Doorstop with the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. David Littleproud MP, and the Member for Wright, Scott Buchholz MP

Transcript
18 May 2018
Gatton, Queensland
Prime Minister
Biosecurity; Jobs; Agricultural investment; CFMEU donations; Religious protection review; China; Section 44; By-elections; Live sheep trade
E&OE
Agriculture and Regional Australia

SCOTT BUCHHOLZ, MEMBER FOR WRIGHT:

Welcome everyone here. It's an absolute privilege to have the Prime Minister the Honourable, Malcolm Turnbull here joining us at Rugby Farms, a family owned property by the Hood family. We also have present with us David Littleproud, the Agriculture Minister. Thank you very much gentlemen for joining us here today.

And a significant announcement in the agricultural sector which was made more recently in the Budget. The Prime Minister is here to announce that. The benefits of the Lockyer Valley for these announcements, whilst we talk about the importance of free trade around the world, there are other inhibitors around biosecurity protocols that prohibit our product from time to time reaching those markets.

This announcement will enhance officers around the world to be able to hopefully unpick some of those inhibitors so that our product can get to the shelves of foreign supermarkets increasing the benefit and increasing the value of our product.

Prime Minister thank you very much for joining us here today in the Lockyer Valley, you may not be aware that this is one of the top ten fertile valleys in the world, we grow some incredible product here. And with that comes a lot of love and passion from our growers which I'll introduce you to Matt Hood who'll say a few words afterwards. Can I invite you to say a few words and welcome you to the Lockyer Valley.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thanks Scott and it is great to be here. And thank you Hood brothers for coming out. This is a family farm, a family business. Innovative, producing this most amazing produce and we're out here in the fields and we've seen the processing back in the factory. It is an extraordinarily innovative operation. It's employing 900 people, it's sending fresh food right around the country.

Now what we've got is an outstanding agricultural industry in Australia. Its exports are growing year on year and we are determined to leverage off those big free trade deals that we've done, through the region and the most recent one of course being the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 nations. We're determined to leverage off them to make sure that we can get more of our produce into more markets.

So we put money in the Budget to unpicking, as Scott was saying, some of those barriers, those behind the border barriers relating to biosecurity with additional agricultural counsellors. This is all about ensuring that Australians are able to get the best produce in the world out onto the supermarket shelves and onto the restaurant tables of the world.

You can't get better vegetables anywhere than those that are produced here. So we're delighted to be here. Thank you very much. Matt said earlier that you have to be in a business that you love. You have to combine the knowledge and the passion and you really do that, all of you.

Your whole family. You understand everything that you're growing here, you've got the latest technology in terms of drip irrigation, you understand it precisely. You're innovative in the way you package your products, meeting the demands of a changing consumer taste.

You're doing all of that and we're determined to make sure that we can create the biggest, broadest field for you to run on to. Because just as you are named after Rugby in England and Rugby the game by your grandfather I think, yeah well we want you to have the biggest playing field to run onto and that's what all of these trade deals and all of this investment in the Budget supporting exports is about.

But to tell you more about that let me introduce the Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD, MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE:

Well thanks PM and welcome to Queensland. PM last week we saw a stark difference between our agricultural budget and Labor's. They did not put one brass razoo into agriculture.

Instead we've invested $51 million to put six new agricultural counsellors into new markets around the world and to give our existing 15 counsellors in markets around the world more grunt. And what we've done and particularly in places like this for horticulture, last year they were able to get market access for broccoli and pumpkins that wouldn't have got there if it wasn't for them on the ground in those countries.

Government to government negotiations unpicking those commodities and we're continuing to put another commodity up one after another and their job is to go at a governmental level until we get one product and then work on the next.

We're also investing in scientists as part of making sure that we meet those countries that we're going to - their scientific protocols to get our product in there quicker. The free trade agreements are great. They are going to transform agriculture in regional and rural Australia.

But it's important we get rid of those technical barriers that are slowing us down and that's what we're giving, we're giving grunt, we're giving grunt to these free trade agreements by putting boots on the ground in these key markets and for the first time in South America.

But we're also making sure we're protecting our clean, green image which is our competitive advantage. We're investing in $121 million in biosecurity this year and making sure that we can ensure we can get our product out quicker but also make sure that products that are coming into the country are screened in a most efficient way to protect us against pests and diseases.

So this is a vote of confidence in regional, rural Australia but particularly agriculture. Because if we have a strong agricultural sector we have strong regional communities. Communities like Gatton will prosper from this because the money will flow through. When it gets into the farmers’ pockets it flows through into those businesses, small businesses into these communities.

That's what this government is about, making strategic investments in regional, rural Australia to make sure that we reach the full potential we have. So proud to say that this Budget was focused solely on agriculture in terms of investments for regional and rural Australia where the Labor Party didn't put a brass razoo. Thank you.

SCOTT BUCHHOLZ:

Thank you Dave. Can I say on behalf of Jim McDonald, the state member and myself, here in the Lockyer Valley in the Fassifern Valley we're absolutely spoilt for growers that we could have brought the Prime Minister to. But it is indeed a privilege to be able to introduce the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister to the Hood's farm, to the Hood family farms here at Rugby.

Can I ask Matt to come say a few words to thank the Prime Minister or welcome us to your property.

MATT HOOD:

Afternoon everyone, on behalf of the Hood family, Prime Minister, Minister, Scott, Jim. We welcome you. We feel very honoured to have had the opportunity to meet you and obviously extremely privileged to have you come and visit our fresh food operation today.

We thank the government for their support of agriculture. It's extremely important to our industry which is extremely diverse and the amount of challenges that we all experience is a very demanding business. Part of that challenge is the divide between city and country continues to grow.

We need the support of governments to help us communicate, help improve understanding and awareness of the effort that goes into every day providing fresh food onto the retailers’ shelves.

It doesn't turn up there miraculously. So, one area where we failed ourselves as an industry, that's a key one. So we look forward to the government's ongoing support of our industry.

It's extremely important to us, our community, and our country and to the health of the nation. So thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you Matt. Can I just say, you know yesterday was a big day. We clocked up over a million jobs created since we came into government in September 2013. In fact, 1,013,600. The economic plan and the measures we've put in place, whether it's the free trade deals, whether it's cutting business taxes, whether it's ensuring that we create every incentive for business to get on and get ahead. That's been really important.

But it's due to business men and women like yourself. Overwhelmingly small and medium family businesses across Australia that are investing, that are taking risks, that are being innovative, doing all the things that you're doing that's created those jobs.

So we want to thank you, thank you for everything that you do because you’re making the Australian economy stronger every day.

MATT HOOD:

Thanks Prime Minister, appreciate your comments and your good understanding of the challenges we face.

PRIME MINISTER:

Terrific, now do we have some questions?

JOURNALIST:

Peter Beattie said if he was power he wouldn't accept donations from the CFMEU. Do you think Bill Shorten and Federal Labor should do the same?

PRIME MINISTER:

Bill Shorten of course, Bill Shorten shouldn't be accepting money from the CFMEU but they are in fact his paymaster. They are his controller. He does the bidding of the CFMEU.

You know, I can understand what Peter Beattie has said after all, when Bob Hawke was Labor Prime Minister he deregistered the BLF and they were dis-affiliated from the Australian Labor Party. The CFMEU is in charge of Bill Shorten and as you know there's a written agreement he entered into to get their support to become Labor leader.

JOURNALIST:

And is the Trade Minister's visit to China laying the groundwork for a visit by yourself later? Are you concerned about the relationship between us and China?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, the relationship is very strong. I just want to be very clear about that. Our two nations have a shared destiny. There are well over a million Australians of Chinese heritage - including two of our own grandchildren, I might say.

So we have a very close relationship at every level - economic, cultural, family, social - it's a very strong relationship.

I'm glad Steven's there in China - the occasion is an AFL game being played in China as part of this year's competition - and yes, I look forward to visiting China later in the year. But of course, in the meantime, I'll be seeing Chinese leaders at the summits that we all attend, and I think Julie will be seeing her counterpart next week, in fact.

JOURNALIST:

Would you back more religious protection in our anti-discrimination laws?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we've just received a report from Philip Ruddock's review, and we're going to consider that.

So rather than answer a question in generality, let me say that we are all absolutely committed to ensuring that freedom of religion is protected in Australia. And of course, that protection is reflected in our own Constitution, in fact. It is an absolutely vital human right, and it's one of the freedoms that we cherish, in which our forefathers have fought, and forefathers and foremothers, for that matter, have fought and died to preserve.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister it’s been a little while now since a recent High Court decision on citizenship. We’re waiting for a whole lot of by-elections. The voters just want this over and done with. When are they going to find out a date?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that's a matter for the Speaker.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think it should be brought on quicker?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a matter for the Speaker. What he does is he consults with the Australian Electoral Commission, and then, after he's done that, he will then consult with the party leaders - including myself and Mr Shorten and Richard Di Natale.

JOURNALIST:

Will you make inquiries with him about why it has taken so long?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, it's very much a matter for the Speaker. So you can address your inquiries to him, if you wish.

JOURNALIST:

Can the public expect to see the Ruddock Review any time soon? How long might you be looking at it?

PRIME MINISTER:

We'll look at it. It’ll be released in due course. The Attorney-General, Christian Porter, will have the carriage of the matter. But, yeah, it will be released shortly - but the Government's obviously got to consider it first.

JOURNALIST:

Any comment after someone was taken into custody after your pub visit to Carindale last night?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the visit went very well. It was a very, very warm reception in every respect - it was great to be there with Ross Vasta. He seemed to know almost everybody in the Westfield shopping centre at Carindale, of which the pub was part. So we had a great visit. It was a very warm welcome, it was an open session, and there were questions on a whole range of topics. Yeah there was one gentleman there who clearly had had a few drinks too many, and I think he was assisted to make an early return home.

[Laughter]

Which is probably where he should’ve gone earlier in the evening, as I'm sure he's worked out by this morning.

JOURNALIST:

On the referendum, accepting it’s a long term issue but should we be in a situation where teachers and nurses can't be politicians? 

PRIME MINISTER:

You've asked me about the Section 44 - that's part of our Constitution. It has to be complied with. It's the law of the land. So our job is to get our act together before we nominate. If you're in the public service, then resign before you nominate for parliament. If you've got dual citizenship, make sure you don't have it at the time you nominate. Australians expect politicians to get all their paperwork and get those details together before they nominate.

In terms of changing Section 44 - the Committee which was really very ably chaired by Senator Linda Reynolds, and I thank her again for her work - it's recommended that the amendment of Section 44 should be looked at. I think we all agree we don't have time to do that between now and the election, let alone between now and the by-elections that we've just spoken about.

For my own part, I think it's very unlikely that Australians would vote to amend the Constitution to allow dual nationals to sit in the parliament. But it is an issue that no doubt will be debated into the future.

I recommend everybody reads the report. It's a very good report of the committee. But as I said, it's not a constitutional amendment process that, in any event, we could undertake between now and the next election.

JOURNALIST:

Susan Lamb and Pauline Hanson are both up in Longman today. They've got candidates for that. Are you disappointed or frustrated that the LNP, local LNP haven't got someone ready yet for that by-election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, the LNP is a grassroots political party, as indeed is the Liberal Party - as indeed is the National Party. And they have a process; they've called for nominations, they've got some people who've put their hand up. And I understand the preselection panel will meet on Tuesday, and they will make their decision in a thoroughly grassroots, democratic way.

That's how - that is the big difference between the Liberal and National parties and the LNP with the Labor Party. We're grassroots political organisations and our members make the decisions. They're entitled to have the time to consider the candidates, speak to the candidates, and then vote on them. Okay, thank you all very much.

JOURNALIST:

Hi David, a lot of the live sheep exports deaths are happening on old ships. Are you going to take a stand to ban these old ships and use newer ships?

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES:

Well we received the McCarthy report and we’re acting on it. And in fact there is sound science that has been put in place, we intend to respect that. Dr McCarthy has in fact put further modeling forward that takes more work. It’s going to need more work, more consultation but I’m comfortable that the recommendations that he’s put in terms of giving 39 per cent more space for sheep that translates into a 28 per cent reduction in stocking numbers will meet the mark. That’s what I’ve asked Dr McCarthy to do. He actually engaged before handing over the report with the Australian Veterinary Association, Murdoch University, AMSA to make sure that his recommendations are sound.

And I’ve said for the get go, I’m going to make my decisions predicated on science not emotion. We have been calm and decisive on this and I continue to be that and I will not waiver. You cannot let emotional politics get into this. This is people’s livelihoods and animal welfare at stake.

We’ve been consistent all the way through and we’ll be consistent going forward.

JOURNALIST:

Alannah MacTiernan says a summer ban on live exports is the only way-

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES:

Sorry who was that, sorry?

JOURNALIST:

Alannah MacTiernan says a summer ban on live exports is the only way to guarantee credibility in WA and is consulting for that, what are your thoughts on that?

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES:

Well Alannah MacTiernan has a number of views, I suggest she keeps those for the people of West Australia, she’ll have to face up to the people of West Australia. What Alannah MacTiernan has to understand is the federal government is the one that provides the export permits, not the Western Australian Government. We’ve determined our set, our course and we continue to set that pathway and we’ll continue on.

JOURNALIST:

And you’ve had discussions with Israeli government, have you got any plans for discussions with other Middle Eastern counties?

MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES:

I’m actually leaving for the Middle East tomorrow to all to our trading partners because they are obviously very concerned. This – our trading relationship doesn’t just extend to sheep, it goes far beyond that. So some of the irresponsible behavior of particularly the Labor Party has put that at risk. I’ve been talking to ambassadors and particularly ministers from the Middle Eastern countries to give them assurance that this government is determined to maintain that relationship, it’s important for us to do it. And that is our welfare standards that need to be upgraded to the standards that we’ve instituted the McCarthy Review. We will continue on that path, and I’m going over there give them that assurance, that Australia will still be trading with them, we respect their relationship and we actually honour it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you David. I just want to say, thank you so much for the very thorough and professional way you’ve handled this issue. You’ve sought the best veterinary advice. You’re making decisions based on science, you’re protecting thousands of Australian jobs, and Australian farmers. You’re ensuring that our export markets are going to be maintained and you are going to maintain high standards of animal welfare. And you’re doing that as you said, not with emotion, not with political agenda, but thoughtfully and with the best veterinary and scientific advice.

And I want to thank you for the very careful way you’ve handled it and you can see why your decisions have received such strong support; including as we saw yesterday from the National Farmers Federation President, Fiona Simson.

Thank you all very much.

[ENDS]