Interview with FiveAA Adelaide

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Bali Process Ministerial Conference in Adelaide; earthquake in Türkiye; first shipment of Australian coal to China in more than two years; Australia’s relationship with China

Will Goodings: A significant event taking place in Adelaide today, and something of a first, the Foreign Minister Penny Wong, is co‑chairing the 8th Bali Process Ministerial Conference that looks at all manner of things, people smuggling, trafficking, transnational crime, in our neck of the woods, and it features a host of ministers from places like Singapore, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati; notably, never taken place outside of Indonesia until today, and it takes place right here in Adelaide. The Foreign Minister is our guest on FiveAA Breakfast. Minister, good morning to you.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Good morning to you both, how are you?

David Penberthy: We're good, thanks, Penny.

Foreign Minister: That's great.

Penberthy: Thank you so much for joining us, we haven't spoken for a while, it's good to catch up.

Foreign Minister: Yes, sorry.

Penberthy: No, no, no. Well, you've been busy restoring order in the South Pacific since being re‑elected, and you've been doing a pretty good job on that front, trying to get China back in the tent?

Foreign Minister: Oh, well, you know, you've got to keep talking to people, and unfortunately for the family, there's nothing like turning up. So we've been trying to turn up, that's the good thing, but look, it's great to be back in Adelaide, and it's pretty exciting to be here with so many other ministers, and other representatives of government for the first Bali Process outside of Indonesia.

Penberthy: It's going to be big. We want to get to that. But hey, obviously at the moment, and I know you're keen to talk about this too, but the biggest story in the world right now is Türkiye. It's just heartbreaking seeing some of the images that come from there, and Australia is playing its part too, isn't it?

Foreign Minister: Absolutely, and I think all of us are just being so, it's been devastating to watch the images and to know how many people have perished, how many have been injured, how many homes have been destroyed, and of course it's still an ongoing search and rescue operation.

So in addition to our initial response, the $10 million in humanitarian assistance for those who are affected, we're really pleased that the disaster response team has been deployed to Türkiye, and I want to acknowledge the state governments, particularly New South Wales, who are contributing people, I think about 72 personnel. We're expecting them to depart this morning and to be there probably for about 10 days. So it is important that we all work together at this time, and it's a really very, very distressing event, tragic event.

Goodings: It's a significant week too for Australia in relation to a relationship that David alluded to right at the start there, Minister. The first shipment of Australian coal to China in more than two years has just arrived. When would you expect some restrictions that the Chinese Government put on other industries in Australia like wine and barley to be relaxed?

Foreign Minister: Look, I know particularly in South Australia that's something people ask me all the time, and I don't, I'm not going to be able to put a date on anything. What I can say is that I consistently have said to the Chinese Government and Chinese officials that we think it is in both countries' interests for these trade impediments to be removed, and we'll continue to engage. Meanwhile, Australian business has done a really great job in diversifying their markets, and that's a good thing. It makes us more resilient, there's just more options, and I'd encourage that to continue, because that is a good thing.

Goodings: Do you think ‑‑

Foreign Minister: But obviously ‑‑

Goodings: Sorry, Minister. Is the commentary around the softening of Chinese attitudes to Australia on that trade front, is that fair and accurate based on your perspective?

Foreign Minister: I think more broadly rather than just trade, the fact that we have managed to reengage, and China's made a decision to reengage, we've worked to, what I've called it as, stabilising the relationship, to recognise that there are things we disagree on, and they will continue, no matter who's in government, but you're much better off engaging. You can keep your relationship growing, if you manage your differences wisely. That's what we're trying to do, and we've been encouraged by the fact that we've seen Minister to Minister meetings, I've met with Wang Yi, who was - who is the State Councillor, the equivalent of the Foreign Minister, he's now been promoted a number of times, the Prime Minister's met with President Xi, and I think Don Farrell's had a virtual meeting with his counterpart. So we've got dialogue going, and we'll continue to leave the door open to dialogue and engagement.

Goodings: So the talks with our Indonesian friends today, what are they going to focus on, Foreign Minister?

Foreign Minister: Look, the Bali Process is about trying to tackle modern slavery, human trafficking, people smuggling, and these are really challenging crimes and no one country can deal with them alone, so the Bali Process is really about making sure we work together to build the partnerships to tackle these crimes. So I'm really pleased to be able to hold it in Adelaide. As I said, this is the 20th anniversary, first one outside of Indonesia, and I was pretty determined as the Foreign Minister from South Australia to try and get some of my counterparts and colleagues here, and I'm really pleased that people have come; it will be good to co‑chair this with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, who's a very significant figure in the region.

Goodings: Absolutely, good stuff. Penny Wong, Senator for South Australia and Foreign Minister. Always great to have you on the show. Thanks for coming on today.

Foreign Minister: Great to speak with you.

Goodings: See you soon.

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