FRIDAY, 27 MAY 2016

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s Your Child Our Future plan.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: It’s great to join Greg Parker from the Teachers Federation and of course our candidate in New England, David Ewings. He is a fantastic candidate he has been working hard here promoting Labor’s positive message. I’m sorry that I was a little bit late but unlike Barnaby Joyce,  I do not have a helicopter at my disposal.  But we’re doing our best to service and campaign in this very very large electorate. David has been out there door knocking hard and we have been getting a very good response. We’re in New England to win not to run 2nd or 3rd .  The primary vote is being split here with Tony Windsor entering the race and we think that makes this an open game. Labor is running hard, we have a great candidate and we are here to win.
We're  at the Peel High School today to talk about Barnaby Joyce’s failure to back the final years , not the final years or what we used to call the last two years of the Gonski reform funding. We are backing it of course. Gonski is a Labor initiative and we continue to support it and importantly we continue to fund it. What does that mean for New England? It means in just two years an additional $28 million for local schools. Now Labor’s commitment is very important in another way. About half of the funding  - that additional funding - will go to regional schools notwithstanding the fact that only about a third of the students in the state are in regional schools. Why? because we know from a number of research papers that regional students are falling further behind their city cousins and we want to address that critical issue by loading up the funding to regional schools - including schools in Tamworth and Armidale and Scone, and right throughout the New England electorate.
Barnaby Joyce has gone missing on this issue. He continues to oppose this important funding. That’s one thing,  but he should stand up in front of his constituents and explain why he is not supporting the Gonski funding and on that basis why he is letting down local kids. Now the Federation and candidates like David Ewings will continue to campaign hard on this until we force Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce into backing the Gonski reforms in full. I’ll be happy to take your questions.
JOURNALIST: There is still a big hole over Labor’s ability to fund this Gonski promises thou, so how legitimate is your promise to the region with I think $9 billion missing in your tobacco tax excise claims?
FITZGIBBON: No, there is no black hole in Labor’s costings and if you saw the joint press conference between Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann earlier this week  you’d come to a appreciate that. It was an embarrassing day for them, they backed away from their allegations. Labor has in its column about $70 billion of savings. We’ve made the hard decisions on superannuation concessions for high income earners, capital gains tax changes, negative gearing changes tobacco excise changes and of course there is a Parliamentary Budget Office costing, there is a Treasury costing and there is some debate about that but no matter which way you cut it Labor’s policies are fully costed and fully funded.
JOURNALIST: Where will you be getting the money for Gonski then?
FITZGIBBON:  Well I just took you through a number of –
JOURNALIST:  Tax excise –
FITZGIBBON: No, we do not accept there is a black hole what so ever in our costings or our funding promises and I refer you again to Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann who embarrassed themselves this week but trying to indicate that there is.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask David where does education sit in your priorities in terms of -
DAVID EWINGS LABOR CANDIDATE FOR NEW ENGLAND : It’s top priority, and I think Bill Shorten has made it perfectly clear that the difference between the major parties is that we prioritise kids’ education, amongst other things but that has got to be top. It’s certainly got to be top in an area where we’ve got disadvantaged schools. There’s no excuse for it, and might I add that the message that we are getting for the Coalition amounts to saying to these children that they’re not worth funding. I don’t believe that. They clearly do, they would rather do other things economically, but the Labor Party doesn’t support that, we support looking after our kids through all levels of education.
JOURNALIST: How far behind the ball are you as far as campaigning as a candidate when we’ve seen Tony Windsor and Barnaby Joyce, they have been on the ball even before there was an election date. You’re only making an announcement now.  How much ground do you have to make?
EWINGS: I’ve been on the ball from day one. You might not have seen me on TV as much, as Joel pointed out, I don’t have a helicopter to get around in. I’m in my own car driving around the electorate knocking on as many doors as I can; I’m talking to real people. I’d like to know how many doors Barnaby Joyce has knocked on. I bet you it wouldn’t be too many.
FITZGIBBON:   That would be none I would suggest.
JOURNALIST: But how serious is your candidacy when you’re note taking leave from your employment to take on the seat?
EWINGS: I’m taking leave today and I’ve got a very understandable -
JOURNALIST: One day in the campaign?
EWINGS: Well that’s right, unfortunately I can’t be a full time candidate but I do what I can. I’ve got a fantastic network of support, I’ve got a fantastic campaign manager, I’ve got Joel Fitzgibbon in my corner and that’s pretty handy to have when you’ve got someone on your electorate’s doorstep with Joel’s ability and experience that you can call any time to get more information on detail or any other type of help. So we are doing everything that we absolutely can and Joel’s right, we are here to win.
JOURNALIST: Doesn’t it show though that you’re not taking the seat seriously as a party if you’re not funding your candidate enough to take time off work to even run the seat?
FITZGIBBON: Well it is true that David doesn’t have the backing of the Gina Rineharts of the world, I concede that, but we are raising -
JOURNALIST: But you’re not funding him to the standards where he can take time off work either?
FITZGIBBON: No we’re giving David very strong support. I will be back here within the week campaigning with him again. We are taking this electorate very very seriously and I suggest that we are doing more work than Barnaby Joyce is doing locally. David has been out door knocking large tracks of the electorate, he has had people like the Mayor of Muswellbrook, Martin Rush who is well known in this area as a former State candidate working with him on the doors. We’ve got a good team up here and we are taking it seriously and Barnaby Joyce should be on notice, we are coming after him.
JOURNALIST: David, how hard is it to campaign in an area that is traditionally an independent or National seat?
EWINGS: It’s no harder than any other electorate to campaign in I wouldn’t imagine. We are just out there doing as much as we possibly can. I’m out there to put out the ideas that Labor and Bill Shorten have put forward and people will vote accordingly, but as I said before, this is a question of priorities and there is a clear priority to put to people and I hope they can see that. I’d be amazed if anybody with school aged kids, particularly ones that go to public school vote for the coalition in this sort of climate. Going back to your question though, there’s no difficulty in knocking on a door and asking people what their issues are, they’re more than happy to let you know and I’m more than happy to listen to them and take them on board.
JOURNALIST: How many doors have you knocked on in Tamworth?
EWINGS: UM… none yet, I’ve done 10% of Armidale though and 85% of Aberdeen and I’ll be back in Armidale tomorrow to possibly do another 20% and then I’ll do Scone and I’m sure we will be in Tamworth at some point before the election finishes.
JOURNALIST: The Greens’ Richard Di Natale down on the plains was saying that if you don’t vote for the Greens, vote Tony Windsor and that casts some dispersions. Would Labor be offering Labor preferences?
FITZGIBBON: No, I’ll answer that question. Preferences are determined by the party office in NSW and we don’t get involved in it, that’s a matter for them. But I just want to make this clear point, we will do whatever deal is necessary to give Labor the best chance of winning New England. That’s my interest, that’s David Ewings’ interest. That’s why we are here today. That’s why we are working so hard, that’s why we are promoting Labor’s positive policies  and Barnaby Joyce needs to front up to Tamworth and explain why he won’t back Gonski and why he is supporting cuts to hospitals in his local electorate.
JOURNALIST: So based on that you are backing Tony Windsor?
FITZGIBBON: Oh I’m not backing Tony Windsor, we are here to win. We are pleased that Tony Windsor’s candidature is splitting up the primary vote which gives us a real in in this electorate. That’s why I’m here. Tony Windsor can run his own race but we are here to contest the electorate hard and we are here to win.
JOURNALIST: What impact do you think then you have to affect the vote and percentage, are you putting a percentage on it at this stage?
FITZGIBBON: Look I think this election is really going to be about policies, not about individual candidates. As good a candidate that David is, and people will look at what we are doing in health and in education and in jobs, not just current jobs but jobs for our children for the future and of course in connectivity including the NBN. Malcolm Turnbull has destroyed Labor’s NBN. The people of Armidale know how good Labor’s plan was and how good our structure is and how good of delivery its providing to them and we want that to come to Tamworth and right throughout the electorate we want a 21st Century NBN plan not the 2nd rate thing that Malcolm Turnbull is offering.
JOURNALIST: Telecommunications this week was probably the first announcement from the Coalition for the Black Spots funding. Are you willing to equal that as the ALP, there’s a lot of money being promised for black spots in the region.
FITZGIBBON: Absolutely and we’ll be having more to say on mobile blackspots in the not too distant future but I’ll make two additional points. First of all the Coalition is very good at rebadging funding. Now they’ll take roads funding that already exists, which existed under the Labor Government and they’ll call them beef roads when it’s not new money it’s just a rebadging of money and this is happening in telecommunications too. The renaming of existing money but go and ask Barnaby Joyce about his mobile phone towers and ask him how many have actually been switched on. In the 3 years that he has been in office ask him how many new mobile phone towers have actually been switched on and are actually serving people’s needs think you’ll find it’s a very small number indeed.
JOURNALIST: So you’ll be meeting, will you be expanding the black spot promise for the region?
FITZGIBBON: Jason Clare our spokesperson - I know because I’ve been in conversation with him -will be having more to say about this in coming days.
JOURNALIST: Where would you rate telecommunications / internet speed as an election issue for you David?
EWINGS: Well I think the New England area has got a few that are right up there and that is right up there. I visited a family in Glen Innes who were running a lapidary business from their own property - if you don’t know what lapidary I didn’t its stone polishing and gem polishing – one of their customers is NASA and they are Glen Innes with a customer like NASA and they are struggling to do business because of their internet connection is not good enough. Now, the Coalition - Malcolm Turnbull in particular - like to wax lyrical about the innovation revolution but they can’t seem to tell us how that’s going to happen or give us any detail about how we might achieve it. These people are out there trying very hard to be a part of that they are right on the forefront and they are being let down so things like the NBN amongst other technological advances is something that the regions need to have.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is hypocrisy saying that they are going for innovation and yet not funding the Gonski program.
EWINGS: Of course, the simple question is yes, I do think it’s hypocrisy.
FITZGIBBON: All innovation locally starts with students. The way that we make sure that we are a smart country  or smarter or at least as smart, whatever way you want to put it in the future is to make sure of children get the best possible education, that’s what Barnaby Joyce is denying local students here in Tamworth and right throughout the New England electorate.  Ok.
JOURNALIST: Caroona Coal Action Group have wrote to the ALP after the budget in reply speech asking for some commitments on Shenhua. In a response the ALP media team said Shenhua mine was not to proceed, it’s only after some media seeking clarification the ALP has been forced to correct its statement on that issue. Why would the ALP make such a claim when it has no part to play in the approvals process? Why would it mislead the Caroona Coal Action Group  on a comment like that?
FITZGIBBON: Well I’m not familiar with the statement that you’re talking about but I know that Barnaby Joyce has been running around saying that Shenhua is not an issue anymore. One because it’s no longer in his electorate and two because he believes that principals have decided there is not value in the investment anymore. On that I’m make two points, first of all It still matters, these questions still matters whether they are on one side of Barnaby’s boundary or on the other, and second while it may be true that the principals – the investors- are walking away from the investment, I’m not sure that that is true but even if it were true, it doesn’t mean that Barnaby Joyce isn’t allowed to have a view about the coal mine. Thanks everyone.

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