Bill's Transcripts

7:30 Report



Program Name: 7.30 Report
Leigh Sales

Date: 10 April 2013

SUBJECTS: China, Gellibrand preselection

LEIGH SALES: The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has secured an historic foreign policy breakthrough, a deal with China for an annual meeting between the nations' top political leaders.

It represents one of the biggest developments in the relationship since former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam first recognised the communist state 40 years ago.

The Prime Minister is in China with a high-level delegation. One of those with her is the Minister for Employment and Financial Services, Bill Shorten. He joined me from Beijing.

Bill Shorten, what do you think will be the benefits to Australia of these annual talks?

BILL SHORTEN: Increased trade, increased opportunities for economic investment two ways, more jobs for Australians, a stronger economy for Australia, the ability for us to export our services into the fastest-growing region, to the biggest country in the world.

LEIGH SALES: Free trade talks are set to resume between China and Australia next month. Those negotiations have been going on for eight years now without a deal. What are the sticking points?

BILL SHORTEN: I think there are some still difficult issues to work through. Trade Minister Emerson has got carriage of the particular issues. It's been going for eight years. There's been 18 meetings. What was clear though from the meeting between Prime Minister of China and the Prime Minister of Australia is that we recognise that we're different countries, different languages, different systems, difference stage of development, but what was stated yesterday was a mutual will to work on the things which divide us, to identify the problems and move forward.

LEIGH SALES: And what have been identified as the things that divide us that require work?

BILL SHORTEN: Well in terms of the delegation which I took to China, which is the superannuation industry, both Australia and China have ageing populations. Both countries know that we need to encourage people to save more money for their retirement. But it's clear that China will need to liberalise its security laws - securities laws, it'll need to liberalise the ability of foreign direct investment, the ability of Australian funds to invest in startup companies on the stockmarkets in China.

LEIGH SALES: Does our ally Japan have anything to worry about given the new levels that this China-Australia relationship's going to, given the tensions that exist between China and Japan?

BILL SHORTEN: No. Australia and China have got complementary economies. In other words, we have things which they need and they are have a growth market for us and services in the creation of good jobs in Australia. It doesn't change our relationships with other friends and allies and participants in our region. Certainly for us though, as just as we have very serious dialogues with Indonesia, with India, adding China to that list is a good step forward for Australia's economic interests and the interests of China as well.

LEIGH SALES: Do you think that we've had good enough people-to-people relationships with the Chinese leadership up to this point?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, it's 41 years since Gough Whitlam famously sat down with Zhou Enlai and they spoke for three hours and then at about the third hour of the dialogue, Zhou Enlai in perfect English corrected his interpreter. Then I think the erudite Whitlam and the suave Zhou Enlai had another half-hour talking in English about anything from Greek mythology to music. So I think Labor under Whitlam set the tenor for good relations. I think every successive generation of Australian political leader has endeavoured to add to it.

But there is no question in my mind, there is no question in the mind of Australia's business leaders who've been here over the last few days - I actually don't think there wasn't much question in the mind of the Australian journalists travelling with the Prime Minister. Yesterday saw China say to Australia, "We think you're a special country. We want to have annual dialogues between the leaders of our two countries." And it was a real breakthrough, I think, taking the Australian relationship with China, which is rising, and Australia, who seeks to benefit from our proximity to the Asian region, I think there's a lot of good news for ordinary Chinese and for ordinary Australians in yesterday's developments.

LEIGH SALES: If I can just ask you about another matter. We had a story on the program tonight about the stoush in the Labor Party in Victoria over the preselection in Nicola Roxon's soon-to-be-vacated seat of Gellibrand. In your opinion, should a woman be the candidate in that seat?

BILL SHORTEN: In my opinion the locals should have a say in their preselection. I understand there's been the voting. I understand that a candidate was chosen last night - Tim Watts. I think he'll make a very good contribution. Labor has a track record of supporting capable people and indeed capable women. Nicola Roxon was a remarkable Attorney-General and made a remarkable contribution over 15 years. We shouldn't forget, if it comes to the record of backing women, Australian Labor helped choose Australia's first female Prime Minister.

LEIGH SALES: How much do you see the hand of Stephen Conroy in how this has turned out and are you upset with Stephen Conroy?

BILL SHORTEN: No, I'm not. And - all parties go through preselection processes. I think Barnaby Joyce is the second or third conservative candidate to be nominated to run against Tony Windsor in the seat of New England.

LEIGH SALES: You look like you tried to duck my question there about Stephen Conroy's involvement.

BILL SHORTEN: No, no, I don't. He lives in the area. He has one vote. There were 404 other people. What I'm doing though, Leigh, is telling it straight. Labor's picked a good candidate. Tim Watts'll be a good candidate, as will all the Labor candidates running in the next federal election.

LEIGH SALES: Bill Shorten, thank you very much.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks, Leigh. Bye.

Mr Shorten’s Media Contact: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804