MARK WESLEY: I’ll introduce these two well-known names to the 4CC Breakfast Show - the Labor Party Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon and the man who is always welcome because he lives here and is the candidate for Flynn, Zac Beers. Good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Good morning Mark, this is Joel, good to be with you.
WESLEY: Hey, Joel, how you going this morning?
FITZGIBBON: I’m going alright, enjoying the Queensland weather.
WESLEY: Whereabouts are you right now Joel?
FITZGIBBON: We are on the road between Gladstone and Rockhampton. We had some time in Gladstone last night and caught up with the Mayor and one of the local councillors talking about both the challenges locally and the opportunities and Zac Beers is doing a great job ensuring that those of us in Canberra understand very well both those opportunities and challenges and of course the impact on towns like Gladstone of the constant cuts in areas like health and education which of course is impacting on local communities.
WESLEY: Hey Joel, let’s talk about coal. It’s a pretty important product for this electorate here, mostly because coal means jobs around here. Now the current member of Flynn Mr Ken O’Dowd is a fan of coal and so is Scott Morrison. Remember how they waved that piece of coal around in Parliament?
FITZGIBBON: I do indeed.
WESLEY: How would a Labor Government affect Queensland’s coal industry?
FITZGIBBON: Well mate I’m a big supporter of the coal mining industry. I represent a coal electorate and grew up with coal miners. Of course the Port of Newcastle which takes the coal from my electorate is the largest coal port in the world so we understand very well the contribution coal has made to our local economies and the jobs it creates and we remain great supporters with great demand for both thermal and coking coal on global markets will remain strong for many, many years to come and we should expect for you to earn strong exporting income as a result.
WESLEY: Now Joel Fitzgibbon you are the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, what are you finding to be the big issues with people on the land around Gladstone and the rest of the electorate?
FITZGIBBON: Of course at the moment, drought is front and centre of the conversation and we really do need to get serious about long term strategies to ensure farmers can remain profitable in the most difficult times of drought. We have to first of all accept the climate is changing in a challenging way and the drought will sort of be a “new normal”. So we have got to ensure our farmers can be profitable through the more difficult times. That means making them more profitable in the better times, allowing them to set some money aside to also invest in drought-proofing infrastructure like water infrastructure, for example. But we need to also help them on a journey to embracing world’s-best and scientifically-based farming methods so that they can improve the capacity of their soil, for example, to retain moisture in the ground, a whole list of things. But we need to be working very closely with State Governments as well, as they are, constitutionally, the main managers of our land sector, and we can only do good things in cooperation so we need to rebuild that CoAG process.
WESLEY: And you are heading out west today?
FITZGIBBON: I am, I am going to talk to some producers and growers who are already embracing greater diversity and those technologies to lift their profitability and make that sustainable. We do need to take that conversation around agriculture to a higher plane to get producers and growers focused more on high value products, where they get a greater return for their labour and allocation of natural resources. It is an increasingly competitive world in global markets and we have got new competitors emerging in beef in the South Americans, and grains in the Black Sea countries, we need to be world’s-best but we also need to be producing products that attracts that premium so that farmers can be more profitable.
WESLEY: Well enjoy your trip today, nice talking to you Joel.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure Mark.
WESLEY: Good morning Zac.
ZAC BEERS, CANDIDATE FOR FLYNN: Good morning Mark, thanks for having us.
WESLEY: Now Zac you narrowly lost the last Federal electorate to Ken O’Dowd and you are going to have another crack at the next election. Now Ken is a sitting member so he has access to TV and newspapers and his party is in power right now in Canberra. As the new guy, how are you going to get your message across?
BEERS: The big focus for us has been getting out and talking to the community in the community. It’s easy to say as an incumbent you have got a whole range of resources and access to a whole range of communication methods that a candidate in Opposition doesn’t have but what we have is time and that is time to get out to talk to people, time to engage to engage with the community and time to listen to the community about what their priorities are and I think by and large, that’s what has been missing here in Central Queensland. We have got a Member of Parliament who goes down to Canberra but doesn’t actively represent the interests of this part of the world and that’s something I want to change.
WESLEY: Now Zac you come from an ALP, Union background, so you know how important jobs are in this part of the world. Do you agree with the Liberals when they boast about how many jobs they have created in the past few years?
BEERS: The Liberals are always very quick to jump all over data that might support their narrative but if you get out on the ground and talk to people in Central Queensland right now you will be under no illusion how tough this part of the world is doing it. Yes, we have had a bit of a bump in the coal mining sector due to rising coal prices but by and large the region is still doing it tough. There is a lot of people out there right now who are highly skilled who have been able to hold down good solid secure jobs in the past who, because of the framework that exists right now, are struggling to find work. They are struggling to find permanent work and whatever work they do find is in the form of contract or labour hire casual employees. So they can quote whatever figures they want but the people on the ground are telling the real story and they are doing it tough.
WESLEY: On the subject of jobs, hire contractors seem to be a big talking point with our listeners, what is your policy on this?
BEERS: Labor has announced that we will deliver a policy called Same job. Same pay. What that means is two employees working side by side doing the same thing should be paid the same terms and conditions of employment. We have made it clear that we don’t think it is good enough under the existing framework, the current Government has done absolutely nothing to protect workers in Central Queensland from exploitation through labour hire arrangement where they are forced to take jobs at lower rates of pay, less security as casual employees, where they are living literally day to day hoping to pick up another shift and trying to put food on the table and pay the bills. The existing framework is broken, the current Government won’t do anything and that is why we have announced that we will deliver a policy that makes certain that those employees are employed on the same terms and conditions of employment.
WESLEY: Good on ya Zac, watch out for that ScoMo’s bus today.
BEERS: Absolutely mate, I wouldn’t want to get thrown under it.
WESLEY: [Laughs] You’re not letting the tyres down are you?
BEERS: [Laughs] Not at all. We will let him run that one into the ground.
WESLEY: The Labor Party’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon, and the man who is always welcome Zac Beers, good morning.