Interview with Ashleigh Gillon, Sky News Australia

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Bali Bombings 20th Anniversary, G20 Ministerial Meeting.

Ashleigh Gillon: Well, as we've seen today, Australia and Indonesia are both pausing to commemorate the 202 lives lost. Joining us live now is the Assistant Trade and Manufacturing Minister, Tim Ayres. Senator, appreciate your time. In recent weeks I know you attended the G20 ministerial meeting in Bali where laid a wreath on behalf of the Australian Government in commemoration of the those lives lost in the attack. It must have been an emotional moment for you then as we've seen today at the various services around the country.

Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing: Yeah, it was an emotional ceremony in Bali. I was the last Minister to attend the G20 prior to this commemoration, the 20-year commemoration, and a number of things struck me and reinforced by listening to your coverage this morning – the scale of the tragedy both for Australia but also for Indonesia. You know, it's a shared tragedy. Bali is a place that working Australians love to go to – still love to go to. It's filling up with Australian tourists now as more and more people are travelling there. It's a beautiful part of the world and this is a shared tragedy for Australia. Eighty-eight Australians, many of them young Australians, were killed; many, many more injured; 38 Indonesians, 202 people from all over the world.

And the other thing that struck me that wouldn't necessarily be apparent to your viewers was that this has just had an impact through the generations in that area. I met with Indonesians who worked with Australia in the wake of the bombings, had rescued people from the Sari Club, had nursed Australians, and they were still grieving and still shocked from their experience. You know, this is a terrible tragedy. I know that there is commemoration ceremonies happening all over Australia and also the Australian Government is hosting one today in the Consulate in Bali.

It's appropriate that we properly commemorate this and amidst all the sadness, celebrate the lives of these Australians, many of them young Australians, and recommit ourselves to doing what is necessary to make Australians safe here and overseas.

Gillon: And I think you're right that many Australians wouldn't actually know the scale in terms of the cooperation that began after the Bali bombings. I remember touring several of the joint centres that Indonesian authorities and Australian authorities were operating together – it must have been more than a decade now ago – with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The way that our AFP has helped set up a lot of infrastructure there in Indonesia and Jakarta as well is really quite significant.

In terms of our relationship with Indonesia, as we've heard from various political leaders today, instead of tearing Australia and Indonesia apart, this attack really did form much closer bonds between our two nations, didn't it?

Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: Certainly. In my discussions with Ministers from the Indonesian Government around, you know, this ceremony – we had a lot of other important, you know, trade and tourism and agriculture issues that I was there to talk about, but there is absolutely a shared approach to this. Australia's support over successive Governments for the AFP presence, cooperation over security issues – and, you know, it has, as you say, brought the two countries closer together. That's a good thing, but certainly there is grief and very strong feelings about this in Bali and in Indonesia more broadly.

Gillon: Still there are some issues in which Australia and Indonesia will disagree on; we know that there are some tensions at the moment about Australia's plans for nuclear subs. In your area of tourism and agriculture, which I know you were focusing on at those G20 talks. Tourism has obviously been impacted through the pandemic; the agricultural relationship has been strained on several fronts over recent years. How would you characterise the Australia–Indonesia relationship on those specific fronts?

Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: Well, it's getting stronger every day and the sense of cooperation is getting stronger and more intense. I was particularly struck, representing our Agriculture Minister Murray Watt for the agriculture G20, by how much work Australia has been doing successfully with the Indonesia Government with the shared approach to cooperation over foot‑and‑mouth disease and, of course, lumpy skin disease – you know, significant threats to Australian livestock and to our Australian meat industries.

There are 70 countries around the world, of course, where foot and mouth is present. It is of deep concern to the Australian Government that foot‑and‑mouth disease is so close in geographical terms. There's been really strong cooperation, a really thoughtful approach from the Australian Government, matched by real responsiveness from our Indonesian counterparts, and I was really pleased to be able to reinforce that message more broadly on agriculture, of course, in the G20.

Agriculture trade liberalisation is one of the cornerstones of Australia's approach to trading relationships around the world. Opening more markets is in the interests of Australian exporters, Australian agricultural exporters; lifting our agricultural exports up the value chain is in the interests of the people who live and work in country towns and in our suburbs, but also liberalising agricultural trade is in the interests of food security. There are $800 billion worth of trade subsidies paid by countries around the world to farmers. Half of those distort export markets and have the effect of reducing production around the world right at the time when we've got food security issues, particularly in Africa. It's in our exporters' interests. It's in the interests of good jobs, but it's also in the international interest of food security that Australia continues to press this agenda.

Gillon: The International Monetary Fund is warning that a third of the world is heading for recession amid, as we know, the deepening cost‑of‑living crisis. How important is trade for Australia when it comes to being able to protect ourselves from that global fallout?

Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: Well, trade is an essential part of our approach to these questions. As you pointed out, the IMF report just reinforces what we've been seeing over the last couple of months. The threats of recession in some of our key international trading partners are intensifying, not receding. There's a very challenging set of circumstances around the world. Trade is critical for good Australian jobs. You know, the jobs in firms that export are higher-wage jobs than jobs that provide goods to the domestic market. Where we've got opportunities for trade growth, they grow good jobs, particularly in our suburbs and our country towns. It's got to be part of building resilience and growth and productivity in the Australian economy, building a strong international trade outlook, and that means diversifying the markets that we're selling into and diversifying the kind of products that we're offering to the world.

There's a lot of work to do in this space and the new Government has been engaged intensively across the world but particularly in the region. You know, catching up with our key partners and patching up the relationships where that's necessary to do after a decade of inaction on these questions, we are absolutely engaged with the task and committed to doing it because it's in the Australian interests, it's in the interests of good jobs and we've got to reinforce the rules-based order and global trading norms that support trade that's in the interests of Australian workers and Australian exporters.

Gillon: Assistant Minister for Trade, Tim Ayres, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us today. Thank you.

Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: Terrific.

Media enquiries

  • Minister’s office: (02) 6277 3469
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555