Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Foreign Arrangements Scheme, China-Australia trade relations, Indonesian Navy missing submarine.
22 April 2021

Well, Victoria’s deal with the Chinese Communist Party is dead. The Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, has ripped up the Belt and Road Agreement. It was signed in secret by the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, without Federal approval, now the documents are to be put through the shredder. Marise Payne is our Foreign Minister; she joins us live on the line this morning from New Zealand. Minister, good morning to you.

Marise Payne:

Good morning, Ben.

Ben Fordham:

Is the shredder ready to go?

Marise Payne:

Well Ben, it's a very intensive process. We had over 1000 arrangements returned to the Commonwealth from states and territories with many, many countries across the world, and we're working through that process. But this is the first set of notifications under the processes of the Foreign Arrangements Scheme.

Ben Fordham:

Why does this one worry you so much? The deal between Victoria and Beijing?

Marise Payne:

Well, there's a number of issues which are part of this process, but it is about prioritising Australia's national interests, and ensuring that there's consistency across our foreign relations. I want to be very clear that it's not aimed at any one country. You will see from today's cancellations that they include the schemes that you've referred to, but also arrangements between the state and Syria, and the state and Iran, both of which we also believe are not consistent with Australia's foreign relations.

Ben Fordham:

You just can't have a scenario, can you, where you've got chief ministers in territories, and premiers in various states running off and doing deals internationally?

Marise Payne:

Well, that's absolutely the point of the Foreign Arrangements Scheme. You’re very right. It is about making sure that we have arrangements between the states and territories that are consistent with Australia's foreign policy, and importantly focussed on Australia's national interests - we have certain expectations around that. And so, what we have found is that the states and territories have been very cooperative. As I said, over 1000 items or arrangements returned to the Commonwealth for examination. That process obviously takes a while, and these are the first steps.

Ben Fordham:

The Chinese Embassy says the Australian Government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations, and will only end up hurting itself.

Marise Payne:

Well, I've seen those comments, Ben, but we’re absolutely committed to our continuing engagement with China. In fact, both of our countries have benefited from the depth of our economic ties and our people to people ties. It's certainly a complex relationship, but it's important, and it's a mutually beneficial one. Always, though, Australia will take into account our national interests and our priorities in all of our relationships - not just this one, but in all of our international relationships. And we want to continue a mutually beneficial relationship, and we proceed with that with clear national interest objectives in mind.

Ben Fordham:

On another issue, Indonesia has requested Australian support to help find a submarine that's gone missing off the coast of Bali. This sounds like a real worry, 53 people on board.

Marise Payne:

This is very distressing, Ben. Very concerning for the families of those members of the Indonesian Navy, and for the Indonesian Navy itself. We will help in any way that we can. The Indonesian Defence Force has been in touch with counterparts in Australia. I have seen the Chief of the TNI in Indonesia speaking about this overnight. Very concerning, and we will hope for the very best for all of these submariners.

Ben Fordham:

So we will help however we can. How can we help, you know?

Marise Payne:

Well, it'll be a case of what is possible. We don't, of course, operate the same submarines as Indonesia. We have very different submarines ourselves, so we don't have that compatibility. But if we can help with any search or rescue activities, I'm sure that they will be considered and we will help our neighbours, as I said, in any way we can.

Ben Fordham:

Always good to catch up. Enjoy the day in New Zealand.

Marise Payne:

Thanks very much, Ben.

Ben Fordham:

Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, joining us on the line.

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