Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview — 4CA Cairns Breakfast with Murray Jones

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business

E&OE-------------------------------------

Topics: Tourism in the Tropical North, the National Plan for reopening, AgMove, Swimming with Crocodiles in the ‘Croc Arena’

MURRAY JONES:    

Well, he's about to tackle the old Billy Goat Track from Cairns up to Port Douglas and have an- has an interesting morning planned in Port Douglas. I'm a bit concerned because definitely he told me he's got his budgie smugglers on because he's looking forward to having a bit of a swim with a crocodile a bit later on this morning. 

Joining me live on air this morning in the car heading north up to Port Douglas is Stuart Robert, Minister for Employment, Workforce Skills, Small and Family Business. Stuart, good morning. Welcome to the Tropical North.

MINISTER ROBERT:           

Murray, always loved the Tropical North.

MURRAY JONES:    

Unsure about that thought about you being in your budgies. Do you think you're really going to have a chance to swim with the crocodile today?

MINISTER ROBERT:           

Oh, looking forward to it. I had a great time, oh goodness, almost 30 years ago when I lived up here, Murray, including 12 months on the Torres Strait, with the military, with Charlie Company, 51st Battalion. So, I've done a fair bit of swimming with crocs in my time. 

MURRAY JONES:    

Yeah.

MINISTER ROBERT:           

I think this one, though, there's a bit more Perspex between me and them.

MURRAY JONES:    

I think that could be far safer. If I was going to go for a swim with the crocodile, I'd make sure it was a double glazed Perspex. But look, it's a wonderful concept. You know, as far as timing’s concerned, you know, it is a tough one, you know, with international tourists and of course, a lot of the interstate tourists basically locked out of the state. But thankfully, you know, we are having a good trickle of intrastate tourism. And of course, for locals, this is a fantastic new attraction there at the wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas.

MINISTER ROBERT:           

Oh, it's superb. So, Warren Entsch, the local member here, we've been chatting every day about tourism measures and support for small business, I'll join him, and we'll get along to ‘swimming with the salties’ up there at the Wildlife Habitat, which is well and truly open. And we'll try and showcase it nationally just to get people to think about the opportunities to travel within Australia. We've got a window with international borders closed to really encourage Australians to travel before we get more international tourists back into this world class city.

MURRAY JONES:    

Well look, with your particular portfolio, Minister for Employment, Workforce Skills, Small and Family businesses, I tell you what, you know, it's a tough time to be in such a portfolio because of the COVID-19, you know, 19 pandemic and some of the things that are happening. Obviously, challenges for employment, some big changes just in the whole face of employment, Australia-wide at this time.

MINISTER ROBERT:           

Huge, and they're all pulling in different directions. We've got a substantial skills shortage because we're short about 600,000 visa holders that would have been here across student visas, skilled workforce, short term visas. So great opportunity to employ Australians. But we have to get them appropriately skilled and indeed motivated. We need to get Australians into the regions and AgMove is there put financial incentives on the table to get Australians into the harvest trail. But of course, we also need borders open so people can travel and consume, so small and medium enterprises can continue to grow. So lots of levers pulling in different directions. We just need to get to 80 per cent vaccination, Murray, and then we can get back to normal.

MURRAY JONES:    

Well, certainly some concerns here in Queensland this morning. There's been some news in the last 24 hours or so that the state government may be looking to mandate a targeted 90 per cent before things open up. Do you- do you think that that's just viable, you know, particularly with respect to employment and businesses and the challenges that we're already facing?

MINISTER ROBERT:           

The national plan that the National Cabinet agreed to, so states and territories agreed to, has moving to phase B at 70 per cent and of course, phase C at 80 per cent. That's when we're opening international borders up, and that's when we're getting rid of the vast majority of restrictions. And we'll be hitting that 80 per cent right across the country. There are indications from states around November, so there's a great opportunity to really open our state up and open up our state borders. 

All the states and territories were in there. They committed to the national plan, and I'm looking forward to those premiers holding true to the national plan because that's our hope, that's confidence, Murray. That's what allows small business to open. It allows them to plan for Christmas.

MURRAY JONES:    

Okay. And you know, I think that 90 per cent is certainly concerning. But you know, as you've suggested, it's nothing solid as far as the national plan is concerned, 80 per cent is the target. Just- just a few- few days ago, late last week, I was talking to Charles Cameron. He's the chief executive officer of the RCSA, which basically deals with the industry body when it comes to recruitment and staffing, and that we were talking particularly about what we would have thought, you know, a real tree change here in Australia, so many people actually leaving some of the cities and moving out to the rural areas. But when it comes to agriculture and of course, the employment there and you know, feeding Australia, we've still got some- some real shortages in the market, Minister.

MINISTER ROBERT:           

We do, substantially. And the shortages are in the tens of thousands. So, we've doubled the seasonal worker program to bring our Pacific family, friends from the Pacific islands in. So in their tens of thousands. But there is still great opportunity for Australians. There's a harvest trail program and if you Google ‘Harvest Trail’, all the details will come up. We’ve got the AgMove program, and we've seen upwards of- of 6000, not just Australians, but visa holders come and join that where there's financial incentives up to $6000 for younger Australians, in fact, any Australians, but mostly younger Australians, to move into the regions and work in those agricultural areas. 
            
Now it's difficult. It's difficult, motivating many Australians to get out there in those regional areas. But it is worthwhile. It's rewarding. It's a great program. Some really good incentives. And I'd really encourage Australians to take it up.

MURRAY JONES:    

Certainly, being out in the bush, I just did a trip out to western Queensland, Longreach and Stonehenge and sure, it can be some challenges living in such a remote and rural areas, but so rewarding, in such beautiful, beautiful country. You know, it would be great to see, you know, I guess, particularly when we've had, you know, been forced to be a lot more insular when it comes to, you know, supplying food and doing things a lot more here in Australia, heading west and spending some more time out west sounds like, I think, a really good option. 

I’m going to let you go because you're probably getting further north and you get all those expansive, beautiful sea views. Have a fantastic day up in Port Douglas and the opening of the Croc Arena there. And don't you be tempted to push Warren Entsch into that croc pool, okay? You behave today, Minister.

MINISTER ROBERT:           

I'm thinking, I'm thinking Entschy might get a little bit close to the crocodiles. I might give him a nudge, Murray …

MURRAY JONES:    

[Talks over] [Laughs] Well … 


MINISTER ROBERT:           

It’s the fabulous North Queensland. It’s the best place to be. Looking forward to it.

MURRAY JONES:    

Good to hear you. He does need a bit of a nudge, but you better not nudge him in that direction. 

MINISTER ROBERT:           

[Laughs]

MURRAY JONES:    

Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert, thank you so much for your time this morning. Cheers.

MINISTER ROBERT:           

Thanks very much, Murray.

[ENDS]