CHRIS KENNY: Now as we speak Federal Cabinet is meeting yet again considering more measures on the economy and to prevent the spread of this pandemic. So just before they went into that meeting, I caught up with the Agriculture Minister and Emergency Response Minister, David Littleproud from Queensland
David Littleproud, thanks for joining me. First up, your reaction to the Reserve Bank's interventions, what can this do? It's really their last shot in the locker, isn't it?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well obviously that along with the stimulus that the Federal Government has provided, the $17.6 billion already and there'll be more stimulus to come. Obviously the RBA has made this determination. It's now important that the banks pass this on. We all have to do our bit in these times and particularly for the agricultural sector, it's important that the banks pass this on to those agricultural loans to help those farmers who are recovering from drought and fire and flood up in north west Queensland recently. This is an opportunity for them to do their bit for the agricultural sector, which is the foundation stone of keeping our nation safe through food security at the moment. It's important the agricultural sector is supported through it. It's shown its resilience, and we should be damn proud of our farmers. And we're coming out the other end of a recovery and we'll help this nation recover quicker because of the resilience of the agricultural sector in particular. But the banks can play a role in that.
CHRIS KENNY: Well give us a picture of what's going on here. You are the Agriculture Minister, the Drought and Emergency Response Minister, as you mentioned we're coming out of a drought which will perhaps be passed or declared, passed in coming months, obviously we've had a horrible summer of bushfires. Large parts of regional Australia hit very hard, how are they being impacted in the here and now with the additional problems of the coronavirus pandemic?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, look Chris it's important to understand we're not out of the drought yet. It'll take two or three average years to help cash flows recover. But rain has just changed the psychology like that. It's amazing where those that have had rain the confidence is changed overnight, that we're going to produce the best food and fibre in the world again in large quantities when the world needs it the most. So that's changed the psyche significantly and the confidence. And that's important. More follow up rain is also important. But let me say that obviously regional and rural communities are feeling the impacts of this coronavirus as well, it takes longer to hit out here. But it is- we are feeling those impacts. In fact, we're seeing people from metropolitan Australia getting on buses and coming and coming out and cleaning out our supermarkets. That's the craziness that's taken place over the last 48 hours. But we're rather resilient to this and I know that the communities work closely together and it's very quick for those communities to understand if there are health issues. And they bind together very quickly to react and make sure that we isolate those that need to be isolated. But those that don't, there's a calmness out here that I think the rest of Australia should take a good hard look at. A calmness of getting on with the job, making a dollar for this nation, making a dollar for themselves and ensuring that there is some continuity to our nation's economy and to our society.
CHRIS KENNY: Well we want to see that calmness. We want to encourage that calmness. But what about the antithesis of that? This raiding of supermarkets, as you've suggested. Your colleague the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, says people will be prosecuted if it looks like they're hoarding for financial gain. Just how widespread is this? We've heard of some of the smaller towns just out of Sydney, Lithgow and the like, other towns just out of Melbourne in the Latrobe Valley and the like where, yeah, busloads of people have come out to strip the shelves of those supermarkets. This is not only not very calm; it does seem to be un-Australian.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well these people are parasites, Chris, make no mistake. They are taking advantage of the circumstance, of the panic that has set in. It's unfounded. You've got to understand we're a nation of 25 million people who produce enough food for 75 million. This is just stupidity that we are lining up trying to get the last morsel of meat, the last toilet roll or the last product from the grocer. The only stress that's coming on our supply chains are from people panicking, and I just say to people: use this thing called common sense. We are not going to run out of food. We have the greatest food security of any nation in the world because of what our primary producers do. There is no issue around this. And those that want to go and take advantage of this need to be prosecuted, and I support Peter Dutton in this. But I'm also calling on eBay and Facebook to pull these parasites' Facebook posts and eBay posts down, break their business model. And to those Australians that go and buy it, don't be so damn stupid as to do that. If you actually show some calmness, you'll be able to get those goods at the supermarket. As people calm down, go back to their normal shopping patterns, it'll all be there for them. So don't pay over the odds. Break these people's business model. But we're also going to go and prosecute them, and I applaud Peter Dutton for the proactive stance he's taken. I'll be standing shoulder to shoulder with him because it's also been seen just down the road here. I've heard only reports today that just outside Brisbane at Boonah, that there's been a busload that have come out from Brisbane and cleaned out the shops. You've got to understand that some of these communities, we're seeing people having to travel up to an hour and a half to come in to do their shopping once a week. And then when you get these parasites come and clean out the shop, they come in and they don't have what they're looking for in the shops. We don't expect to have the full range in some of our small country towns, but we do expect to have it on the shelf because we're calm, methodical, we understand how society works. But when these fringe elements impinge on it we've got to carve them out of society and carve them out quickly, and Peter Dutton is going to do a damn good job of doing it.
CHRIS KENNY: Well you say you want Facebook and eBay and the like to strip down pages where people are trying to on-sell products like toilet paper at inflated prices. But what are the laws? What laws are being broken here? How can people be prosecuted?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well obviously you need a permit to sell a lot of these items, and in fact I've just seen on social media only in the last two minutes that someone's been caught in New South Wales trying to pass off goods without a proper licence. And so, those prosecutions can take place. I understand Peter Dutton is exploring other options and I think the full force of the law through the states, co-operating with the states, working with the Australian Federal Police will be worked up very quickly to make sure we nip this in the bud. But again, each Australian can do their bit by not endorsing these parasites' business model by buying things off them. And Facebook and social media always run for cover. They always take a- they always take the low road and stay out of all this and try to stay out of the limelight. Well they've got a responsibility, a social responsibility to get involved in this, and start to police their own sites very quickly.
CHRIS KENNY: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud there. He'll now be in Cabinet through a secure phone line in Queensland joining Federal Cabinet as they meet now, discussing yet further measures to help the economy, to protect jobs, but also to halt the spread of this disease.