Canberra Doorstop 25/05/22

25 May 2022

SUBJECTS: Australia-China Relations; Anthony Albanese's Visit To Japan; Inflation; Minimum Wage






SUBJECTS: Australia-China Relations; Anthony Albanese's Visit To Japan; Inflation; Minimum Wage

JOURNALIST: China's extended an olive branch to Australia. Will the new Government use it as an opportunity to patch things up, and do you expect China to scrap any of the sanctions that are in place on Australian goods?

JIM CHALMERS, TREASURER: The complexity in the China relationship is as a consequence of the China position changing in recent times. China has become more aggressive and more assertive. That's self-evident. And so our task is to manage a complex relationship in a considered and careful and sober way, and that's what we intend to do. If the Chinese administration is serious about improving relationships with Australia, then they should start with lifting some of those tariffs and some of those sanctions that they have applied to our exporters. We want to see those tariffs and those sanctions lifted. They are doing damage to our national economy, to our exporters, our employers and our workers. That would be a good place to start if the Chinese are serious about improving relations.

JOURNALIST: Has there been any indication that will happen?

CHALMERS: Not that I'm aware of. Clearly, there'll be a conversation with the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister about these developments in the last couple of days, and I wouldn't want to pre-empt those.

JOURNALIST: So, to clarify, are you saying the relationship can only improve if, for example, the tariffs, the sanctions, are lifted?

CHALMERS: I think it would be a good place to start. We want a region which is stable and safe and prosperous so that we can all benefit from that. Anthony Albanese has made an outstanding start on the world stage. He looks very comfortable on the world stage, as does Penny Wong. The importance of that quad meeting was all about making sure that we are working together for a stable and prosperous region to the ultimate benefit of Australians here at home. Our relationships in the region are absolutely critical to our ongoing prosperity. If we want this economic recovery to be strong and broad and inclusive, then the stability and prosperity of the region is key to that.

JOURNALIST: What would the relationship look like if China wants to win back those sanctions? Because, obviously, they have put forward a list of demands before that would effectively undermine our sovereignty?

CHALMERS: These are matters for the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister to comment on, but from my point of view in the Treasury portfolio, the relationship would be vastly improved if these sanctions and tariffs were lifted. I speak to a lot of employers, a lot of exporters around Australia, and there has been introduced a degree of uncertainty and a degree of pressure on our people here, on our employers and exporters here because of the application of those tariffs and sanctions. So that would be a good place to start, to lift those. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have commented on that already.

JOURNALIST: During the election campaign there was a lot of discussion around minimum wages. When will Labor make that submission to the Fair Work Commission. Will you be putting a figure on that submission?

CHALMERS: The Fair Work Commission process is already well underway, and we've made our views incredibly clear already. As you know, we don't want workers in Australia on the lowest wages to continue to go backwards during this cost-of-living crisis. The costs of living are going through the roof at the same time as real wages are going backwards. A good place to start to begin to rectify that problem is to give minimum wage workers a decent payout. I don't think anybody at the Fair Work Commission - or indeed around Australia - is in any doubt about our position. We want to see those low wage workers get the pay increase that they need and deserve to keep up with the scope.

JOURNALIST But what about the submission, will you be putting a submission in?

CHALMERS: Well, the process is already well underway.

JOURNALIST: But the whole point during the campaign, Labor said they’d put a submission in?

CHALMERS: Yeah, we will make our views known in the appropriate way but considering that the process is well underway, the Fair Work Commission already knows our view. It may be that we can supplement that with a formal submission but nobody is in any doubt about the new Government's view about a decent pay rise for low wage Australians to keep up with the skyrocketing costs of living. We said before the campaign - and I've said after the campaign - that is absolutely crucial. I've been having briefings with the Treasury since Sunday - rolling briefings with the Treasury - and the defining challenges that we have inherited in the economy from our predecessors are inflation going through the roof, real wages going backwards and a trillion dollars of debt with not enough to show for it. An important place to start is to get a decent pay rise for minimum wage workers so they can keep up with inflation. Thanks very much.