SUBJECT/S: Adler gun, Unions, APVMA relocation, backpacker tax, Murrray Goulburn dairy crisis

SUBJECT/S: Adler gun, Unions, APVMA relocation, backpacker tax, Murrray Goulburn dairy crisis

HOST: The Adler seven shot firearm is currently not allowed to be imported. COAG is looking at whether it should be and under what classification this weapon should go into. Some Nationals of course have been saying that farmers need this weapon to deal with feral animals. With me now is the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon. Thanks for joining me.


HOST: What’s your view? Do some farmers need this seven shot firearm?

FITZGIBBON: Well there is no doubt farmers need firearms but they don’t need seven shot rifles like the Adler, that’s the point. This is not so much a debate about the gun, and weapons, it’s about principle. Malcolm Turnbull was prepared to trade away community safety to secure himself a vote in the Senate on an unrelated matter. That’s the big point of debate.

HOST: That’s fair enough to look at whether they did that or not, but it’s also a debate about this weapon. That’s what COAG is looking at, whether to allow this particular weapon in. What is your view on that?

FITZGIBBON: There was a bipartisan view that the importation of the gun should be banned until COAG came to an agreement. Now we know COAG is divided and the states are divided and this is going to be a slow process. What Malcolm Turnbull effectively did was make a promise he either didn’t intend to keep or he misled in some way. He has said he put a sunset clause in place.

HOST: They did last year but just getting back, what’s your view? Should this gun be imported, or not?

FITZGIBBON: I don’t think anyone needs a lever action rifle that fires seven bullets, I don’t think there is a case for that. Farmers do not need that.

HOST: That’s pretty clear.

FITZGIBBON: Very clear.

HOST:  Do you think the Federal Government should be taking that to the COAG meeting as well?

FITZGIBBON: Unfortunately Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t have a position and we asked him often enough in Parliament today. Malcolm Turnbull is the leader of this country and day after day in the Parliament we ask him questions on which he has no position. Why? Because he is led by a divided mob and he is not keen about putting forward a position because it causes too many troubles in the party room.

HOST: Just with your position here, that farmers don’t need it, What is your fear? That it will fall into the wrong hands? Is that the fear here or you just think it’s an unnecessary weapon. Plenty of farmers say dealing with wild pigs for example, you do need to fire off a number of shots.

FITZGIBBON: No one in the community supports the idea of allowing weapons in our society that can fire so many shots away so quickly and farmers I am told don’t need to fire so many shots away so quickly.

HOST: We will move on to a couple of other issues. The Government has been trying to, well it got through the house anyway, the Building Industry Watchdog Bill which goes to the Senate now and we will see what happens there. The main point of attack from the Government, and has been all week, the examples of what is going on at building sites around the country is unbelievable. The CFMEU bullying and thuggery and so on. Can you really say everything is fine on Australian building sites?

FITZGIBBON: There are crime agencies and tribunals in place now to deal with these issues David and of course that under Malcolm Turnbull’s legislation, construction workers have less rights than drug dealers. The coercive powers under this Bill are extreme denying anyone the normal rights you and I would enjoy if arrested and questioned.

HOST: Is that right though? As my understanding is in the evidence, if you and I were brought in for questioning, whatever we say can’t be used against us in a court, this isn’t a court here.

FITZGIBBON: I’m not aware at that level of detail but I am advised that the coercive powers go well beyond than what’s applied in the criminal law. We have laws in place, why do we have one law for one set of citizens and another for another set of citizens? Even if we are to concede there is lawlessness in the construction industry, are we also claiming that there is not lawlessness anywhere else in any other sector?

HOST: Sure, sure. It’s disproportionate isn’t it? When you look at what is happening on building sites and the flow on impact on costs for the entire economy. If there is something that can be done about that, then why not?

FITZGIBBON: But there is already a specific structure in place for the construction industry.

HOST: But not just the Fair Work Commission that Labor has set up but judges as well that say the CFMEU are treating these penalties as the cost of doing business, not much to them.

FITZGIBBON: It’s an industry that has its own structure in place as you’ve indicated. Of course they rave and rant about the impact on the economy but we know that when the ABCC was last in place, productivity went down, workplace injuries and deaths were on the rise.

HOST: Do you think the CFMEU has too much control over the Labor Party?

FITZGIBBON: David, I’m not going to get into a debate into internal matters into the Labor Party, but I’m happy to say that the Trade Union Movement is a very, very important part of the movement and only working together can we defeat conservative Governments that cut budgets in all the wrong places.

HOST: Sure I get that, but you have seen the likes of Bob Hawke, Graham Richardson and others say, Labor should be cutting its ties with the CFMEU.

FITZGIBBON: Well I don’t agree. If there is a case to dispense one part of the movement, well let’s have it out and hear it. But I don’t believe the case has been made out and we are proud to stand by our relationship with the trade union movement.

HOST: A few other matters in your portfolio area, you have been pursuing Barnaby Joyce again this week over the relocation of a Government agency that deals with registering chemicals, to his electorate. This has also been pursued in Senate Estimates with Departmental officials. We still haven’t learned a lot about the benefits of doing this.

FITZGIBBON: Well there is no benefit and I asked Barnaby Joyce in the Parliament again this morning to name one benefit for the agriculture sector and he wasn’t able to do so. This is pork barreling at its worst. He is moving a regulatory agency from Canberra to his own electorate for his own political benefit. He is putting his own political interests ahead of the interests of our farmers. This will deny the farming community much needed crop protection sprays, veterinary medicines, things that are so important to their productivity and indeed their livelihoods. Despite all the evidence this is going to do harm in the farming sector, he is proceeding because of his own political gain. Just like the backpacker tax. He knows 19 per cent is going to continue to drive backpackers away but he is pursuing it any case.

HOST: Where are you at now on the backpacker tax? I know you want to refer this to a Senate Committee to investigate, but the more you learn about the impact it is likely to have.

FITZGIBBON: The longer this goes on, and of course it has been going on for 16 months now, a problem all of the Government’s making. As each day goes by, peak industry groups are becoming bolder in their representation to me. Barnaby Joyce has been holding a gun to the head of all these leadership groups saying if you don’t support 19, you’ll end up getting 32.5. Initially they fell into line, but slowly but surely as each day goes by they are becoming emboldened contacting me saying 19 plus the superannuation changes, which are a killer, is going to continue to drive backpackers away and we don’t support it. So it leaves me with a dilemma. We are trying to do the responsible thing and work with the Government to get a solution with the sector but more and more I am convinced 19 is still too high and we will continue to consult and do our best to get the best outcome for farmers and of course those in the tourism sector.

HOST: A final one on dairy. In the dairy industry again, you’ve been concerned about the plight of dairy farmers for some time. A number of dairy farmers in WA in the south of the state have had to dump their milk. Tip it right down the drain because they have been told by the suppliers they sell to that the global oversupply means their milk is not necessary. That is kind of the worst of all outcomes isn’t it?

FITZGIBBON: It is the worst of all outcomes. They are getting squeezed at both ends. Of course global oversupply is putting downward pressure on the price and domestically of course, intense competition amongst the supermarket chains in particular is squeezing them as well. The problem here is that we had an agriculture white paper remember? It disappeared without a trace. It was discredited with no strategic plan for the agriculture sector generally, but certainly nothing for dairy, a sector under enormous pressure. Now Barnaby Joyce in every speech, whether it be in the Parliament or the Great Hall, or any other function, he is always claiming credit, unfairly and without justification for commodity prices rising like drought induced higher cattle prices. But you never hear him talking about the prices that are going down and the bad things that are happening in other sectors. Why he wasn’t prepared to lift a finger to help Murray Goulburn dairy farmers is still simply beyond me. It’s mystery to me.

HOST: We have talked about this before, what about the idea of milk tax?

FITZGIBBON:  No I reject that, an additional tax on super to assist dairy farmers. There are simple things Governments can do for dairy farmers. One of them is to help them with a productivity agenda another for example is to help facilitate collective bargaining. The processors and the retailers need the dairy farmers as much as the dairy farmers need them, but they don’t seem to exert any market power despite the fact they are sorely needed by these other levels.

HOST: This can be fixed within the industry?

FITZGIBBON: The current collective bargaining provisions under the Trade Practices Act, the Competition Consumer Act as it is now, are too weak and the leadership of dairy need the help of Government to start putting in place the structure they need to make sure of these authorization provisions so they can bind together and exert some market power. If they can do that, well naturally the price will rise for them.

HOST: Joel Fitzgibbon, we better leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.

FITZGIBBON: It’s a great pleasure.



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