Transcript - Doorstop - Rockhampton, Tuesday 16 April

SUBJECTS: Labor’s investment in Rockhampton Beef Week and Central Queensland Livestock Centre of Excellence, carbon farming initiative, Labor’s agriculture policy.

RUSSELL ROBERTSON, CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: We are here at Belmont Station and I have got with me Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon and Queensland’s Labor Senator Murray Watt. We are here to announce the matching of Beef Australia funding for the next beef event so that $3.9 million will come regardless of  a Coalition or a Labor Government. What a great anchor for the Beef Australia project and it shows again Labor’s commitment to the beef industry and to the beef capital, Rockhampton. We are also here to announce $1.5 million of systems upgrades and facilities upgrades for the university and for the Belmont Station area. That’s going to deliver some 10 jobs in the upgrade and deliver training opportunities and the ability for young people want to upskill in the agriculture industry to gain those skills to continue on and make our beef industry stronger and prouder and deliver higher economic values to the area. I will throw over to Joel and let Joel add some additional information to what I’ve touched on.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Thanks Russell. It’s great to join Russell and Murray Watt here in Capricornia on the campaign trail here today and obviously wonderful to be at Belmont Station with some of the partners in this important project ag force and of course the University of Central Queensland. This campaign is obviously very much about jobs and people and building the Australian workforce. It is very true that we can’t have a strong national economy if we don’t have strong regional economies. We can’t have  strong regional economies if we don’t have a strong agriculture sector and productivity is at the forefront of our agenda in agriculture and of course Central Queensland represents about 10 per cent of Queensland’s agriculture value and of course overwhelmingly the lion’s share of that agriculture activity in Central Queensland can be found in the cattle sector. So what we are doing here today is very important. If you’re going to build productivity in the livestock industry you’ve got to invest in infrastructure so we can be internationally competitive and getting our product to port as quickly and efficiently as we can. You have got to invest in our natural resource base, you’ve got to invest in people and you’ve got to invest in research and development and importantly you have to invest in brand and that’s why I’m very pleased to announce today that a Shorten Labor Government will make a $3.9 million contribution to the next Beef Week of course run by Beef Australia making that investment to ensure we can continue to take Rockhampton to the world and to ensure the world can come to Rockhampton. The economic activity created by Beef Week is well known, it’s an outstanding venture and it deserves the support of all the major and minor political parties and I congratulate Beef Australia and all those who do that very, very good work making Beef Week such a comprehensive success. Also of course I announce today we, a Shorten Labor Government will invest $1.5 million dollars ensuring the ongoing viability and success of the Livestock Centre of Excellence. This is really important on so many fronts. If we are going to be successful in agriculture in the 21st century, we have to be embracing both the best technology and the latest agriculture methods, the best land management methods and this program with such a modest investment too, so on that basis i congratulate the partners, it goes all the way from genetics through to the investment in people and of course even financial skills. All these skills that farmers in the future need to be successful. So I congratulate all those involved, I’m very very happy to be announcing on behalf of the Labor Party this very serious investment and we look forward in the future to working with all the partners, University, Agforce, the Government of Queensland and of course the local agriculture colleges. Things are best starting in collaboration when people are raw, investing together and working in the same direction and this is a perfect example of that being done well and this is a perfect example of progressing where we progress and accelerate the uptake of the best the very best technologies and the very best methods and the very best research of the 21st century. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: The LNP today said that Labor’s tree clearing laws show that it doesn’t really care about farmers, what is your response to that?

FITZGIBBON: Well the LNP either don’t understand Labor’s policy or it is deliberately running a very very deliberate scare campaign. The fact is that Labor’s policy is a good thing for Australia’s farming and particularly a good thing for producers here in Central Queensland. What does it do? Well it provides them with an incentive to embrace the very best lands management practices, improving the quality of the soil resources, improving water efficiency on farm but at the same time an opportunity to secure another source of revenue through our carbon farming initiative. Securing revenue out of the carbon market so it is a win-win for farmers but in terms fo the Queensland regulation of land management here in this state, Labor’s policy doesn’t change a thing, doesn’t change a thing. So David Littleproud and others running this scare campaign need to be pressed on what it is they suggest is going to be harmful for Queensland farmers, fishers and growers because there is nothing in Labor’s policy at the national level that is anything but a positive thing for producers here in Central Queensland.

JOURNALIST: You’ve just mentioned a carbon farming initiative, what’s that?

FITZGIBBON: Well carbon farming initiative will of course provide assistance to farmers who are able to make revenue out of a carbon economy. We know if we are going to get carbon emissions down, we need to abate and the cheapest form of abatement occursin the land sector, so anything farmers can do to allow other industries to seek carbon credits from them is a revenue course for farmers. But the wonder of that is that typically the carbon credits are created by improving methods on-farm, so you improve your soil, you lift the productivity of your agricultural pursuit and at the same time you create a revenue opportunity for your farm. Of course that increases your diversity and builds resilience to drought. It’s a win-win for farmers. 

JOURNALIST: And will it just be a market between farmers or will the Government be involved in giving out carbon credits?

FITZGIBBON: No, no when the system comes into play, some industries will have to reduce their carbon emissions and if they can’t reduce their carbon emissions they will have to enter the carbon market to buy credits and the people, amongst the people they will be buying credits off will be our farmers. Producers who have embraced better soil methods, planted trees, whatever it might be, they will be able to participate in the carbon market so it is a win-win for farmers. They will be building resilience against drought, they will be lifting their productivity but also w=they will be securing a new source of revenue adding diversity and resilience to their farms. 

JOURNALIST: So just going on this a bit more, so what industries will be buying those credits off farmers?

FARMERS: The industries that are the highest polluting industries in the country, we’ve made it clear that we will be enhancing the safe-guard, the so-called safe-guards mechanism which means that people who are polluting above the safeguard mechanism, this is the same mechanism used by the current Government by the way, if they are polluting above the safe-guard mechanism then they will be required to buy carbon credits and obviously farmers will be in a good position to be selling those carbon credits, giving them a new source of revenue, of adding to the diversity and therefore their resilience particularly against drought  but also of course enhancing their productivity. 

JOURNALIST: The farmers definitely won’t have to buy any of these credits?

FITZGIBBON: Farmers will not be required to do anything, farming has been carved out of our safeguards mechanism, farmers will not be in the net but they will be able to participate in the system in a positive way. 

JOURNALIST: The death toll has been revised up north, 660,000 head of cattle, 20,000 head of sheep, I guess, what is your, what is a Labor government, potentially if they win the election, going to do to help these farmers recover from this terrible event?

FITZGIBBON: Both Bill Shorten and I told the Parliament that nothing invites bi-partisanship more than a natural disaster and what we saw in north west Queensland was a devastating event. The cruel irony is that many who have been adversly affected are also still in drought. We made is clear that we stand with the Government to back anything it does to support our producers and others in north west Queensland. I am frustrated, as are many producers that the assistance going to those affected seems to be very very slow, very very slow. Some of the money that went to Local Government went quite quickly, but Scott Morrison talked about $2 billion, it must be two months ago now, he has formed a new agency which he says will disperse this money but it's very very clear to all of us now that none if any of this money will be dispersed before the next election and that must be a source of great disappointment to many of those who have been adversely affected by that flooding event. 

JOURNALIST: Michelle Landry said this morning that whilst she welcomes the funding announced today she says Labor still doesn’t care about the ag industry and they are just playing catch-up, what is your response to that?

FITZGIBBON: Well Michelle Landry says nothing about agriculture of any great note in the Federal Parliament, she is very weak in the House of Representatives, she runs the lines of her political party but in my view doesn’t really stand up for the local area, doesn’t really talk about the issues that really matter and what really matters in agriculture now is we embrace the 21st century, productivity has flat lined for the last six years, we can’t have growth without productivity achievement, and that is what we are about today investing in areas like research and better land management practice that is going to lift productivity in the agriculture sector and grow jobs here in Central Queensland. 

JOURNALIST: What will make Labor a better party for farmers to vote for at the next election?

FITZGIBBON: Labor is a much better party to vote for than the agriculture sector because we have direction, we have a purpose and everything we do is underpinned by the principle of productivity and sustainable profitability. I said our productivity is flat-lining we are losing global market share, our natural resource base is in decline, our biosecurity is under funded and under threat and a Labor government will make all these things a priority to ensure that we can lift productivity, we can lift sustainable profitability, we can start cawing back some market share, we will ensure that people have access to new important markets, particularly in the Asia region. We have a plan for Australian agriculture, all the coalition has had for the past six years is spin and pork-barrelling exercises and it has done nothing to progress productivity and sustainable profitablity in the agriculture industry. Thanks everyone. 

JOURNALIST: Russell, would you like to address (inaudible) comments from Michelle Landry, what’s your response to Michelle Landry’s claim that you don’t care about farmers, as the candidate for Capricornia?

ROBERTSON: Again it is disappointing to hear just fake ideas. We need to see leadership and that is what Joel is providing here today with these announcements. Labor has got a plan as we move forward, we are talking about like an upgrade of this facility which is an additional ten jobs, it is talking about skills and training. We need less pointing the finger and less complaining about Labor and trying to do something for the local community. That is what I’m about, I’m not worried about pointing fingers or having arguments, I want to put my vision forward that’s part of the Labor vision and that’s about increasing skills and making more jobs available, I’m not going to get caught up in tit for tat. Thanks everyone. 

JOURNALIST: Are we able to speak to somebody from CQU or someone like that?

FITZGIBBON: Of course, is the Deputy Vice Chancellor available?

GRANT STANLEY DEPUTY VICE CHANCELLOR OF RESEARCH: It’s absolutely fantastic. A number of years ago the University made a clear direction in how it is going to do research and that’s engaging with the regions, regional Australia doing research that makes a difference and makes an impact. To do that we’ve got to engage and find out what the research questions are that need to be answered from the community then we go about working with the community to find the solutions. The Livestock Centre of Excellence is about bringing together external partners with the uni to do research that’s focused on improving livestock productivity and in the few years that the livestock centre of excellence has been around it has made an enormous difference already with new products and technology coming out. What we need to do now though is get a significant investment into our infrastructure, particularly on Belmont Station which the Labor Party has promised they will provide the funding for. That will not only improve the ability for us to make new discovery in research which which are applied but it will also be a showcase for the farmers in the region to come and see how this technology is applied and used, particularly with beef week coming up in a couple of years. 

JOURNALIST: So what will it actually look like? Will there be new buildings? Will there be new technology? Do you know yet?

STANLEY: I might ask the expert, professor Dave Swain who leads the livestock group.

DAVE SWAIN: Dave Swain, professor of Agriculture to Central Queensland University.

JOURNALIST: Dave tells us how the money will actually be spent here. So Belmont has had a long history and a long tradition of providing research facilities for the northern cattle industry and recently with CQ University getting involved we have sort of shifted direction now so we are focused on emerging technologies and particularly the digital technologies. We have invested already some significant funding to develop the prototype tools and techniques and we are going to look at those in a minute but we are really now looking to expand to a whole of property and I think that’s really where industry want to see things progressing, is to see the technology and the context of whole of enterprise and that’s where we are taking it next and this investment will allow us to invest in facilities as well as people to deliver those solutions and education so that the industry can really get a sense of the value of this next wave of technologies.

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