Interview with Lisa Millar, ABC News Breakfast

2 November 2020

LISA MILLAR: Queensland's Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is working to finalise details of her new ministry after her emphatic weekend election victory.

DAVID SPEERS: But with the highest unemployment rate in the country, one of the first challenges will be fostering an economic recovery and that will include setting a time frame to reopen fully to other states. For more, Federal Agriculture Minister and Queensland Nationals MP, the Deputy Nationals Leader in fact, David Littleproud, joins us now. Good morning to you. You've been highly critical for a long time about the Queensland border closure. Do you think the voters of Queensland, therefore, got it wrong?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No, I don't, David. My criticism has been not necessarily about just broad border closures, but actually having it localised. I don't necessarily say we should open up to every part of the country, we should predicating that decision on science, and make sure that’s transparent, and in fact should be peer tested. And I think we've got the APPHC, we've got a Chief Medical Officer at Commonwealth level - we should be able to have that conversation in a transparent way. So I think the Premier did a great job during the campaign of articulating her sole message, which was keeping Queenslanders safe. That’s what she did, she did it well, I've got to say - she prosecuted it well. But unfortunately what we’ve got to understand is we, not just have to keep ourselves safe, but we also have to keep the economy going because the states can easily say and stick to that mantra. But unfortunately it's the Commonwealth Government and the Australian taxpayer who's got to pay for it.

DAVID SPEERS: Let me ask you about the LNP - a setback of course, more than a setback losing three elections in a row. Do you think after three defeats it is worth reconsidering the LNP merger, splitting back to separate Liberal and National parties? Or is that not something you think needs to be reviewed?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I think the only ones the review that are the party members - and that's the beauty of the LNP, and particularly the National Party as I'm the Deputy Leader of. But you've got to appreciate that in Queensland, we have a unicameral parliamentary system, which is only one house of government, and that makes it difficult. Because the reason we did merge was that when Labor got in, they changed the voting system to be just vote one, and then we had three-cornered contest, and that made it difficult for us to defeat Labor. So I think that's a conversation for the members, and that’s one that will be driven by the members - but it’s important to have continued regional representation.

DAVID SPEERS: But you’re view- just quickly, what your view is stick with the merged LNP?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, my view has to be predicated on a federal one, not on a state one. I don’t think it’s fair of for me to predicate my view on a state level when you have a unicameral parliamentary system. At federal level we're uniquely able to, when we go to Canberra, sit in different party rooms and be able to clearly enunciate regional policy into that joint party room, and that's a very powerful mechanism for regional MPs, particularly from Queensland to be able to do, as well on behalf of the National Party.

DAVID SPEERS: A few other things. You would have seen reports this morning about Australian live lobsters being stuck on a tarmac in China. Do you know much more about this? Have they been caught up in another trade dispute?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well that's what we're trying to ascertain. We have serious concerns about this and we'll be asking serious questions of Chinese officials. We've become aware of this in the last couple of days, and my department and our officials in Beijing have been working through to get clarification on that. We don’t believe that there were ...

DAVID SPEERS: So what have you established? Sorry, just to clarify, have you worked out that there are actually lobsters stuck on the tarmac still? What do you actually know?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: As we understand, they have actually now imposed an inspection of all quantities, from 50 to 100 per cent I should say, of rock lobster that’s going into China. We're are now trying to ascertain, they're saying that that is because they want to understand whether there's trace elements of minerals and metals in it. And we quite clearly will be able to demonstrate, because we test before they go, that that is not the case. So we're asking why this action is being taken against Australian rock lobster as we've asked around the cotton issue, around understanding that officials were telling those importers not to bring in cotton from Australia. 
So we need to get clarification of that because we're a fair country. We play by WTO rules and we expect those that we trade with also do that. So we expect China to play by WTO rules, and if they don't, well then obviously we'll have to make consideration with industry around what our next action is around the independent umpire, being the WTO, and what we would do next.

DAVID SPEERS: All right. So you might consider WTO action over this, but in the interim, while you're waiting for that clarification, are you saying to lobster exporters just hold off for now?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, obviously that's a commercial decision that they'll make. But if you’re going to send rock lobsters-

DAVID SPEERS: They'll need advice, though. Don’t they?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well exactly, and that's the advice that we're giving them, in that this is going to take some time to get clarifications from Chinese officials-

DAVID SPEERS: So don't try and send any lobsters now?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well ultimately, that will be a commercial decision that they make, but they need to be able to make that decision with the understanding that it may take up to a couple of days to get those rock lobsters into the markets that they're importing into.

DAVID SPEERS: Just a final issue. You ripped into the ANZ Bank the other day for announcing that it wanted to- a new climate approach in terms of its big customers. You even threatened to remove the government's bank guarantee. Were you serious about that? Is that something you and the Nationals will push for here? Or was this just, I guess, a bit of blowing off steam about this? What are you actually going to do about it?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well obviously we're going to continue to monitor this, but governments should predicate policies, not banks, and they shouldn't do that with an arbitrary measure of turning off the capital tap - that's a blunt instrument that can destroy the economy. And it's not for them to have the moral compass and be the moral arbiters of our society - that's what the Australian people elect governments to do. This isn’t about whether we should reduce emissions or not. We believe we should reduce emissions, but we have a policy to do that. We shouldn't have banks come over the top. Now if banks provide institutions-

DAVID SPEERS: But the banks, Minister, are being told by the Reserve Bank and other regulators that they need to do something. The Reserve Bank said just last month, climate change…

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No. They’ve been told that- they’ve been told to-

DAVID SPEERS: … is exposing the financial institutions and the financial system to risks that will rise over time. These risks for financial stability may arise, they need to be addressed. I mean, that's the Reserve Bank.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No, David, I think you're overreaching there around what the regulatory-

DAVID SPEERS: I'm quoting.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, David, with respect, with respect of what the regulatory framework is around risk management for banks, is not about imposing a capital will on the Australian economy. It is about them understanding the risks in when they lend money to the Australian economy. Their job in the Australian economy - a privileged one - is to lend money and to make sure that someone can pay it back. It is not to pass a moral compass from well-heeled CEOs and board members of their own philosophical view. You should let the Australian Government do that. We have a clear pathway to reduce emissions and we will stick to that pathway because we have made international commitments around that, and we won't deviate from that.

DAVID SPEERS: David Littleproud, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for joining us this morning.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Good to be with you.