SUBJECT/S: Labor’s commitment to Wild Dog Action Plan.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: It’s great to be in Gladstone with our Labor Candidate Zac Beers and my old friend Deputy Mayor Chris Trevor. We miss him in Canberra both as a parliamentarian and as a rugby player but he assures me that Zac Beers will be every bit as good a Member for Flynn as he was - if not better - but even better on the rugby field so in the Labor Party we are very excited about that. This morning I’ve had a tour of the port with the Chair of the Port Authority, I’m looking at what benefits Labor’s $80 million commitment to the Port access road will bring for agriculture in Central Queensland. We have such enormous opportunity in agriculture - the enormous demand in agriculture, enormous demand coming out of Asia but we need to plan for it, to have strategies for it. The dining boom won’t come t o us we need to go to it and what we are doing with the Port access road will lift productivity right across the agriculture value chain and will mean many jobs in this part of Queensland and I’m delighted that the Labor Party has made that commitment. I’m also announcing today that a future Shorten Labor Government will commit $5 million to the Queensland Government’s Wild Dog Eradication Plan. This is a great strategic and integrated plan here in Queensland designed to tackle one of the biggest issues facing Australian agriculture and Queensland agriculture and we are very keen to support the Queensland Government. It’s the right plan, it’s a good plan and the $5 million will go a long way to helping implement that plan in a timely manner and I’m very pleased to be able to announce that money today. I want to say something about the backpackers tax while I’m here because no region in Australia is unaffected by what the Government p roposes to do with the backpacker tax. It’s a dumb idea, done without any consultation or economic modelling on the second-round affects. Backpackers have already dropped off substantially in this country with the spectre of this tax looming on July 1 and I make my offer again to the Coalition Government today. Announce the abolition of this bad idea today and the Labor Party will back you and we can have certainty back in the industry again. I’ll be happy to take your questions.

JOURNALIST: Just with the $5 million, so it’s matched by the Queensland Government, is that right?

FITZGIBBON: That’s right. The Queensland Government has added $5 million to the plan. It’s not an inexpensive strategy. Obviously States everywhere are cash strapped, we want to make sure that the Queensland Government has the financial capacity to fully deliver the plan and we’ll contribute $5 million towards that implementation.

JOURNALIST: What sort of problems do wild dogs bring?

FITZGIBBON: Well wild dogs bring many problems. The first and foremost of course, the kill of so much of our product. In addition to that of course they spread disease among our stock and our animals so there are many facets to this problem. Everywhere I go in Northern and Central Western Queensland people want to talk to me about the wild dog and dingo problem and a future Shorten Government is determined to give every assistance it can to the States to deal with this problem in an effective and timely way. Thanks everyone.

ZAC BEERS, LABOR CANDIDIATE FOR FLYNN: So I’m here today with the Shadow Minister for Agriculture to talk about some of the broader benefits that will arise as a result of the Port Access Road Project. As everyone knows there is an issue with jobs across this entire area at the moment. This project will not only create jobs during the construction phase but will provide long term economic opportunity for the broader agricultural industries in the Central Queensland region and across the electorate of Flynn. That’s why I asked the Shadow Minister to come here today to talk about what benefits the region can get out of this project and look at the long term economic benefits that it will provide for the region. More broadly we know that the region is doing it tough and this project provides a key piece of infrastructure that will enable better diversification of the broader economy in this area so that when we do have tough times in the resource sector, there’s opportunities for communities to ride that out with the diversity in other industries.

JOURNALIST: And the wild dog announcement, that’s good for the region to?

BEERS: Absolutely look, as it’s been said the issue with the wild dogs is the impact that it has on stock when wild dogs kill the stock so it’s a critical announcement for the agricultural industry more broadly because the eradication of wild dogs will make it more productive in that industry without the loss of stock as a result of wild dog attacks.

JOURNALIST: And obviously you’ve seen the vision already now of what happened [inaudible] Barnaby Joyce’s with the MUA and other unions hijacking the conference. What do you think about that idea, was it a good or bad idea?

FITZGIBBON: Well I’m not surprised that Barnaby Joyce’s press conference was, if you like, hijacked by activists. The fact is that this Government has a lot to account for and when its decisions are affecting local communities in an adverse way it should expect that when Ministers come to town they’ll hear the angry voices of local people. Thanks everyone.


BEERS: Look all I will say is that it’s unsurprising that there are people who are a bit upset about some of the issues that have arisen under the current LNP Government. Is the behavior appropriate, probably not but at the end of the day when people are that frustrated about issues they look for a way to vent that to the Government and people saw an opportunity there today I guess, and tried to take advantage of that to make sure their issues were heard.

JOURNALIST: About the Phillip St money too, would you match that if you get into Government will you match what was announced this morning with Barnaby?

BEERS: Look the announcement this morning was in relation to providing funding for the road there. When we met with the Council to talk about this project their requests from a Labor Government was $5 million for the Phillip Street project. Their view was that that would provide adequate resources for that project to get off the ground and to make sure that that project comes to fruition. The announcement this morning is an announcement in relation to the road there, however there has been no request for funding for that from the Local Government Authority who looks after that particular project.

JOURNALIST: So just a quick one. Both the policies excluding yesterdays, the $5 million and the Post Access Road are fairly agriculture based. Have you spoken to people out west about the Port Access Road or is it more a push from the Port to diversify?

BEERS: So look its two things, the first is making sure that we have a long term sustainable future in this region. We understand that the resource boom that’s occurred in this particular area has provided great opportunities for jobs and great opportunities for growth. Longer term in this region however, agriculture is the future and that’s why we’re making sure we commit to infrastructure projects now and commit funding to projects like the Wild Dog Eradication project to make sure that agriculture has a long term sustainable future in this region and has the opportunity to grow and create more diverse job opportunities for people from the area.

FITZGIBBON: Thanks everyone.  


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