THURSDAY, 6 AUGUST 2015
SUBJECT/S: Live cattle imports; Tasmanian visit; Parliamentary Entitlements.
KIERAN GILBERT: Now I’m joined from Hobart live by the Shadow Agriculture Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon. Mr Fitzgibbon, thanks for your time. I know you’re in Tasmania for various consultations I’ll get to that in a moment, I just want to ask about a few of the other matters of the day. The Foreign Minister met with her Indonesian colleague last night, that’s a good thing to get that relationship back on an even keel given the events of the last few months and particularly when it comes to the live cattle imports.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: It is a good step, it is one of our most important relationships Kieran that hasn’t enjoyed very good health in the last 12 months or so and we are all keen on working together to get that relationship back on track.
GILBERT: In terms of those cattle imports though, was that down to a political decision or do you think that was more just a cyclical thing with the quotas and that’s just the way that that industry works?
FITZGIBBON: There is no doubt Kieran that it is largely driven by internal domestic politics in Indonesia but at the same time it’s why the Australian Government, the Ag Minister in particular, has to be constantly giving care and attention to that relationship, picking up intelligence. It was extraordinary that Barnaby Joyce didn’t see this quota thing coming. He should have done. He should have been prepared for it and had been proactive in avoiding it, that’s the big problem here.
GILBERT: Let’s look at why you’re in Tasmania over the next couple of days. It’s traditionally been a strong hold for Labor for a number of years holding every seat in Tasmania but not so much right now. There is a fair bit of rebuilding there for the ALP to do in terms of its brand isn’t there?
FITZGIBBON: That’s very true Kieran and we are working very hard at that. We’ve established or Bill Shorten has established a Tasmania Taskforce headed by Julie Collins our Shadow Minister for Regional Development and we are having stakeholder meetings today and indeed over the coming months. Anthony Albanese for example was here last week doing the same. We want to learn from locals on the ground about how best to develop policies to capitalise on the opportunities available to Tasmania. We talk about the dining boom for example, this is a great agriculture state yet we do need governments to be showing leadership - providing strategic guidance for the industry - creating an environment for industry and that’s what I’m about this week.
GILBERT: I know there is a great interest in the Tasmanian market in China for tourism, direct flights in and out of Hobart now and I guess that would feed into that, excuse the pun, the dining boom that you’re talking about.
FITZGIBBON: Absolutely and tourism is very important to this State and therefore infrastructure is important to Tasmania. The Abbott Government hasn’t developed one new infrastructure project since its election 2 years ago. In stark contrast with what the former Labor Government did. But projects like the Midlands Irrigation Projects for example can help us build both capacity and push agriculture further up the value chain and you can just see China showing very strong demand for clean green safe product out of Tasmania but we’ve got to lift productivity. Kevin Rudd and I were down here just prior to the last election announcing a grant for Simplot Growers that is, the growers which supply the Simplot foods, the manufacturing plant. We need to grow their productivity to ensure that they are internationally competitive. Unfortunately the Abbott Government canned that productivity plan after the election. I want to revisit some of these things to ensure that Tasmania has the very best chance of capitalising on the dining doom.
GILBERT: And finally I need to ask you about the expenses controversy. I’m looking at the Daily Telegraph here –
FITZGIBBON: Oh course you do [laughs] -
GILBERT: On page 4 and 5 you’ve got stories about Joe Hockey, Tony Burke, Brendan O’Connor, Sarah Hanson-Young, it’s a sign that its basically mutually assured destruction if you keep going along this line in terms of attacking the Coalition. Is Tony Burke finding a bit of that with this heat and this accusation that he is a hypocrite by Liberal front-benchers in terms of him leading the charge against Bronwyn Bishop.
FITZGIBBON: And I think in almost all of these cases if not all - although I think Bronwyn Bishop’s example pushed the envelope a little - I think in almost all cases these claims were made within entitlement and I think that’s where Tony Abbott’s review has to be most forensic. Maybe it’s time we attempted to codify these entitlements so people can clearly read yes or no on whether a trip they are about to make is within those entitlements.
GILBERT: Ok Joel Fitzgibbon we are out of time, appreciated but live from Hobart, a quick break back in just a moment with Jim Chalmers and Kelly O’Dwyer.