05 May 2020

SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Australia-New Zealand relations.



SUBJECTS: Coronavirus; Australia-New Zealand relations.

RYAN BRIDGE: I'm joined by Madeleine King, the MP for Brand, south of Perth in WA. She’s also the shadow trade minister in Australia. Welcome to the program.

MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE: Thanks very much for having me on.

BRIDGE: You're very welcome. Should we trust you guys coming over here, how do we know you're not carrying corona?

KING: Well that's a really good question, you can't just trust anyone I suppose. But the truth of the matter is this trans-Tasman bubble won't happen until it's safe to do so. And both your prime minister and our prime minister have said that. That's absolutely right. The health of both our nations is the first priority, but it's a chance to open our borders so that Kiwis can come and visit family in Australia and see some of our sites and Australians can go over to see their family in New Zealand and have a good tour of your beautiful country. It's worth looking into.

BRIDGE: Surely top of your list as an opposition MP would be making sure that the government is doing it properly, that it is safe to do. And presumably a lot of your constituents would be very worried about Kiwis coming over despite the testing that's been done, despite the results that we're getting. There'd be anxiety regardless. So what do you think we need to see as safety, as security, before we let this happen?

KING: Well I think we do need to see a lower point of infection spread. But New Zealand has done a terrific job. Your country went into a more immediate lockdown than most nations around the world, and perhaps all. And you’re seeing the benefit of that, although they're very hard on the New Zealand economy. Australia has done nearly the same thing, not quite so quickly, but we've done the same thing so that we can bring down the rate of infection and that's what needs to happen for this to be allowed to proceed into any kind of interstate, or inter-country travel. I mean, at the moment I'm in metropolitan Perth, in Rockingham, and I can't travel to, say, Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields. So we can't even travel within our own state because of the restrictions. Let alone to Sydney and have a two-week quarantine. So there's a long way to go on this path of opening up both of our nations’ borders. But that doesn't mean, our leaders shouldn't work together to try and get something done because there's over half a million Kiwis resident in Australia. I've got 9,000 New Zealand-born people living in my electorate of Brand, we’ve even got a Kiwi shop. There’s lot of people from New Zealand that would want to go back to see their family and vice versa.

BRIDGE: Madeleine, your economy has remained far more open than ours throughout this. Who's done a better job of handling it do you think, Scott Morrison or Jacinda Ardern?

KING: The two countries have taken two different approaches. New Zealand is a smaller nation geographically and with numbers of people, so it was perhaps a bit easier for your prime minister to shut operations down. I'm not going to criticise the Australian government because they have done their best in difficult circumstances and the Labor opposition has supported the measures they have introduced. We want to see what everyone wants to see, and that is stopping this infection rate. The next step is not opening up too soon as you've mentioned before, and rebuilding both our economies so that we share in the prosperity of our region, and together I think that's what Australia and New Zealand are going to do. And talk like this of a travel zone is the first step.

BRIDGE: That's going to be easier for you guys though, isn't it? Because you have managed to keep more of your economy operating through this.

KING: Well, I suppose so. And we have a larger economy anyway, Ryan, I suppose. And if you think of my home state of Western Australia, our biggest export industry is the iron ore out of the Pilbara. And that's an industry that's been able to be maintained through the introduction of really strict hygiene requirements and only having workers go on to that site that are based in Western Australia. So they're not coming from the rest of the country or flying from Bali to do their shifts. So that was able to happen and that export industry, our largest, could continue. So that will be the backbone of Australia's economic recovery, our exports in iron ore. And also gas I might add.

BRIDGE: The 444 visa holders, a big issue here in New Zealand. And I know that you are across it as well, as you said with 9,000 Kiwis in your home state or your electorate. The immigration minister, Alan Tudge, has told the Kiwis basically go home if you can't afford to stay here. No access to JobSeeker support or Centrelink benefits if they're on casual or temp work. Do you agree with that, or is it too harsh?

KING: I think it is too harsh. I think Australia could do well to be a bit kinder to our Kiwi cousins. A lot of people have moved here from New Zealand, and many decades ago even, and just haven’t become citizens, for whatever reason, and perhaps they should have. But nonetheless to be sort of stranded here and not being able to support themselves and not being able to get home because there are no flights, it does make their lives difficult. It’s not just Kiwis – it’s a number of other migrants from other countries that are caught and are relying on the generosity of the community to help them and feed them basically. So the government has introduced a really extensive relief package but there have been and there are people, and even the New Zealanders, who have fallen through the cracks. And I do think that's a sad thing and of course for them, it's terrible.

BRIDGE: Coming back to this bubble idea, Madeleine, what do you think about even closer relations. I know that you've been in favour of closer New Zealand-Australia relations. What about the idea of making travel domestic eventually? If I want to get a flight to Sydney for example, let's say it's a special $399 return, 204 bucks of that is fees and taxes, levies and taxes. If we made it domestic travel that would go out the window. Imagine how much more tourism we would get going between our countries. Do you like the idea?

KING: I do like the idea. I think it's a great point. And obviously this is a two-way street so there'll be a tax going out of New Zealand into Australia and out of Australia into New Zealand. So that's something both countries can clearly work on to eliminate or at least reduce. The thing about our both our countries is we both have strict biosecurity laws because we know the value of our island status. We can keep certain diseases out. So there is a level of shared interest in maintaining that and Kiwis understand that kind of biosecurity issue. Which means you have to have some kind of customs checks. But why not explore ways of keeping the prices down and having an easy traffic of people, tourists and family between the two nations? I would be really in favour of looking into that.

BRIDGE: Madeleine, thank you very much for that. And thank you very much for joining me this evening, And a big shoutout to all of our Australian cousins in WA. Madeleine King, MP for Brand in southern Perth, and the shadow trade minister.