07 February 2020

SUBJECT: The impact of coronavirus on trade-exposed businesses.



SUBJECT: The impact of coronavirus on trade-exposed businesses.

OLIVER PETERSON: What do you think of the Government’s response so far to coronavirus?

MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE: Well, Ollie, they’ve maintained a very good response on the health side of things. This is a health emergency, there’s no doubt about it. The Government has acted quickly to ensure that quarantine is available, that emergency evacuations flights are available to Australian citizens that were in Wuhan. But my concern is that as this has gone on a little bit longer and will likely go on for some time more – we hope it doesn’t of course – that it’s important we ensure that our trade continues with China because that’s vitally important to Australian jobs, particularly Western Australian jobs. The feedback I’m getting - I’ve been in Parliament in Canberra this last week -- and from a couple of industry groups that I’ve spoken to in meetings and in the corridors, there seems to be a lack of information available to businesses on what the future might hold for them in terms of port movements in and out of China.

PETERSON: But is this dictated to the Australian businesses by the Chinese businesses that they’re engaging in trade with, and therefore as it is a moving and developing situation, the information would be provided as it is unravelling.

KING: You’re right, it is a moving situation. And that’s the same for the health part of this – it will change depending on how the virus spreads. The government is changing that information as it becomes available, and that’s exactly what it can do for business. What we’re finding is we are missing information as to how government is going to respond to existing trade affected industries. I just think business is crying out for a bit of clarity – whether that be through fact sheets which everyone knows can change, but in a modern world we do go to websites to find information as a matter of convenience.

PETERSON: That’s not available at the moment is it?

KING: I’ve not been able to find it and we’ve consulted with the Trade Minster’s office, and that doesn’t appear to be the case. I appreciate it’s a hard job, I really do, to get this information out there. But nonetheless, there should be something whether it’s a hotline or some kind of easy contact that businesses that are perhaps smaller that are not so deeply engaged with their industry bodies, they can call and find out some more information for the own well-being and their own planning for how to deal with their export potential into China

PETERSON: Are you trying to politicise the situation for Labor benefit Madeleine?

KING: Not at all. I’m reflecting exactly what people have said to me that are in trade exposed industries in Australia, that we just can’t find the information, that we appreciate the government’s got a lot on its hands. There has been a bushfire crisis, we can deny that’s taken up a lot of time and effort. The health response also takes a lot of time and effort. But there’s a lot of resources in government and I think simple solutions to this would go a long way. The Premier of Western Australia acted pretty quickly in bringing together business leaders to discuss how they think Western Australia can deal with its relationship with China and its trade exposure. I think that’s an important example that the government might want to consider.

PETERSON: Madeleine King, thanks for that, appreciate it. The Labor member for Brand, Madeleine King, believing that the Federal Government might need to explain to small businesses and provide them with a little bit more information in regards to the coronavirus.