Interview on ABC Tas Country Hour with Rosemary Grant

4 January, 2016

Topics: Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, free trade agreements, Hobart airport

COLBECK: This is the opportunity not only go grow existing markets but importantly for new innovation to open up new markets into areas, particularly where we've been working on free trade agreements and taking advantage of the new work that we've been doing in opening up new markets particularly in south east Asia.

GRANT: What can you tell me about this international air freight hub that Mr Hidding alluded to earlier?

COLBECK: Well obviously at the last election we made a commitment for $38 million to extend the airport runway in Hobart. That opens up the opportunity for international flights and direct flights from our new markets.

A new hub could be created around that and obviously that has benefits for the Tasmanian economy more broadly. I know in meetings that I've had recently with airlines, particularly out of China, they're interested in looking at opening new markets and Tasmania has the opportunity to be a part of that once we have the infrastructure to support it.

So again, this is a very important commitment that was made at the last election now coming to fruition with commencement of the project at the Hobart International Airport to extend the runway.

GRANT: What sort of timeframe are you thinking of?

COLBECK: Well obviously the first piece of work that has to be done is the conclusion of the airport. Now, they are undertaking a fairly significant infrastructure redevelopment down there in the order of $90 to $100 million.

So it's not just the runway, it's also other infrastructure at the airport that has to be finalised. But once that infrastructure's in place we can then start looking at what the new opportunities might be.

As has been indicated by my state colleague Rene Hidding, there is considerable interest in Tasmania from a tourism perspective but also from a producer's perspective and we have some very highly desirable products that we'd like to get out into those international markets that we're working to open up.

GRANT: Just before Christmas there was an announcement that the World Trade Organisation, its main signatory countries, were going to surrender agriculture subsidies. What do you make of that?

COLBECK: I think that's one of the great leaps forward in global agriculture trade for probably 20 or 30 years. The fact that countries internationally have realised that they can no longer afford to be paying significant subsidies on their exports is a very, very welcome one.

It's good for Australia, it's good for developing countries, and of course it's good for those countries who are paying those subsidies because it's a removal of an impost on their budget. So they're not putting their local taxpayers' money into subsidising somebody else's lifestyle.

So I think it's a really positive move for international trade. Another great achievement I might say for Andrew Robb who was quite key in those negotiations and it adds on to the back of the three free trade agreements that he's completed so far which will put so much advantage to Australian producers and manufacturers and exporters into China, Japan and South Korea.

I might add that tomorrow (1 January) is also another reduction of tariffs into both Korea and China. So, it's a pretty big day all round for Tasmanian exporters.

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