THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THE TODAY SHOW
MONDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: Prime Minister's visit to the United States; Australia's relationship with China; Drought support for regional communities.
DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: Welcome back. Now the blossoming bromance between Donald Trump and Scott Morrison continues this morning - the pair are about to visit the Ohio factory owned by Australian billionaire, Anthony Pratt and to discuss, we're joined by the Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie and Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek, who are in the studio. Good morning to you both.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Good morning.
SENATOR BRIDGET McKENZIE, MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE: Great to be with you.
KNIGHT: It is quite extraordinary the way Australia is being feted in Washington. Donald Trump calling Scomo the 'Titanium Man'. Apart from obviously building on the friendship, what Bridget do you hope that this visit will bring in terms of concrete results for Australia?
McKENZIE: Well, we've already seen those results being manifested in the space announcement and seeing those long term innovation jobs secured through the space supply chain. But I think it really goes to the strategic alliance and the importance of our long-term relationship. Titanium - a great moniker, I think for the PM - because it is also found on meteorites, so really I think looks towards the future and also underpins our strong co-investment, not just strategically and through the wars we have fought together, but our economic ties. It is a $1.6 trillion dollar, two-way relationship so it is very important for us to not just remember our historic ties but to build a strong future together.
KNIGHT: And in terms of Donald Trump - he is a divisive figure, he's unpredictable - what do you think Tanya in seeing them being so cosy together? Are you glad that Australia and the US are so close, that Scomo and ‘Trumpy’ are getting on the way they are?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it is important for Australia and the United States to have a good, strong relationship and we've seen that over successive Prime Ministerships - Bob Hawke was great friends with Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr; Barack Obama and Julia Gillard, of course, were very good friends - that's good for our relationship with the United States, our most important strategic partner. It doesn't mean that we don't have an independent foreign policy though. I think it is important that the Prime Minister can pick up the phone to the President of the United States but our decisions need to be based on our own best interests, always.
KNIGHT: And do you think that is definitely going to be the case here? Because obviously, we are walking a fine diplomatic line here, being cosy with the US, but obviously, having such a strong trade relationship with China?
McKENZIE: Yeah, absolutely, I mean our economic partnership with China, you know, is fabulous and it's led to great amount of prosperity both for China and indeed Australia. One in five jobs is related to trade and the PM has been really clear that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can respect our economic partnership with China and have our views around that and also be a strong, strategic alliance partner with the US.
PLIBERSEK: Look, it will be well worth the Prime Minister, while he is in the United States, emphasising with President Trump that no one wins in a trade war and it would terrific if the United States and China came to a better accommodation. At the moment, the conflict between those two nations is impacting on the Australian economy and the global economy. It is not good for anyone.
KNIGHT: Now here at home, the drought, obviously, is hitting very hard. We've got a special report coming up on the show a bit later from Jessica Millward, our reporter in Queensland, about that desperate water shortage - Day Zero, with many communities about to run out of water all together. You're Agriculture Minister Bridget, in terms of what can be done now, how can we help these communities?
McKENZIE: Well, you're dead right, the drought is, you know, really tough out there, particularly in Queensland where they have been dry for upwards of seven years and increasingly in western New South Wales. And we have seen state governments, particularly just recently in New South Wales, saying they are going to be trucking two million litres of water and making sure those country towns don't run out, which is critical for making sure that everybody can continue to get the kids clean and that sort of human need. But we need to make sure that we are supporting these communities, not just in the immediate term with Farm Household Allowance and low interest rate loans, but into the long term. Once the rains do come, we want to make sure our farming communities are sustainable and vibrant, which is why we've put in Drought Communities program into the communities to keep money going around the small businesses there. But also our farmers are viable and that their mental health is such that when the rains come they can actually get back to a productive capacity. So we're in there for the long haul. I think we've got a range of initiatives that go from right the immediacy at the farm gate, to the community and well into the recovery phase with our $5 billion Future Drought Fund.
PLIBERSEK: Well I have to say, I mean this a shocking time for farmers and for country communities and Bridget's talking about a bunch of stuff. I'm really distressed that more has not been done for farmers. You've had a Drought Summit, a Drought Coordinator, a Drought Envoy, there's a Drought Future Fund that doesn't - it was set up in 2018 - doesn't actually spend any money til 2020. Take the Drought Envoy - that's Barnaby Joyce - was told before the election he could be the 'Drought Envoy', he could travel around Australia, we've seen no report from Barnaby Joyce about his work. Wouldn't that money, Bridget, have been better spent actually helping people on the ground, rather than having a Summit, a Coordinator, an Envoy, and a Future Fund that doesn't actually spend any money until 2020.
KNIGHT: It's a fair point - we know what's wrong can't we just fix it?
McKENZIE: But the reality is money is flowing into those communities right now, not that there are actually -
PLIBERSEK: People are being kicked off Income Support.
McKENZIE: - money going right now to over 12,000 farmers who are on Farm Household Allowance.
PLIBERSEK: And people are being ...
McKENZIE: There are over 20 councils who are drought affected who are receiving a million dollars each to make sure their small businesses are actually having money clicking through them while the farmers are doing it tough. And then we're actually looking at the long term, because this won't be the last time our country goes through the drought, so that we're better prepared for the next time, so at every single stage ...
PLIBERSEK: And it's important to do that long term work ...
MCKENZIE: - we've got a measure to actually assist farmers.
PLIBERSEK: But it's important to do that long term work, I absolutely agree. What I'm concerned about are people facing losing benefits now and with all of these - the Envoy, the Coordinator, the Summit - Bridget, you cannot say that enough is being done in our country communities now. People are giving up in despair and walking away from farms that have been in the family for generations.
McKENZIE: You know, I've been in a regional community during a drought during the 80's and it was shocking. We were shooting stock, you know you'd have one bath once a week and it'd have to the five of us, heaven help who was last. That's the reality of living through a drought in our community. I think we're doing it better than we did it back then. Are there things we can actually work on and improve? Yes there are, but it's also the state governments that are involved in actually getting this water infrastructure built.
KNIGHT: Building dams.
McKENZIE: Exactly. And unfortunately, the Commonwealth just can't get on our diggers and our graders and march into New South Wales and Queensland to get these dams built. We have to do it in partnership and that's what we want to do so we're better prepared for next time.
KNIGHT: Have a look at the report that's coming out on the show shortly, it's really hard hitting and it shows the impact it's having on these communities so it’s well worth a bit of a watch, coming up shortly. Now I want to end on a bit of a lighter note. Have a look at this, a husband is in real hot water for doing this. He built a shed in the backyard, but he built it right outside the bedroom window. So the view of the garden was completely gone and his furious wife has posted online saying "He says it can't be moved, please give me ideas about decorating or potentially burning it down." Tanya what do you reckon? What should she do and he do here?
PLIBERSEK: Well I guess you could plant a screen of bamboo in front of it or something. But I can tell you for sure that that would not happen at our place, because my husband, he's a great husband, he's a great father, but DIY is absolutely not his thing. If there was anyone building a shed it would be me.
KNIGHT: Right. Well you're probably lucky in that regard. What about you Bridget?
McKENZIE: Well I think you've got two choices - put him in the man cave or have him in the house. So if the choice is man cave, I'd get either a new set of curtains or get out the paintbrush.
KNIGHT: Or put him out there in the shed ...
McKENZIE: Get out the paintbrush.
KNIGHT: But then she'd probably have a view of the mess that he's created to add the insult of that as well.
McKENZIE: Shut the door.
KNIGHT: Fail. Absolute fail. Thank you so much for coming in.
KNIGHT: Thank you so much for your company.