Interview with David Ilife, ABC Southern Queensland

22 December 2020

DAVID ILIFE: Good morning to you, Minister.

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

DAVID ILIFE: Yeah. Can I ask what does Fraser Island look like?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, pretty scarred. It's pretty tragic over here. Thankfully, no homes or premises were destroyed, but the landscape is severely scarred. And it's going to take time, but they're open for business, and I think that's what Queenslanders need to understand is they can go to Fraser Island and still enjoy it - there's plenty of people over here now enjoying it. And the best way to support them is to go over and to spend a dollar in the community and keep those tourist operators going. But it'll just take some time. We've had some rain over here, which is good, and that means that the landscape will recover quicker than normal. But the fires are out thanks to the rain. And this- we're looking up, I think, is the way we should think about it.

DAVID ILIFE: Minister, some new grants for 23 communities impacted by bushfires last year. Why? Why now? What's that about?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: So, this is a- the next phase of recovery. So, there's support when the bushfires hit between ourself and the state government - I congratulate the state government in partnering with us. So, there's disaster recovery arrangements that we have longstanding with all the states, but the Queensland Government and the Federal Government have partnered. So, when the bushfires hit, there's immediate support in terms of putting money in people's pockets just to give them the essentials and to give them some dignity and respect.

And then we look to the long term recovery, not just in terms of infrastructure, but looking to the community. And we think the best way to recover is not lead by Brisbane or from Canberra, from bureaucrats in those places, but actually let the community decide. So we're saying to small community groups, to local councils, non-government organisation; here's your opportunity to build back better, build your community with betterment and to get those projects that you wanted to build a more resilient society. So, that's projects up to $100,000, big or small. And we're saying to those community groups: come forward,
make your community stronger and better. And we acknowledge the fact this is part of the recovery process.

DAVID ILIFE:Gee, it's an enormous area [indistinct]. I mean, it's Brisbane City all the way up to Townsville, I mean, even the Whitsundays is on the list. It's a lot of communities

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: It is, and that just showed the extent of the bushfires. And more- a lot of the emphasis was on New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, quite rightly. We had our fair share here in Queensland - and I know, I live near Stanthorpe, and I can tell you it was devastating what happened through there. And so, we've got to understand, we haven't forgotten Queenslanders. And that's why I thank the Queensland Government for partnering with us. We've made sure that they aren't the forgotten ones out of the bushfire of the Black Summer that we went through, so it's important that those
communities now come forward and build back better.

DAVID ILIFE: Alright. And, Minister, just with those grants that are available, they're up and running now. I guess you've got to apply now, that sort of thing?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: That's right. Exactly. So, you can put your application in now through the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority, I think they call themselves these days - they change their names, like most departments, very often. But we let the state run these programs in terms of putting applications through, and then we sit through together and we'll assess those.

But we're just encouraging community groups to come forward. Don't be shy. This is an acknowledgement of the leadership role that you play in your community. So come forward, put forward those community projects so that we can hopefully support you and your community into the future.

DAVID ILIFE: Minister, can I ask you, I mean, the Federal Minister for Agriculture have seen all sorts of things happen in the last couple of months on the international trade scene. Are you a bit worried about the Australian wine sides of things?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, we are. And that's why we're saying to Australians this year: do your bit for the Australian wine industry, go and buy an extra bottle, have an extra glass, drink responsibly. But make sure you go to the bottle-o, or more importantly, even go to the local winery, because those little wineries have hurt because of COVID restrictions; people haven't been able to visit. And many of them have smoke taint as well, so, I mean, a lot of the 2020 vintage is, in fact, not there.

So, it's important that we all put our shoulder to the wheel, we support the wine industry this year, go and buy an extra bottle of Australian wine. Celebrate Christmas responsibly, but support Australian wineries, because they done it probably tougher than most - they've lost about $1.2 billion out of the Chinese market. And we're now working with them, and I'll be making actually an announcement tomorrow around further support on trade and diversification. So, we're working with industry, we've sat down and talked to them about how do we make things a little bit better and diversify these new markets. It's a quality product, and that's what you've got to understand; we will be able to sell it into other markets, it's just going to take time.

DAVID ILIFE: Yeah. Now, just on that, though, so I'm buying a bottle of wine at my local rubbity-dub, in the bottle-o that might have ended up in Wuhan or Shanghai, something like that. Will that price of it, though, be redressed to Australian prices? Because none of us are going to pay a couple hundred bucks, surely?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No. And this is the thing is, this is where some of the pain will be for the wine industry is the recalibration of prices. And there was a premium that they were getting in China. And we will continue to work through with them whether we go the WTO or not. There was some internal processes we need to exhaust before we go to the WTO
on wine - we're going there on barley, obviously.

And we'll take the advice of the wine industry. And I've got to congratulate them for their maturity and leadership. Tony Battaglene, the chair of Wine and Grape Australia has done an outstanding job in leading his industry through some very tough, trying time. So, we'll work with them about what we do next in terms of formal processes with China, but you will see a recalibration of prices.

DAVID ILIFE: What a year, Minister, aye?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah. 2020 can bugger off.

DAVID ILIFE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Don't let the door hit you on the way out sort of thing, aye? Alright.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yes, exactly.

DAVID ILIFE: Alright. Look, thanks for having a chat to us. I know you're a fairly busy lad this morning but thank you for your input into the program.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Anytime. Thanks. And thanks to the ABC for all your support, particularly through emergency management period, through disasters, you play a pivotal role in keeping Australians safe. So, thanks for all your support as well.

DAVID ILIFE: Good on you, Minister. Cheers. Minister David Littleproud, the Federal Minister for Agriculture, live from Fraser Island this morning on ABC Radio Queensland.