Interview with Jaynie Seal, Sky News

13 October 2021

JAYNIE SEAL: This week, the Australian Government announced they will provide $25 million to support agricultural shows and field days rebound after the forced cancellation of more than 700 agricultural shows since the start of the pandemic. Joining us live is Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud. Good morning, Minister.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Hi, good morning. Good to be with you.

JAYNIE SEAL: From chilly Stanthorpe, I've just looked it up, 14 degrees, a bit chilly there this morning.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: I reckon it feels more like 10 with a little breeze and a little bit of mist. But nonetheless, we're soldiering on.

JAYNIE SEAL: As you always do. Thank you so much for joining us. So it is round two of the event support program. How has this announcement been received?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Oh look, I think to those 50,000 men and women that volunteer to agricultural shows, this is an acknowledgement of their hard work. We put in $34 million last year for the first round of this when we had agricultural shows and field days cancelled because of COVID. There was still more that were cancelled again this year. And so we've topped that up to make sure that we can cover their fixed costs. This is just making sure that we understand and the community understands that they didn't get their income. Most of them only get one crack at an income every year. And when that's taken away, they still have those fixed costs that we want to help try and keep them- get them through. And so the shows will go on next year, and there's 12 million going to the royal shows in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra. We're hoping that Hobart will continue. And then there's nine going into the regional shows. There's also 4 million to top up the over 4 million we gave to the Showmen's Guild. They're the men and women that take all the rides around the country, and they've done it just as tough as the agricultural shows. So this is just an acknowledgement that we're trying to keep them going, keeping them connected to these small country shows, because it's no show without a few rides for the kids and some of the kids at heart. And so this is just making sure that we understand that we need to keep these agricultural shows going, acknowledge the hard work of those volunteers, and connecting the city to the bush, particularly with those rural shows. Because that's our one way to break down the city-country divide, is letting city people understand what we do, how we do it, and they should be just as proud as what we are of what we produce.

JAYNIE SEAL: And you do such great shows, they attract around 6 million patrons, as you mentioned, volunteers up to around 50,000. We just heard from the Premier Dominic Perrottet, and he said that because of the high vaccination rates across the state, there is a chance that we could see regional travel being brought forward. We are looking at to have that announcement by Friday. So Friday, so yeah, certainly things are starting to look a little bit more normal.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, they are. And I've got to say, New South Wales has led the way with vaccinations. And up here in Queensland, we're still dragging the chain and we just need the Premier to step up and do what Gladys and Dom have done down there. Because not only do we need regional travel into- between states, but also we need it across the country, and it's important that borders open up and we allow people to travel, and particularly those that have properties, agricultural properties on other side of the borders. They need to make money, they need to make investment decisions to get to their properties, and there's also animal welfare issues. So the only way to do that is to get the vaccination rates up. New South Wales has led the way. Queensland's been a little complacent. That's been because we haven't had it up here, but Delta is coming, make no mistake. And when it does, it's going to mean lockdowns unless we can get those vaccinations up. The vaccines are there. They are ready for- to be- anyone to take up. But we just need to make sure the states push this hard now, particularly in Queensland, to get those rates up so we can move and get back to normal.

JAYNIE SEAL: Prime Minister Scott Morrison's net zero emissions plan for 2050 is set to go to Cabinet on Wednesday. Are you confident Barnaby Joyce will land a deal with the Nationals to lock in a net zero target before Glasgow?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, Barnaby Joyce won't be accepting any deal unless the National Party party room accepts it. No individual will make a determination of that. We are a party room of 21. We all sit down pragmatically to work through the roadmap that the Prime Minister and Angus Taylor has prepared. Both the Deputy Prime Minister and myself have seen it, Cabinet will see it today and then at some juncture in the very near future, it will be presented to the party room. And then the party room will make a determination about what that looks like, the impact on regional Australia. And then we'll obviously have discussions with our coalition partners, but no individual will be making any deal. It'll be a deal with the National Party party room. And once that's done, we'll obviously make sure that regional Australia is protected.

JAYNIE SEAL: Alright. And certainly, let's have a look at some other news. Tasmania becoming the first state to legally, in fact, pledge net zero by 2030. What are your thoughts, Minister? Should other states follow?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, that's up to them, they're sovereign governments, and we respect that. But obviously as a national government, it's a little bit more complex for a Federal Government that has greater jurisdiction over the economy. And that's why what we try to do is put together technology roadmap that relies on technology, not taxes, to be able to meet our international commitments. We've got a proud record. We've met Kyoto. We're going to not just meet Paris, we'll beat Paris. And the important thing is, if we make a further commitment, we need to be able to look people square in the eyes and tell them how they're going to get there. There's a lot of countries that have signed up to net zero emissions, but only a few can tell you how they're going to get there. So we want to be honest and transparent with the Australian people and the global community, otherwise you don't have standing. It impacts your trading arrangements and also your funding of capital. So we want to get this right, and we want to make sure that regional Australia doesn't foot the bill because it did last time. But the Prime Minister has given the National Party much comfort by the fact that he said that regional rural Australia won't foot the bill this time. 
So we'll just work through that roadmap with our National Party colleagues over the coming days and make sure that we can all get comfort and understanding the impact on our local communities, and then make a pragmatic decision. But if individual states decide to do it, that's well and good and we congratulate them on that. So long as they're transparent about how they get there and who pays for it. I think that should be the Australian way - not only domestically but also internationally.

JAYNIE SEAL: Because we heard a top farming organisation this week, asking the Morrison Government to pay back billions of dollars it owes to farmers, costly emissions reduction. Do they need to pay it back before the Glasgow climate change summit?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, this relates to vegetation management laws that are imposed by state governments and in fact, those credits haven't actually been used as yet, in terms of us meeting and beating Paris, and Kyoto. There is a debate that's going on around their use. But the history of those is that 20 years ago, the federal government provided state governments, through the National Heritage Trust, funded by the sale of Telstra, $350 million. That was to provide those states with the opportunity to be able to give that money to the farmers, if they saw fit. Some states actually sought further funding. In Queensland, my home state, they tried to shake the federal government down for an extra $100 million. But the federal government said that $350 million was to be used for anything that they wanted to do in terms of vegetation management laws. That was well within their rights. That was what the fund was set up for. So this is a matter that the state governments need to appreciate, they have a role to play with farming groups. And I know from discussions I've had with Fiona Simson that we, we'll be sitting down with Angus Taylor and working through some of these issues and understanding them. They are different scaled credits as well. It's important to appreciate they aren't tradeable, the ones that have been created because of vegetation management, but they are real and we need to make sure that we work with the states and the NFF to ensure that there is an appreciation of what has been done and what has been achieved.

JAYNIE SEAL: The Australian Government is going to invest more than $11 million to the Future Drought Fund's Drought Resilience Leaders program, and you have an announcement on the leadership for the Future Drought Fund today?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, this is about the $5 billion Future Drought Fund that we put in place to make sure that we're supporting rural communities even when it has rained, because drought starts the very first day after it stops raining. And so our national drought strategy, which supports farmers in the here and now, the communities that support them and the third pillar of the Future Drought Fund gives a dividend of $100 million a year, is being spent every year because what we've done is created this fund governed by an independent panel that then goes and talks to the community, and one of the things the community was telling them was they wanted rural leadership in times of hardship. It's not government that does all the work. It's actually the community that comes together and you need rural leaders to do that. And the Australian Rural Leaders Foundation is one of those organisations that has great currency in rural communities, in building the resilience and building the leadership of, particularly young people, who've been able to step up in times of hardship and lead their communities through it. So this investment is just giving those young men and women, the tools and the mentors to be able to help their communities through tough times. And this is an investment in building the resilience into the future. But it's one small cog of the $100 million dividends that we put out every year, but a very important one in the investment in our most precious capital, which is our human capital and those men and women right across regional Australia.

JAYNIE SEAL: Alright. Well, plenty to get through, and you're off on a plane very soon. Where are you off to after this interview?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, off to Dalby to turn a sod on a new entertainment centre. There's $7 million the Federal Government's provided and then out to Roma, where we've put $1.7 million into LifeFlight to put a new hangar there. They do an amazing job in saving people's lives in times of emergency. And then we've got a big announcement in Charleville on Saturday with Kurt Capewell, who's going at the home boy, who won a premiership with the Panthers is going- coming home to Kurtsville or, as they call it now, rather than Charleville. And we've got a bit of a surprise for the people of Charleville, as well as Kurt being there. The council out there, Zoro the mayor has done an outstanding job and we've got a big announcement for the people of Charleville on Saturday.

JAYNIE SEAL: Alright. Lots of big announcements. We'll have to listen up. But yes, very good indeed. We're looking forward to a lot of entertainment; we certainly need it. As you mentioned at the start of this interview, we just haven't seen many events at all, obviously, because of COVID. So what are people saying in terms of getting out and getting back, you know, onto the merry go rounds and the ferris wheels and having a Pluto pups?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, look, I think people are excited. They just- they want to get back to as normal as we can, and the only way to do that's vaccines. And we've got to understand, here in Queensland, there isn't the appreciation of what you guys have gone through down south. But it will happen and it will come unless we get these vaccines. And so I think there's an appreciation of that, slow appreciation that they have to do something about it, but it's about making sure we keep these communities alive. And the best way to do that is to come together. After times of hardship, I think particularly it'd be great to see a lot of you guys down south being able to get in the car, come up and come together and get together as a country once again, rather than lines on a map dictating where we can and can't go. So, I think everyone's cautiously optimistic. We need a bit more rain, a few jabs and Australia will be up and going again.

JAYNIE SEAL: You make it sound so simple. Yeah, well, I've got family in Queensland, like so many others. Yeah, just have a jab. You know, get that border up and running. But-

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, exactly.

JAYNIE SEAL: It could be simple, but hey, it would be- I don't know. It's getting there. It's getting there. It's certainly on the up and up.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: It should be simple. It should be simple. But- exactly.

JAYNIE SEAL: Yeah. We'll leave it at that, hey? Thank you so much, Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud. Always great to see you.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, thanks for having me.

JAYNIE SEAL: Pleasure.