Transcript - Doorstop - Tamworth - Thursday 2 November

SUBJECTS: Announcement of David Ewings as Labor New England candidate, New England By-election, APVMA relocation, Barnaby Joyce.


JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA:  We are here to announce today that David Ewings will be Labor’s candidate for the December 2 by-election. You will recall David was our candidate during the 2016 election where he did an outstanding job and when he said he was committed to New England for the long haul, well he has proven that now and is back with us today and is going to be taking up the fight to Barnaby Joyce. I won’t say too much about David because I will leave that up to him but he comes highly credentialed particularly as a former member of the RAF. He’s an intelligent person who is hard working, he lives in the electorate in Scone with his fiancé Bec, but importantly shares all of Labor’s ideals and objectives including inclusive economic growth and making sure opportunity is spread fairly within our communities. I have chosen Tamworth Hospital as the backdrop today because it’s emblematic of the contrast between Labor on health investment and policy and the Coalition. We invest in our health services. When last in Government we invested $120 million in Tamworth Hospital. Turnbull and Tony Abbott in Government do the opposite. They cut health and hospital funding. We could have equally been in front of a school where we are investing and Turnbull is cutting. We could have been at a TAFE, where the same issues apply. This by-election is an opportunity for the people of New England, on behalf of all Australians, to send a clear message to Malcolm Turnbull, that they are sick of the chaos and dysfunction in Canberra and are sick of the priorities where millionaires are receiving tax cuts while people are having their basic services in their communities cut and they are sick of rising casualization in our work force, our dependence on foreign workers and on casual workers and it is time, says the community I believe that we dealt with these problems and got on with governing. So on December 2 it’s a wonderful opportunity to send Malcolm Turnbull that message. Labor is in this campaign to be absolutely competitive and will be campaigning hard all the way to polling day. Bill Shorten and I said four years ago that we wanted every person in every regional community to have a choice at every election. Labor and David Ewings is giving them that choice on December 2 and we ask people to take the opportunity to send that message to Malcolm Turnbull.

DAVID EWINGS: Thanks everyone for having me, it is always an honour to represent the Labor Party and it is an honour to do it again in New England. I’m just going to get right off the bat here. We are up against it and there is no doubt about that. I’m clearly the underdog in this race, but going back to what Joel said, we made that commitment in 2016 that we would be building the brand and getting our message out from then on and that is exactly what we have done. Across all levels of government especially in local Government we have seen growth in Labor representation, so we are keeping that commitment and this is a further part of that. Further to Joel’s point about that and the Government that we have got, simply put, they don’t care about working people. They don’t care about the doctors and nurses, tradies and the fencers who are out there doing their best for our economy all the time. They would rather try and con them into thinking that you can take something off them, give it to someone else and they will be better off. That is not the case. The National Party and other conservative forces, with maybe changed names for the last century or so have been incumbent in this electorate and that is a problem because when that is the case, complacency sets in and what we are talking about here is the electorate of New England is being taken for granted. So I am here to represent Labor’s views and to represent the people of this electorate who want to see an alternative and to show them that we can do things differently and to say to them that this is an opportunity for you to send a message. Not only to New England but to regional Australia everywhere where there is conservative or National Party incumbent members. I fully intend to do that. We have the backing of our branches and are running a grassroots campaign, that’s what we do. We also have the backing of the wider Party and will continue prosecuting our positive message that we can do things differently and we can help people.

FITZGIBBON: I just want to say something about my visit to Armidale this morning before we take questions. There we again saw the contrast. I went to the University of New England where we saw the fruits of Labor’s $30 million investment in agricultural research teaching and innovation at that campus. By contrast I went to find the so-called APVMA. Remember Barnaby Joyce was forcing the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Armidale. This hoax has to stop and stop now. It is wrong for Barnaby Joyce to be continuing with this illusion and this fiction. I walked into Armidale Centrelink this morning where allegedly I was to find APVMA staff. I received blank looks from Centrelink staff when I asked about how I might talk to someone from the APVMA. I was finally directed outside where I might find a phone number to talk with someone at the APVMA. Sadly there was no phone number. There is no APVMA in Armidale. Barnaby Joyce hasn’t been able to make that relocation work and he won’t be able to make that relocation work. Mainly because of workforce issues, but he has conceded this himself already. We know that he is going to deregulate the regulation of our chemicals and crop sprays and the like. He is going to farm it out into the private sector so there will be no new APVMA  jobs in Armidale. The private sector will be undertaking that work. He’s putting in IT systems so Canberra people can work from their homes in Canberra rather than move to Armidale and he is making space in his own Department of Agriculture – well the Prime Minister’s Department of Agriculture to house a Canberra based APVMA staff. Barnaby Joyce himself knows now that it is impossible to relocate the APVMA to Armidale, and rather than do things behind the scenes, he should declare today that he accepts that because every day he continues with this folly, it’s hurting our farmers, and everyone who relies on chemical crop sprays, or veterinary medicines. They could be vets, they could be farmers, they could be anyone with a companion animal. Every day the APVMA is losing staff because Barnaby Joyce, for his own political gain, continues with this fixer. Well I say to Barnaby Joyce – the game is up. Behind the scenes you are doing other things, it’s about time you made the confession to the people of Armidale and to the New England more generally. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just one for David, Barnaby has obviously taken straight to the campaign trail after last Friday’s announcement. You are a week behind I guess, what’s your plan for the next few weeks?

EWINGS: Well I think we have hit the ground running, so obviously I had to get a few personal things sorted out. Running in a political campaign is not an easy thing to do. And the priority for me was making sure that my Fiancé, Bec, was 100 per cent behind me and that she was happy for me to do this. So rest assured, no stone has been unturned getting organised to run. So here we are, and there is no doubt that we are absolutely committed to running the strongest campaign that we can. I do not think we are behind, I think we are here doing what we need to do, we will get our message out over the next three weeks.

FITZGIBBON: And at a National level, I can tell you that obviously we have people from the party office with us today, I won’t call them out. And we already are well advanced in the planning of a number of Shadow Ministerial visits to the New England over the course of the next few weeks. We are organised, we are ready, and as I said before, we are determined to be competitive at this election and to give people a choice.

JOURNALIST: Will Bill Shorten be coming to the electorate?

FITZGIBBON: I expect that Bill Shorten will visit the New England during the campaign, I can’t be absolutely sure about his time. He is under a lot of pressure in terms of his commitments, but I know that’s under consideration yes.

JOURNALIST: David did you learn anything from the last election?

EWINGS: I think I learned a lot actually. I learned a lot about the finer points of politics that’s for sure. You can’t understand how this game works unless you are actually in it. There was a lot to learn, and I tell you something that I did learn that really stuck out right in the earlier days was just how hard good politicians work. Take Joel for example, I recall a drive back from Tamworth I believe to Scone, I thought that might be a bit of a chance to have a chat, catch up and ask some questions. But the blokes working the whole time; I think they work in their sleep. It’s quite amazing to behold, and for someone that’s had a political career stretching for that amount of time, it really does amaze me that we’ve got some really good people in our party that put in that kind of work. That gave me a good heads up on what to expect if one day I am ever an MP, or lucky enough to be a member for New England. It’s not easy, and if you want to change things when you are in an electorate that, in my view, has been neglected for a long time, there’s a lot of work that you have to do. You’ve got to talk across all the stakeholders, you’ve got to talk to the industry leaders, you’ve got to talk to the community and the people on the street. You’ve got to take in those views and take it into the party and come up with good policy. And believe me it is not easy, but it is an honour to be doing it.

JOURNALIST: You say that the electorate has been taken for granted or neglected for a while, I think a lot of people would disagree with you. Just since August there has been $90 million announced for the electorate. How do you (inaudible)?

FITZGIBBON: I’ll take that question if you don’t mind. Suddenly we see announcements when a by-election is called. The three major road projects in this electorate Labor funded in Government. Yet here we are in the fifth year of this Government and not a sod of soil has been turned. And here we are now suddenly, when there is a by-election in the offering, Barnaby Joyce is out there now talking about progressing these projects. It’s another con job by Barnaby Joyce, and I think many people in the electorate ought to wake up to it.

JOURNALIST: Why has it been so hard for Labor to get a foot hold here, I mean David only got seven per cent of the vote last time? What is it that makes this place so difficult for Labor to (inaudible)?

FITZGIBBON: Well you know better than anyone else here that the focus here last time was on the battle between Barnaby Joyce and Tony Windsor. And frankly it was pretty hard to compete in that space, but Labor has a strong base vote in New England. Our determination during the election campaign is to grow that further and we are very confident in doing so.

JOURNALIST: So David do you think you have a better chance of getting more than seven per cent this time?

EWINGS: Let’s be honest and just lay the cards out, that was the first time around for me. As your previous question went to, there was a lot to learn. But I was up against two of the biggest brand-name politicians in the country, and I don’t necessary think it’s any easier per se this time. But there’s not a better alternative in my view at the moment in the Labor party. So if there is people out there feeling disaffected, that do want things to change, that do want improvements across a range of different portfolio areas, they should really consider voting Labor this time round.

JOURNALIST: You’ve already said that you will be up against it in this campaign, what would you deem as a success at the end of it?

FITZGIBBON: We are not going to put a number on it; we are not going benchmark our souls.  We will be very pleased, as I already am, to be feeling a groundswell of community support. I felt it in Armidale yesterday, and I am very confident I feel it here in Tamworth today and this evening. We are confident that people are most disaffected with this government, they are stressed about the chaos and confusion of the government in Canberra. And Barnaby Joyce I know is expecting some sympathy vote for his breach of section 44 of the Constitution, well he needs to start taking responsibility. Politicians have been talking about section 44 for at least 20 years, we’ve had three cases in that time, we are all very aware of it. Barnaby Joyce either arrogantly decided to ignore it, or incompetently got it wrong. Either way, it’s Barnaby Joyce’s fault and its time he started taking responsibility for his action or indeed inaction. Thanks everyone. 

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