Friday, 10 July 2020

Interview with Neil Breen – 4BC Breakfast, 4BC

Subjects: China, visa arrangements for Hong Kong


NEIL BREEN: I've got the acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge on the line. Good morning acting Minister.

ALAN TUDGE: G'day Neil.

NEIL BREEN: Well, this is- you know, we've declared a cold war on China. People won't use the word, cold war, but there's something going on?

ALAN TUDGE: I disagree with that assertion, Neil. I mean, what we announced yesterday, was very much an extension of what the Australia has been doing for a couple of hundred years. And that is trying to get great talents and great businesses to our shores, and we know there's a great opportunity at the moment in Hong Kong. Because, with the Chinese Communist Party's leaning in for Hong Kong, quite assertively, many people are going to be looking for other destinations - other freer destinations, other Democratic destinations and for that great talent and those great businesses, we want them to consider Australia.

NEIL BREEN: But China's also going to be on the lookout for countries that are trying to get these people because of what's happening in Hong Kong, that they're obviously very protective of, which could damage our relationship and they're our biggest trading partner. We can't get away from that fact?

ALAN TUDGE: They are our biggest trading partner. We have a strategic partnership with them. But you've also got to understand that a trading relationship is a two-way thing, where it's in both of our interests. Of course, it's in Australia's interests, but it's equally in China's interests to be able to get our resources to support their development. But, you know, we act in our interests, according to our values Neil. And we've always chased talent from around the world, and Australia is built on this and we know there's people who are going to be looking for opportunities, and so we want to lay out the pathway to say: come to Australia if you are those really talented individuals that can create jobs, create businesses, be entrepreneurial, have great tech skills et cetera.

NEIL BREEN: Do you believe- so, as acting Immigration Minister, you want them to stay, the 10,000 existing visa holders, if they want to stay for five years, you want them to stay? China would obviously like them to return. Do you think our relationship with China can survive, because of moves such as this? I know I'm harping on about it and I know it's not your responsibility, but, the Prime Minister last week was talking about defence missile shields, all of this is coming on top of us wanting inquiries into the outbreak of coronavirus. As a trading partner, especially in a state like Queensland, where we rely on them taking our coal. It can get people concerned, acting Minister, about the way we're reacting to China?

ALAN TUDGE: Yeah, but we- at the end of the day, Neil, we have to act in Australia's interest and according to Australia's values. And the way China responds is a matter for China. But we will do things in our interests. Now, as I said, in relation to looking for talent, we've done that for hundreds of years. In relation to trading relationships, I'll again emphasise, it's in China's interest to take our coal as much as it’s in our interests to send the coal to them, because they need it, they need the iron ore to support their development. But, you know, we have a core set of values and we're going to continue to adhere to those core set of values.

NEIL BREEN: And, I'll stop harping on about China now, but you think this opportunity for us to keep that best talent from Hong Kong, here in Australia? Because, I always look at our universities; we're so generous - we bring in international students and we charge them money and then off they go. But to be able to train them and keep them is a good opportunity for us.

ALAN TUDGE: Yeah, absolutely. So, what we're offering for the people who are already here and as you said, there's about 10,000 Hong Kong passport holders who are already in Australia. Most of those being students, some of them being temporary skilled visa holders, and we're saying to them: you can stay here for a further five years and we'll give you a pathway to permanent residency, and ultimately to citizenship. Because they do, they've paid full fees here in Australia. They've got their skills and now we can put them to work, which means they're supporting the broader economy and creating jobs for Australians. That's what we've done so well in Australia generally. I think the other exciting prospect of what we announced yesterday though, is in relation to businesses who are presently have their regional headquarters in Hong Kong.


ALAN TUDGE: Now, there's about a thousand international businesses, who have their regional headquarters presently in Hong Kong. And many of them have already publicly indicated that they want to move locations, move locations to a place which is freer and more democratic. And so, we've got this opportunity to say: come to Australia, come to Brisbane, come to Sydney, come to Melbourne and set up shop here because we're still in in Asia, similar time zones. And you can work from here, just as well as it could work from Hong Kong

NEIL BREEN: Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge. You had a busy morning. I've seen you all over the different TV shows and I thank you so much for joining us on for 4BC Breakfast.

ALAN TUDGE: Thanks for having me, Neil.