ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: But now on the Queensland Country Hour we have David Littleproud, the Agriculture Minister. Hello, David.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Gidday, Arlie.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: And Julie Collins, she's an MP from Tasmania. She's the Opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture. Welcome to the Beef City. Have you been here before?
JULIE COLLINS: I've been to Rocky before; I've not been to Beef Australia before. So, it's terrific to be here.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Well done. Lovely to have you with us. First to you, David Littleproud. You've been talking about the beef industry, indeed, it's a cash cow - pure cash, I think you've said in an interview already today. How important is the industry? And how, how much do you stand by your track record, as a Government, in supporting it?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, it's 15 billion of our 66 billion. So beef is, is enormous, particularly for Queensland, and it's actually been punching above its weight. So let's put it in perspective. Two years ago, we lost half a million head in the north west Queensland floods. We've had drought, that's nailed us. And then we've had fires. We've fought back, and you know what? The fact that we've now had some rain and it's changed the psychology of regional and rural Australia overnight, but we've got our producers, our cockies, prepared to go and invest. And they are. And they're here spending money, and that's just not for our farmers, that drives regional and rural Australia, drives the businesses that support them. So, you know, I think the fact that we, as a Government, committed $11 billion to support them through drought, over $2 billion from the fires, and $3.3 billion for the floods we're getting a return on investment as we speak, and that's a return on investment to the Australian taxpayers - it's Australian taxpayers' money that we were charged with the responsibility of, of putting out there to support beef and support agriculture. And you know what? That return on investment is being paid back now, because if it wasn't for agriculture, if it wasn't for resources, we wouldn't be out of this recession the way we are.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: You've announced some money today. What's that?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, this is the first of a few announcements we're going to make - $200,000 to CQ University around traceability, and that's about making sure we can give our customers the confidence of where our beefs come from, the paddock right through to the plate. But it's also going to be an important cog in our biosecurity, in making sure that we have a biosecurity outbreak, that we're able to trace, track quickly, and then be able to act quickly. And tomorrow we'll be, the Prime Minister and I'll be announcing significant package around biosecurity, which will be the cornerstone of this year's budget.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: We'll have more on that in the Queensland Country Hour too. David Littleproud, thank you for that. Also, when talking about views on the beef industry, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have, have said that, regrettably, Beef Australia is still continuing. They've pointed to what it is calling as a cruel congregation of cattle. What do you say to that?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: They're irrelevant. There's no point to give them any oxygen at all. Our beef producers are the most sustainable and ethical in the world, and I'll stand by them every day of the week. So, mobs like that can, can do what they want, but we shouldn't be talking about them at all.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Julie Collins, I'll just go over to you. Obviously, Julie Collins, the Opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture, your view on, on PETA's view. They've put that out on the Internet today.
JULIE COLLINS: Well, that said some interesting things in the past. I mean, I have a place in my electorate called Egans Bay- Eggs and Bacon Bay that they wanted to change the name of because it offended people. I mean, it really is at that point. I mean, as the Minister has said, you know, the beef industry is really important to Australia, and you know, we're here showing our support for the producers of beef in Australia.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: You're in opposition. How much support would you lend this sector?
JULIE COLLINS: Absolutely. We support the sector and I'm busy today talking to beef producers, and talking to them about what Government can do; and what role Government should play in supporting them in the sector and the industry; and what things Government needs to get out of the way of; what things are actually hindering their growth as producers here in Australia. So, it's been terrific and they've been very generous in their discussions with me today, and it's just terrific to be here.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Julie Collins, just to touch, particularly on an aspect of the beef industry, your party's policy on live export, and your feelings toward that. What is that? Obviously, in the beef industry it does underpin, and particularly in Queensland, people have told us time and time again of the value of the live export industry at the moment. What's your party's view?
JULIE COLLINS: Well, I'm busy talking to people, as I said, about that. last election, of course, we did have a policy in relation to sheep, it was not in relation to beef, and I want to make very clear that it wasn't in relation to beef. And I've been talking to the sector, and I've been talking to the Export Council about live exports generally, and I'm also obviously talking to those people that are concerned about animal welfare. And I think most Australians are concerned about animal welfare. I mean, we all want the animals to be protected and to be looked after and treated well. But I also think that's what the producers want. You know, they want to treat the animals well. So I think that we're all heading in the same direction. We just, I think the traceability stuff will help, but I think we need to do a little bit more to make sure that what we're exporting overseas, we can be confident that the supply chain is that the animals are being treated well.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: People in the sector have put forward to me that perhaps if live sheep are banned, it could be the thin edge of the wedge and perhaps go the same way as New Zealand and ban live export altogether. Can you…
JULIE COLLINS: Well, Labor hasn't said that that's our policy at the moment, in relation to sheep at all. What I'm saying is I am talking to the sector and to people. But let's be clear, the difference in exporting beef to near neighbours is very different from exporting sheep to the Middle East - they' two very different things.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Julie Collins, further to that, we've met and we'll hear from them very soon, a Tasmanian producer who have- who's a star exhibitor in fact, has bought their cattle all the way…
JULIE COLLINS: I'm very pleased to hear that.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: There you go. Represent.
JULIE COLLINS: He's a proud Tasmanian, here in the great state of Queensland.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Well done. Julie Collins, thank you very much for your time on the Country Hour. David Littleproud, just quickly to you and a question without notice, because we are going to speak to the CEO of Telstra very soon. To a story that we had on the Country Hour last week with regard to Telstra. You, in the electorate of Maranoa, have been batting for some people there who have talked about connectivity. You, in fact, described it as a situation of life and death, really. Have you had further chats with, with Andy Penn?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, I've had further correspondence with Andy about it being substandard at best. I mean, he's evaded the questions; he's evaded the opportunity to set the record straight; to make the investment that he is paid to do. So I'm very candid about this and I've been very candid to Andy's face and anyone else. My people are hurting, but it's not just in Maranoa. We're feeling this even in the, in the perri urban areas of Sydney - they're now jumping up and down, saying that there's been under investment. There is $270 million a year for a universal service obligation for them to make sure that we have the services we expect. If they don't get it, then they get out of the road and let someone else do it. And we are now looking at the USG to make sure that we can reform it, to ensure that Australians, particularly in regional Australia, are not forgotten and get what they deserve. Because this is a universal service, and unfortunately it hasn't been provided to them. So Telstra has either got to ship up, or ship out.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: Is there a timeframe on the universal service obligation?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: It's being reviewed as we speak. It comes to the end of a contract, as I understand, in 2025. But I think there's an opportunity for us to say, you know what, let's tear it up. If they can't do the job, if they're not doing the job - in fact, we've had a Productivity Commission report that found that they were putting some of that $270 million into landlines in metropolitan areas where there's no commercial failure. So they, they have been tricky at best. So Telstra need to ship up or get out of the way and let us get on with someone else to take that contract, and look to extend that to mobile phones. Because what we've done is, there's now a whole lot of mobile phone towers that the Australian taxpayers put up there that Telstra are enjoying the use of, but there's no obligation on them to maintain them. They've done a pretty ord- well, not a pretty ord- they did a damn ordinary job in being able to maintain them. I've got communities where they are falling down day after day and they're not being fixed for weeks upon months. But when you go back to even just a landline, and you've got people in western Queensland that cannot call a flying doctor or an ambulance, they have failed. And that is the simple fact of it, and they can't sugarcoat it with corporate spin anymore. They get on with the job or get out of the way.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: David Littleproud, thank you very much for your time.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Thank you.
ARLIE FELTON-TAYLOR: But it's a rather, to say the very least, a rather strong sentiment from the Federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud.