20 May 2020

SUBJECTS: COVID-19 inquiry; Australia’s trading relationship with China.



SUBJECTS: COVID-19 inquiry; Australia’s trading relationship with China.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us now is Shadow Trade Minister Madeleine King. Madeleine, good morning to you, thanks for joining us. So first of all, when it comes to China basically getting on board with this inquiry to investigate the origins of COVID-19, is this some kind of justification for the Government, bearing in mind that there were some people, particularly within the Labour Party, who thought that the Government should have built support quietly before announcing the inquiry?

MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE: Labor supported this inquiry, Peter, right from the get go. So sorry if my visuals are cutting out, I will just keep talking. So Labor supported this inquiry right from the start. But what our problem with it was the means with which you go about getting consensus among our international friends and partners, to be able to progress an inquiry, as you would in a normal diplomatic means.

STEFANOVIC: Yes but there was one, namely Kevin Rudd, who thought that the way the Government was doing things was wrong. I mean, does this prove that he was wrong?

KING: I'm not going to really comment on Kevin Rudd’s commentary on this, he's entitled to his views, as is everyone, and no-one’s afraid to put them forward at this time. The important thing is that there will be an inquiry. Transparency is important. It's important the Chinese people know what happened in their own country in regards to COVID-19, just as it’s important that the world knows. Equally important, Australians want to know what the Government did during the Ruby Princess debacle.

STEFANOVIC: How sure can we be, though, that there will be a proper investigation?

KING: Well, the World Health Assembly has agreed to an investigation, China has said it will participate and I think that's an important step. The world is in a state of turmoil, this is a difficult time. Diplomacy has become a bit more difficult. But nonetheless, we need to support the multilateral bodies that can make an investigation happen.

STEFANOVIC: Can China be taken on its word though?

KING: We need to investigate what has happened and that is going to happen now, and I think it's important that countries work together with Chinese authorities, with Chinese scientists, with the people that were on the ground where this virus emerged, to make sure we know what happened. And that is for the future of global health so we can prevent a future pandemic. We have to work together.

STEFANOVIC: There are people, many people in fact, calling this a trade war or the beginnings of one. Are you going there?

KING: No I'm not. No I am not.

STEFANOVIC: So it's a coincidence. So the tariffs on barley, the threats to ban meat from four abattoirs, it’s all a coincidence that has come at just precisely the wrong time?

KING: … [inaudible] in this whole pandemic situation, there’s lot of conspiracy theories on all sorts of things, on all sorts of things. So I think it's important we do take Chinese officials at their word, just like we would hope that Chinese authorities take our officials at their word, and I think that's an important thing to remember.

STEFANOVIC: Some very successful business people in Australia are calling for tensions to be calmed down somewhat. Do you believe that people like Twiggy Forrest and Kerry Stokes are being heard enough?

KING: Andrew Forrest and Kerry Stokes have a loud voice in this community. I think their voices are heard enough. Kerry Stokes, as you know, has a bit of influence in the local newspapers in Western Australia and in media across the country. So I think he has many opportunities to put his view. And the same goes for Mr Forrest. He has [inaudible]. I think they’ve been heard enough. Excuse my new cat!

STEFANOVIC: [Laughter]. We might have to hold it there. That is the Shadow Trade Minister. We’re getting a bit of a dodgy connection, so we might have to leave it there, Madeleine. But appreciate yours and your cat’s time this morning. It was good to at least chat for a little while.

KING: That’s Tim Brooke-Taylor.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, we’ll talk to you again soon.

KING: Thanks Peter