RADIO INTERVIEW – RADIO 2CC, BREAKFAST POLITICS PANEL
TUESDAY, 3 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: BUSH FIRE ROYAL COMMISSION, CHINA TRADE, SUPPORT FOR GAS
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Let's get to our political panel though. Joining us the newly minted member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain and Zed Seselja, Senator for the ACT. Zed I'll start with you. The Bushfire Royal Commission has called for the Commonwealth to play a bigger role in responding to natural disasters, including the ability to declare a national state of emergency and to build a national fleet of water bombers. Look we should have done this ages ago because state governments have become more and more recalcitrant in recent times.
ZED SESELJA, SENATOR FOR THE ACT: Well, look, there's no doubt that I mean, obviously the Royal Commission has delivered some really important findings and recommendations and we're going to consider them really carefully. And but I think it was obviously very apparent as we worked with the states and territories to to deal with that bushfire disaster that obviously, we need to look at what can change in the future. And so I will consider that very, very carefully. Because what we want to make sure is if there's national emergencies, obviously the Australian government did step in with the states. But if we could make that easier, I personally think that would be a very positive thing. So I think We'll look at those very, very closely and respond in some detail. So,
CENATIEMPO: Kristy McBain, the Royal Commission into the bushfires, obviously something that's close to your heart, because your electorate was well and truly in the firing line, a call for a more national response. Do you see? And I imagine the government's going to adopt the recommendations of this royal commission. Do you see a role for to go further? And I guess, now that we're in this not that we're hoping there's going to be another pandemic anytime soon? Would you like to see some of the recommendations may be extended to other national issues as they arise?
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: I think the frustration of many people was that there seemed to be a lack of pre planning on behalf of the federal government knowing that, you know, the fire was going to hit several states and territories. So I guess the Royal Commission points to the need for a more coordinated approach and the need for the federal government to be prepared in the in the case that we've got a disaster hitting most of Australia now what their role is, and when it needs to be implemented one of those trigger points,
CENATIEMPO: Zed. Is that a fair assessment, though? Because I mean, from a legal and constitutional perspective, the federal government was a little bit hamstrung wasn't?
SESELJA: Well, yes. I mean, there's certainly there's no doubt that states and territories obviously have that primary responsibility. And we and we came in and supported them in all sorts of ways. And if we look at their recovery, we are putting a lot of effort and a lot of resources into that bushfire recovery. So yeah, I think it's fair to say that, while you're right, you're absolutely right, that that that they have that responsibility under the Constitution, there is an expectation that the Commonwealth will come in and support the states, as we always have. Getting greater clarity around that, I think would be a positive thing, because in the end, we can't just wave a magic wand in terms of constitutional powers at the moment. There aren't those legal powers just declare a national emergency. And so we rely on the goodwill and we rely working very closely with those states and territories, which we've done and will continue to do, but we're going to improve things. I mean, I think we should always be looking to improve and the Royal Commission offers that opportunity.
CENATIEMPO: Kristy, a lot of good seafood country in your electorate - fears that Australia's seafood exporters will be the next group caught up in these China trade tensions. Tonnes of rock lobster left on the tarmac due to delays in customs clearances. Should we be any more lobster ourselves?
MCBAIN: Obviously, we're going to start to have to do that, which I'm sure there's a lot of people that won't be unhappy. But, you know, it's always the regional people that are hit first and these trade tensions, whether it's beef, whether it's barley, whether it says sea food or wine. It's actually the producers in our regional areas are the ones that that are feeling the brunt of this. And this is on the back of a severe drought. We have to get better at those discussions with China and with other nations and differentiating between, you know, government issues and trade because the people that lose out in the end, are those producers and small businesses along the way.
CENATIEMPO: Zed How do we fix this problem with China? I'm not one of those people that's critical of the federal government. I think we did the right thing going on the front foot and calling out China over the Coronavirus. But now that it is starting to affect so many different sectors from an export perspective, we've got to do something.
SESELJA: Well, look, it's a very important trading relationship. But for those who say, as Kristy just did and the Labor Party often do - you know that we need to be doing things differently. They need to start pointing out exactly what that is, I mean, our trade with China is still at record levels with we've been exporting a massive amount. We've unfortunately saying from time to time, incidents like this that we're talking about with shellfish where there's been some, I guess, relatively unpredictable decisions by the Chinese. But we've stood up for our sovereignty, we of course, support that trading relationship. But if the Labor Party's got criticisms of what we would do differently, I'd love to hear what it is that they'd like us to do differently because I haven't heard one constructive suggestion from Penny Wong or the Labor Party on this frankly.
CENATIEMPO: I've been asking Joel Fitzgibbon the same thing for weeks on end now and can't get an answer either. Now I'm going to take both of you to task on this. The Queensland border has partially reopened in New South Wales but not to Greater Sydney. The Victorian border remains closed to New South Wales. I've been fairly critical of Annastacia Palaszczuk throughout this whole debacle. But Gladys Berejiklian has got to pull her finger out too doesn't she Zed.
SESELJA: You're talking you're talking in terms of in terms of the Victorian border? I mean, obviously, obviously, the NSW government has not generally been closing borders, except obviously when Victoria decided to close things up, look, my view on borders, whether it's Gladys or any other state and territory is that we need to actually follow the best advice. I don't think there's been any evidence but when it comes to Queensland, whilst it hasn't been politically advantageous, you could argue there hasn't been any evidence of actually followed medical advice when we saw that when I banned Canberrans from travelling there and its the same with New South Wales, so they need to make the assessment - if Victoria is safe then of course we should be seeing those borders open up as well. I want to see all of our borders open to you as soon as its safe to do so.
CENATIEMPO: Kristy, you'd have to agree that now that all the state elections are over and done with to stop this rubbish. I mean, yeah, Batemans Bay, which is in your electorate was seen as a hotspot because people in Canberra might go there for holidays.
MCBAIN: Batemans Bay is in Gilmore, just out of my electorate. I a hundred percent agree. I've got businesses on the South Coast to have been ringing up in tears. They missed last summer because of the bushfire tourist evacuation. When I thought though, getting back on track, everything closed in because of COVID. And then we've had a border closure with Victoria. And a lot of these South Coast businesses rely on that tourism from Victoria. And a lot of that tourism is from regional Victoria. And it's been very, very hard for those businesses. And I've talked about it, you know, ad nauseum that the impact of cumulative disasters isn't being understood by some people, you know, we've had drought, bushfires, floods, and COVID-19. And then more floods. And, you know, we've got businesses that are really struggling at the moment. And unless that border opens up soon, we've got the prospect of some businesses missing out on a second summer of tourism. So there has to be some more work done. And especially there has to be more work done communicating with these border communities about when the border is going to open. And when they will be able to take bookings and get on with things.
CENATIEMPO: I think it's fair call now Zed to finish off, there seems to be a lot of mixed messages coming out from the opposition regarding the gas sector and whether gas is a a transition fuel.
SESELJA: Yeah, look, I mean, it'd be fascinating. Kristy, if you went to that briefing from the unions, I mean, I think I think it's really important that instead of taking the Bill Shorten approach, the last election where Labor were all things to all people that they say whether they're going to support the gas industry, because the gas industry is critically important to our economy, it's critically important to lowering energy prices, it employs a lot of people. We think it's important, we're supporting it in all sorts of ways and Labor doesn't seem to know whether they support it or they're against it. So I'm interested whether Kristy is a supporter of the gas industry, because there's a lot of mixed views within the Labor Party, I think sitting on the fence on these kind of issues is not worthy of an alternative government.
CENATIEMPO: Kristy I think that's a fair criticism. There's some members of your side that are vocal supporters of gas, and there are others that are vehement opponents. Is there any sort of unified messaging coming out of the party room?
MCBAIN: I find this conversation always so funny, because it's, apparently the coalition agree on everything, which is untrue.
CENATIEMPO: But they agree on this.
MCBAIN: The gas policy has been settled for the Labor Party for some time now. We are supporters of the gas industry, we're out we are supporters of the coal industry. Most importantly, we support the workers in those industries. And that has been the crucial thing for the Labor Party for some time. We are sick and tired of seeing labour hire companies come in and undercut paying conditions. There are far too many casual people in these industries. What the most important thing for the Labor Party to do is to make sure that we're supporting the workers there because coal and gas companies are making their own decisions about the lifetime of their plants. What we need to do is be there for the workers through that transition, whether that's retraining and connecting them with other jobs. Only the Labor Party is there for the worker in all of this. And that's what we will continue to do.
CENATIEMPO: Thanks for your time.