territory has to offer but to identify businesses and investment opportunities. The Ambassadors and the High Commissioners will send messages back to their home countries talking about the opportunities to invest here, to do business here, joint ventures, free trade agreements, tourism, education, research collaboration – it is a really exciting opportunity.
KATIE WOLF: It is a great opportunity, I think, for the Northern Territory, especially at a time where our economy has certainly slowed down a little bit. There is a lot of talk about what some call the 'INPEX cliff' obviously the construction phase of the INPEX project slowing down and things around the Territory slowing down a little bit. How does a trip such as this one, a delegation such as this one, really open the Northern Territory up to other investment opportunities?
JULIE BISHOP: In fact, we are visiting INPEX today and making the point that Australia will become the largest exporter of LNG. We are already the world's largest exporter of iron-ore, coal, alumina and we have massive reserves of uranium. Australia really is a minerals and energy powerhouse. Yesterday we visited a buffalo research station, we went to an agricultural research station and the High Commissioners and the Ambassadors were fascinated to learn how we are doing things here in the Territory. They see opportunities for more trade, more fresh beef, more seafood, more horticultural products, and agricultural products through the Northern Territory into their markets. We need to ensure that businesses here in the Territory are competitive, so that is why the Turnbull Government is reducing corporate tax rates so that they have got more money in their pockets to invest, to employ people, but it is also the free trade agreements that we are entering into around the world. We've got a really ambitious free trade agenda which means that there will be enhanced markets or new markets for goods and services from Australia.
KATIE WOLF: And how do you think that that will impact the Northern Territory? I mean, you speak about the buffalo, obviously, but there are other things that can be exported from the Territory, no doubt?
JULIE BISHOP: There are enormous opportunities. I know a number of the partners of the Ambassadors have spent the day shopping, of course the wonderful crocodile products, the Paspaley pearls – there is so much here for tourists in particular. We are also going to Charles Darwin University today to talk about international education opportunities and research collaboration. I think the Northern Territory has so much going for it and I think the very best days of Darwin lie ahead.
We have also been to Larrakeyah Barracks and to Coonawarra site so that the Ambassadors and High Commissioners were exposed to our defence capability. Of course Darwin is a real defence town and the Turnbull Government has committed to upgrading Larrakeyah. It is going to be a huge construction project, some $500 million here. There will be a lot of jobs for the people in Darwin.
KATIE WOLF: Well, now you've touched on it, of course we know that Darwin is strategically important not just in terms of being a gateway to Asia, but of course in terms of defence. We've got Marines based here in the Northern Territory and of course Pine Gap in Alice Springs. How is the Northern Territory considered when it comes to discussions about defence security?
JULIE BISHOP: Darwin and the Northern Territory more broadly is absolutely vital to our defence and security effort. The region to our north is becoming more congested, more contested. The biggest military build-up around the world is in our region. As countries become more economically strong they look to increase their defence capability and that means Australia must also take steps to ensure that our Island continent is safe and secure. Darwin and the Northern Territory is a vital part of that – an indispensable part of our defence capability. The visit to Larrakeyah Barracks was a great opportunity to showcase defence industry capability, the bush masters, our helicopters, the kind of defence equipment that we are building capacity here in Australia but it could easily be sold overseas.
KATIE WOLF: Now Minister, I am keen to ask about the fact that Treasurer Scott Morrison of course, announced today how the GST is going to be carved up, how the Northern Territory is going to fare. The system has been tweaked and the Treasurer vowed to top up States and Territories which could be worse off as a result of the changes. The Northern Territory Treasurer, Nicole Manison, says that she is going to study the proposed changes to the GST but has vowed to continue to fight for every dollar. Are these changes going to prove positive for places like the Territory?
JULIE BISHOP: Absolutely. No State or Territory will be worse off under the Turnbull Government's reforms to the GST. This is the first major reform in 20 years but in those past 20 years, no one expected that a State like Western Australia would end up with 29 cents in the dollar compared with the Northern Territory at $4.50. We had to make it fairer and take the volatility out of it so the reforms that we have announced will give certainty. They are forever so that it is a permanent change to the GST. We have changed the formula. We have topped up the States to ensure that they are no worse off. We have put in a floor of 70 cents which will go to 75 cents so no State will find themselves in the situation that Western Australia did which everybody said was unfair. Also, we have for the first time, boosted the size of the GST distribution. The Commonwealth will be putting in a lot more money. In the past, of course the GST was the tax collection done by the Commonwealth but then distributed to the States and Territories. Now the Commonwealth will add a component so that the GST pie is much bigger. This is an eight-year transition but it is a permanent increase in the size of the GST so all States and Territories will have the opportunity to get more than they would have.
KATIE WOLF: Why do you think it is then that the likes of the Northern Territory are concerned that they could still be worse off?
JULIE BISHOP: I think that they are just being political, quite frankly. If the Northern Territory Government does its sums and they don't think they are going to be better off, well, then they can stay with the old system but I would be amazed if they decided to stay with a system that is clearly broken. We expect that all States and Territories will sign on because they are all going to be in a better system and no one loses and with the GST top ups, and the Northern Territory has had substantial top ups and Western Australia will have top ups. In years to come there will be a permanent increase in the size of the GST take so everybody does better.
KATIE WOLF: We are going to have to wrap things up. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, thank you so much for coming to see me this morning.
JULIE BISHOP: It has been a delight to be in Darwin, I've really enjoyed it as have the 70 Ambassadors, High Commissioners and their partners. They are having a ball.
KATIE WOLF: Good stuff. Thank you, thanks for coming in.
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