Interview with David Dowsett, ABC Wide Bay

4 November 2021

DAVID DOWSETT: What if you're in need of a hand with your admin? Assistance is arriving soon on a 20-ton truck. Desert Rose is the Services Australia mobile support service, and it's on the road to the South Burnett. David. Littleproud is the Deputy Leader of the Nationals and the Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia. David Littleproud, good morning.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Good morning. Good to be with you.

DAVID DOWSETT: Desert Rose heading to the South Burnett. What can people expect when it arrives?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah. Look, it's been in Blackbutt and Yarraman for the last couple of days now, it moves on to the Nanango. This is just about taking the services to the people. It's on the back of a truck, mind you. Effectively we've got Centrelink and Services Australia people there that will help people navigate through the paperwork, whether that be for Centrelink, Medicare, or even child support. So, if those that find online services challenging or simply wait until they have to go to a bigger centre like Kingaroy, this is an opportunity for them to actually reach out to the Services Australia professionals that are there, help them navigate the paperwork, and get it all processed there and there on the spot.

DAVID DOWSETT: Is there a really big demand for mobile services like this?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah. Look, in the disaster season, we normally place them up, particularly in northern Australia, where we might see a cyclone or some major event. So that we do use them, there's three of them that we have them travelling around the country, ready to go into where disasters have struck. But when, obviously in the off season, we try and move them around, and move them around the country into smaller communities that don't have Services Australia offices in their community, so that they do have the opportunity, people do have the opportunity to see Services Australia personnel face to face and have that ability to do that, rather than having to travel or to do it online.

DAVID DOWSETT: Of course, a big challenge for people at the moment is figuring out how to get their vaccinations certificates. Can they get help with that at Desert Rose?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah. So, obviously, a whole range of services there being able to help navigate through that, whether that be a digital certificate or organising the physical certificates. And that's more than just the Centrelink service, it goes into Medicare and child support. So, these men and women that are travelling the country are able to help anybody with those types of federal government and necessities that they do need.

DAVID DOWSETT: So, for information about where the bus will actually be, where should people go for that?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Look, the local council will be able to provide that for you where we're located. But it is in Nanango for the next couple of days, …


DAVID LITTLEPROUD: …on the 4th and 5th. But it, obviously, we work with local authorities about where we can place the bus as close as we can to the main street. But we are saying that we're working with these local authorities to make sure that we get the locations right that's accessible but is also safe.

DAVID DOWSETT: Okay, so that's the Desert Rose. There was really big news yesterday, with Australia's High Court finding that the higher rate of tax for working holiday makers is discriminatory and breaches a double tax agreement with the UK. What was your reaction to that finding?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, obviously, the Government respects the High Court's decision. That's a law of the land, and as I understand, the ATO is now working through that judgement and will make further announcements in the near future about how they rectify that. So, obviously, they'll be decisions made by the ATO and the Federal Government will be expecting ATO adhere by that finding.

DAVID DOWSETT: So, can we expect back payments to backpackers who've worked in Australia?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, those are the things that the ATO now have to work through. And obviously it's not all backpackers that have been here, there's around eight countries that are- that we have special arrangements with the, as I understand, that the High Court has made a determination on. And so, the ATO will now work through that as quickly as they can and work through the findings and make further announcements very soon.

DAVID DOWSETT: David Littleproud, thanks very much.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Thanks for having me.

DAVID DOWSETT: David Littleproud, Deputy Leader of the Nationals and the Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia.