Interview with Paul Murray, Triple M

8 November 2021

PAUL MURRAY: But David Littleproud is the Deputy Nationals Leader, and he joins us now on the phone. David, nice to talk to you.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yeah, good to talk to you too, mate.

PAUL MURRAY: Plenty to fire up about and plenty to talk about right now. But let's talk here about the scenario right now over- of borders and more frustrations that are playing out right now. How do you feel about in western Australia, where they're reopening plan is going to, well, put the country back together, most likely end of January, start of February, where - of course - when all the cases, well, slowly trickle back into western Australia, they'll turn around and blame the Federal Government? How much of politics do you think plays into the West Australian Government's decision to lock the rest of the country out?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, it's total politics. And while it's work for Mark McGowan, the reality is we have to come back together as a country. It's time to forget about this individualism, populist politics and actually come back as a nation. Our Federation was simply lines put on a map 120 years ago, and modern Australia's moved past that. And those businesses and those families - and I've got family in Western Australia I can't see - at some point have to come back to the rest of the country. And while I think they've got budget surplus, iron ore's king at the moment, but when it doesn't, they're going to need eastern Australia at some point and they need to understand that we are one nation, and we have to come back together. And they're doing the same in Queensland, we've got the same issues in Queensland, but these premiers who preyed on the fear and anxiety of Australians during these tough times now have to realise they have to let us free and open up again.
And that's all we're saying to these premiers. You've got the science, the Doherty Institute clearly tells you that at 80 per cent we can go and we can be free and you should do that. And the fact that they're trying to say that their health systems can't support it, well is an indictment on their own management, because they've had the money to spend on their medical facilities to make sure that they can not only handle COVID, but they can handle someone falling off the back of the ute, breaking their leg as well. But unfortunately, these premiers are now continuing to play the politics of destroying this country and Federation is failing us.

PAUL MURRAY: Well, I mean, the reality is, the ABS showed that COVID was the 38th biggest killer of Australians last year, with about less than 1000 people. More than 3000 people died in accidental falls. Now that doesn't mean that COVID isn't serious, and that all the things that we did to make sure those numbers weren't higher shouldn't have happened. But the reality is, is that people get sick of other things, people die from other things, so you've got to be realistic.
Now, also, I wanted to get you on this morning because there was a class action that was brought by a bunch of fruit pickers who had to fight to be paid minimum wage. Now, I know that there are a lot of people listening to us right now across the country who understandably feel that supermarkets don't give farmers a fair shake. So why should they give the workers a fair shake? But let's be honest, no one in this country should be fighting to be paid minimum wage, Minister.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: No. And look, I think the Fair Work Commission has got the balance pretty well right on this. What they're saying is the piece work arrangements can continue, but they have to be clearly defined. There are some workers, in fact, that would be disadvantaged if the piece work arrangements were taken away because their efficiency and skills and experience means that they can make a lot more than what the minimum wage is. What the minimum wage is now is just a safety net for those and I think obviously the industry is working through that. The big piece on this does come back to the big Australian supermarkets and the big German to make sure that farmers don't bear the cost of this. They put the pressure back on farmers and make them absorb a lot of the costs. And this is why there needs to be transparency around the pricing. And Australians will pay more, but farmers can't afford to foot that bill. It has to be passed through to the checkout and that's all, I think, the agricultural industry is saying is that they'll abide by the Fair Work Commission, by the independent umpire, but there has to be transparency and about those costs going back to the checkout to fairly represent the fact that farmers have to pay for this.

PAUL MURRAY: Yeah. The Prime Minister is in regional New South Wales today, based in and around Newcastle, but he's going to bounce around the rest of the country. Be honest about what the reaction has been to the announcement about net zero. Now, I don't think this will determine the election, but certainly there's plenty of people who send me emails over at Sky News, who have called Pricey over the past little while, that they feel there's some either level of betrayal or they're starting to look around for other options. Put simply, if somebody is in that camp, why should they stick with the ones that they re-elected on a rather aggressive anti-long-term climate change targets in 2019?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, you're going to pay less with us. And that's the issue. This is a global issue that we can't put our head in the sand about. The reality is, is we're a nation of 26 million people. And you look from an agricultural perspective, we feed enough for 80 million people. So the reality is if we don't engage with the world, we don't trade with the world. The world doesn't need us, and they can tell us to take a running jump. Now it might give you a warm fuzzy feeling like the minor party saying, well, tell the world to take a running jump. Well, that means that you get less for your commodities, and, in fact, you're going to pay more for your mortgages. So my- Clive Palmer might be able to afford it, but can you? Can you afford another two or three per cent on your mortgage? Can you afford your commodity prices going down because we're being picked on? The reality is we're part of a global community, whether we like it or not. And what we've tried to do is find a pathway of least resistance that'll meet our commitments, but also protect your income, and particularly those; if you're a coal miner in the Hunter or in Central Queensland, or even in my electorate - I've got one of the biggest reserves of coal seam gas as well as four coal-fired power stations. You'll have a job well beyond 2030, well beyond 2040, and well, probably into 2050 if carbon capture storage takes off, which it is in my own electorate. You'll have a job.
Now we're engaging with technology. The other mob are saying, we're going to legislate you out of a job. We are going to legislate and we're going to make you pay big time for it. You'll have a tax on you. We've said when we funded this already, $20 billion. It will get us to the technology roadmap, in trusting the smarts of the 21st century to reduce emissions. You've got to get back to first principle. First principle is reduce emissions. And if we can do that with reducing coal-fired power station emissions or gas emissions, then why wouldn't we invest in that technology? We shouldn't demonise one industry. It should just get back to first principles about reducing emissions. That's what our technology roadmap is about. And what we are saying is we have to be part of a global community. Otherwise we don't need the farmers, we don't need to export all that we are, because we won't have markets. And people cannot afford more on their mortgages, and they can't afford less on their commodity prices. That's why we've had to act. We've got to be honest with people. The world's moved past us, and we've got to stay with it. Otherwise, we lose.

PAUL MURRAY: Absolutely. I think it's the middle ground. I- it's not going to impress the people who want to pretend there's nothing going on. And it's not going to impress the people who believe that we have to do everything and then a whole lot more. But guess what? That's the reality of the middle ground. And I think it's exactly where the Government is. Good on you, David. Nice to talk to you.

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Anytime, mate.

PAUL MURRAY: Thank you, mate.