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Transcript 15699

Doorstop with the Hon Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Roma, Queensland

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/2007

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 15699

PM:It's good to be out here with Tony Burke, our Agriculture Minister. And I'd like to thank Matt Ahern and his wife, Anna. And where's Anna's mum? She's off somewhere. Anna's mum, Jill Onley. AgForce, with Peter Kenny and Charles Burke and Brett O'Hare, for making it possible for us to come out here, and also to be out at this great beef stud, Buala, and just to see the great work which has been done here. A creative, innovative business involving an exotic Italian breed of bull, the Romagnola, and it's good to see enterprise at work and it's good to see some rain in what's been a very difficult season for so many people in this part of Queensland.

So, it's also good to meet the Romagnola personally, and also to be introduced to my next relative, my newest relative, Kevin. He's over there in ‘yond paddock over there. I'll be studying Kevin's career with a keen interest in the future to make sure that he remains productive.

I said when I became Prime Minister of Australia that I intended to be Prime Minister for all of Australia, and that included being the Prime Minister for rural Australia. I resolved in my mind that night that in the first week of being sworn in as Australia's next Prime Minister, that I would be visiting rural Australia in the first week. Sworn in on Monday, on Friday we're here in the Roma district and we're here at this beef stud at Buala, not far from Roma itself. And the reason I've come here is to underline in week one of the administration, of this Government, that we take the interests of rural and regional Australia seriously and that they will remain central to the concern of the Government that I lead.

There are two reasons for that. One is rural industries are a core part of Australia's economic future. And having grown up on a farm myself, I understand the contribution it makes. It needs to be an industry which continues to make that contribution in the future and we expect, therefore, our Government to be always extending a helping hand to rural industry with the challenges which lie ahead.

And the second reason as well, one known to us all, is rural Australia is part and parcel of the Australian identity. And those people who live out here - I've lived on a small farm growing up - is part and parcel of the Australian soul. So, any Australian Government, whatever its political persuasion, must take, by definition, take the interests of rural Australia to heart and make those concerns central to the preoccupations of government.

When we read our papers this morning, we read this ABARE report on the impact of climate change on Australian commodity production and exports in the future. This report makes disturbing reading for the nation's future, disturbing reading for rural Australia's future, disturbing reading for the economy's future. This report underlines the economic cost of not acting on climate change. We, therefore, need to embrace the challenge of climate change in order to ensure that we can properly underpin the long-term development of rural industry in this country.

Some of the statistics in this report make for disturbing reading. It says that by 2030 we face the possibility of a 10 per cent decline in agricultural production. By 2050 there's a possibility of a 20 per cent decline in agricultural production against (inaudible).

Then if you look at the impact on the export sector, up to a 63 per cent decline in Australian rural exports by 2030, up to a 79 per cent decline by 2050. Again, measured against a no-climate change scenario.

If you look at the impact on individual sectors themselves, whether it's beef, whether it's wheat, whether it's sugar, the statistics in each of those industry areas is stark and startling and command the policy attention of government.

Finally, the figure which concerns all Australians is this, that according to the ABARE report, we run the risk of a five per cent lower GDP by 2050 as a consequence of the impact of climate change. Climate change is core business for Australian national economic management. It's core business for Australian rural industry and Australian rural communities. And that's why it's the core business of a Government that I lead.

That's why in the pre-election period we announced policies totalling $125 million which contained within them programs to assist farmers with adjustment and other aspects of climate change, and Tony will speak of those in a minute.

The other part of our concern as an incoming Government of Australia and helping rural Australia is this. It goes to the core challenges of the adequacy of the supply of rural doctors and nurses. I know enough about rural Australia to know that there is a real problem here. No matter which rural community I visit in New South Wales, Victoria, in the West or here in Queensland, there is a problem of supply of rural doctors and nurses. That's why, this morning, I discussed this with the Shadow, not the Shadow Health Minister. This morning I discussed this with the Health and Ageing Minister, Nicola Roxon. And what we propose to do is this: we will conduct now an immediate audit of the shortage of doctors and nurses and other health professionals in rural Australia, number one.

Number two: we will examine the reasons for these shortages.

And three: we'll be asking the Department of Health and Ageing to provide us with a range of options for attracting and retaining health professionals in rural Australia.

You see, you can't expect people to come out and farm these parts of Australia unless you've got basic health services. The Commonwealth is uniquely responsible for the adequate training of doctors and nurses but the Commonwealth is responsible for allocating enough university places were that to be the case. Therefore, I want to get to grips with this within the first week of us forming this Government by commissioning that work through the Federal Department of Health and Ageing. And the Federal Minister, Nicola Roxon, we'll be announcing our intention to do this at a meeting of State and Territory Health Ministers, which is being held today in Hobart.

I'm also mindful of the other challenges in rural Australia when it comes to education. I laid out our plan for an Education Revolution and a broadband revolution. That includes rural and regional Australia as well, not just in the cities.

You look at some of the statistics for the rural areas of Queensland, we have a year 12 retention rate considerably lower than for other parts of Queensland. We need to make sure that our teachers are properly resourced, properly equipped, trades training, other advanced curriculum services as well and we'll be seeking to do that as we unfold our education policies into the future.

(inaudible) on transport when it comes to this part of Queensland as well. I don't know how long people have been waiting for an upgrade to occur on this stretch of the Warrego Highway, between Roma and Mitchell. I'm not quite sure why we had to wait until the election of the Federal Labor Government to make a commitment for this to occur but we are confirming our commitment to invest $55 million for the upgrade of the Roma to Mitchell Highway to ensure that (inaudible) capable of taking type two road trains comfortably. That is the undertaking we made before the election, that's the undertaking we'll stick to after the election and I'm pleased to be able to confirm that here today.

Before I turn to Tony briefly, I'll just conclude where I started. We intend to be a government of all Australia. We intend to be a government for rural Australia. I intend to be a Prime Minister for rural Australia. We can't fix all of rural Australia's problems. Some of them are very longstanding, some of them are very deep-seated, but I'll give you this commitment: I intend to work with rural Australia, including peak bodies like Agforce here in Queensland, to come to grips with these challenges and to map out practical strategies for dealing with them. There's no silver bullets here but I'm determined that we'll put our shoulder to the wheel on practical questions like the long term strategy for delivering adequate supply of nurses and doctors to these areas to make sure that we make a difference long term. Over to you, Tony.

BURKE: Thank you very much, Kevin. And I join in thanking Matt and Anna for their hospitality today.

The report today from ABARE really is an alarm bell ringing. Those export figures are extraordinary. (inaudible) we are talking about just short of an 80 per cent cut in agricultural exports against the (inaudible) they've used. And that's not only because Australia has been doing so little to date. It's also because the rest of the world has been active. The rest of the world actually has been looking at adapting on climate change and making sure that we've got a viable and vibrant agricultural sector in to the future.

So this is why the document was launched during the course of the campaign of Australia's farming future. It gives key signals, key signals as to how Labor intends to actually move forward with a strategy to make climate change part of the core business in terms of making sure that we've got the adaptability happening in our agricultural sector to deal with it.

Those changes go through an adaptation partnerships program, an adjustment program and also through to R&D, where you've got $15 million over four year trial (inaudible) allocated there, for research and development brings specifically through a climate change and productivity focus.

The message all comes back to that one simple (inaudible) of truth that ABARE have put out there for everyone today. The cost of acting, the cost of acting is not nearly as expensive as the cost of not acting. And if we want to make sure, as Labor does, that agriculture has that vibrant and viable future for Australia, for the people who work the land now and the generations to come and for the export market that comes from Australia, then the only way to do it is to look forward into Australia's farming future and make sure that climate change becomes part of that future.

PM: Thanks, Tony. And just before I take questions, we've appointed one our brightest and our best as Minister for Agriculture. Tony comes from the rural heartland of inner Sydney - that's a joke by the way - and our best Primary Industries Minister for the nation in the past I think was Simon Crean who came from inner Melbourne. This bloke will be working in close partnership with organisations like AgForce and their counterparts obviously in the other states. We're determined to get it right when it comes to the future direction of policy on agriculture and more broadly to get it right when it comes to the future of rural communities and their critical needs when it comes to an adequate supply long term of doctors and nurses. That's why I've appointed one of our brightest and best rising stars to this job. Over to you.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) shows that the rural sector is actually decreasing carbon emissions whereas the rest of Australia seems to be going up. Is regional Australia actually going to be (inaudible)?

PM: Well, I think rural Australia, regional Australia, farmers in particular and the farm sector in particular have made an enormous contribution to Australia's net emissions reductions by what they've done in terms of land clearance. I understand that, I've had many discussions with AgForce and other farmers across the country both here and in New South Wales about the impact on that vis-à-vis the carbon target which we have. I am mindful of that, I respect it. Which is why if we move forward to develop a national emissions trading regime, we will be working in close consultation and partnership with farm industry organisations and we will do so in a substantive way so that we make sure that their views are squarely on the table when it comes to us framing the future of the emissions trading regime.

JOURNALIST: We've talked about national emissions, next we hear Bali (inaudible) particularly this 25-40 per cent reductions over (inaudible). Is Australia going to lead the way on climate change?

PM: As I said yesterday in Brisbane, the challenge for us is to wait for the outcome of the Garnaut commission of inquiry on the emissions trading regime and the impact of interim targets. That won't be ready until the first half of next year and as I've said repeatedly before the election and since the election, we will not be making any determinations on interim targets for Australia until we've received that report.

Secondly, that report will also incorporate within it the best Treasury advice as well and that's where the secretariat services for the Garnaut commission of inquiry report are now being anchored.

And finally, on the nature of the document we referred to, the so-called Vienna Declaration, that is a work of technical experts which has been has been acknowledged by a range of countries and many countries at the same time have not as a consequence accepted those numbers as constituting target for those countries in a binding way at this stage.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: You know something, what is the purpose of Bali? The Bali Conference is to outline a pathway, a process of negotiations over the next two year period. It will be a negotiation and negotiations involve horse-trading. People here know a bit about what horse-trading means. It means that you sit down with other Governments and work out what's necessary for the planet, what's necessary for everyone to contribute, including Australia. And therefore, frankly, it would be irresponsible from that point of view to go out there and put a number on the table straight away.

Furthermore, it will be equally irresponsible to do so prior to receiving expert advice of the type that we commissioned. The fact that we had the foresight to commission the Garnaut Report six months ago when we were still in Opposition mindful of the possibility that we'd form government, shows that we've been proceeding in a very methodical way when it comes to this.

Australian leadership in the future is underpinned by two points. One, unlike the Government we've replaced, on the first day of being sworn in as a new Government of Australia, we signed the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. That put us around the negotiating table. That's important.

Second, in my discussions with the Chinese Prime Minister in the last few days and with others, I've indicated that we'll be doing whatever we can to try and bridge the gap between developed and developing countries. Australia having a place at the table to do that is a precondition. On the target itself, it will be framed in the due process of the negotiation and mindful of the advice that we get from the Garnaut Report.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: The purpose of the Bali meeting is to outline a negotiating process over a two year period. The key thing is to make sure that we have outcomes by the conclusion of that negotiating process and frankly there is a key concern that some countries may seek to, you know, dilate the negotiating process beyond that. I don't want to see that happen.

We must proceed cautiously, methodically but also vigorously to make sure that we get a good outcome not just at Bali but at a series of subsequent meetings which will occur which we'll negotiate the final agreed carbon target. And I believe that is the proper way to go and that is the way we'll be applying ourselves as the Government of Australia.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: We will be taking exhibition on this in due course and I know there are multiple views out there in the community on these questions but I believe it's proper to consult carefully with farm organisations on this and to be frank I haven't done so, so far and we'll do so in the period ahead. Do you want to add to that Tony?

BURKE: There's no doubt that there's some science out there which says some of the climate change issues we're dealing with GM will provide part of (inaudible). It's still the case, particularly in Western Australia and Tasmania there's some particular concerns from farmers there that they want to preserve a competitive market advantage that they seek by not endorsing GM and that's why it's confrontational, that we're going through is real.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

BURKE: There's been people who've been critical of not having a personal background in farming. There are. I don't. About eighty years since my family left the land and I'm a little bit younger than that. So, the judgment that will be made on me won't be on what I've done before, it'll be on how I do this job and my, my style of working, people will work out pretty quickly I think. But I've taken the opportunity already to be consulting in meetings with the different, with both AgForce and the different state farming bodies. I'll be continuing that conversation. I won't be at home a whole lot over the Summer but my view, as public policy, in this sector in particular, you're taking advice and you listen carefully and you make sure the Department is doing the work and you spend as much time as you can at the grass roots level, hearing face to face the stories and experience of the people who are working the land right now.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Look, we're a Government who are very happy to be judged by what we do, not some sort of judgment about where you might have come from and communities, the last time I looked, it's been a while since we've held the seat of Maranoa and, and it could be quite a long time indeed, as I said I find it interesting that this is the incoming Government of Australia which is funding this upgrade for the Warrigal Highway from Roma to Mitchell and that is because, because it's in the national interest that that occur, because for all industries it's so important.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: (inaudible) I'll have the Transport Minister come back to you on the details of that.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Look, every company speaks for itself. Our business for high speed broadband is clear cut and of course now we'll enter into proper negotiations with various telecommunications providers including Telstra. It's entirely proper, responsible and respectable for Telstra to speak to its own book. I expect every company to do the same. We're the Government of Australia. We come in with a commitment and a mandate to roll out this system. We've allocated funds to do it and that's what we intend to get on doing.

JOURNALIST: amalgamations (inaudible)

PM: Well, my position on all of that is well established, in fact I predated the previous Prime Minister by a factor of three to four months. On the question of compulsory amalgamations and my position hasn't changed. Go and have a cup of tea folks.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask why you chose Roma (inaudible)?

PM: It's a beautiful part of the world. (inaudible) some of our friends from AgForce and said, and we discussed with them and listened to their advice carefully about what's going on in this part of the world. Roma is critical when it comes to the beef industry. We've been looking at obviously stud cattle, the Roma saleyards, I'm advised are the largest saleyards for the country. This is a major transport intersection for the entire national beef industry and beef is a huge export out of Australia and it will be into the future and therefore making sure that this farm community, together with others has got a fair say when it comes to input into what this Government does, we think's critical. This is a vibrant part of Australia. Beef industry's a vibrant industry. It's gone through some tough times. But we're looking forward to working with it well into the future. Thanks

ends

Transcript 15699