Kieran Gilbert: Now, Treasurer Jim Chalmers and other ministers have commenced talks with various groups ahead of next month’s Jobs and Skills Summit. I spoke a short time ago to the Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development, Anthony Chisholm, who’s been part of the initial consultation process alongside the Treasurer. I began by asking him about the talks, which have become a kind of mini-summit ahead of the main event in Canberra next month.
Anthony Chisholm: It turned out that way, Kieran, and I think it’s going to be a lot of Cabinet ministers and other ministers getting around the country, consulting with different industries, different geographic groups over the next couple of weeks. But we took the opportunity today – and I think it was the start of this process – with the Treasurer Jim Chalmers to start in Rockhampton. The great thing about Rockhampton is you get a cross‑section of the entire economic activity for the country. So, obviously a really strong agricultural town, the beef capital, resources plays a role here, services, but also you’ve got tourism along the coast and its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef as well. So, I think in a small snapshot in Rockhampton, we’re able to get a good sense of Central Queensland but an insight into the challenges confronting the nation as well.
Kieran Gilbert: Obviously, as you said there, beef is a huge industry. There must be a lot of concern about the threat of foot‑and‑mouth disease. Is there confidence that it can be avoided, any incursion into this country?
Anthony Chisholm: It’s certainly something that was a topic of conversation and the Government knows how serious this is, the local community know how serious it is, and the impact it would have. Certainly, the conversations we had today across a wide range of areas were very constructive. We know that those industry groups are working constructively with Minister Watt, they are endorsing the actions that we are taking, and that will continue to be the case as we take this threat very seriously and are prepared to do the things that are necessary to keep Australia foot‑and‑mouth disease‑free.
Kieran Gilbert: So, Rockhampton today. Will you and the Treasurer be holding any other roundtables over coming days and ahead of the Jobs Summit in the first week of September?
Anthony Chisholm: We will be. We’ll be on the Sunshine Coast tomorrow, where we’ll be doing a similar roundtable with local industry there, probably a bit heavier focused on tourism given the nature of the Sunshine Coast, but there will be other industries represented. I know the Treasurer himself has another four or five that he will be doing before we get to the summit in September. And I certainly have my own roundtables that I’m conducting in the regional development space as well.
We want to ensure that every part of the country feels as though they’re participating in this forum. Obviously, with only a hundred invitees, not everyone can be there. But Anthony Albanese wants his Government to be a Government for all of Australia, and I think that shows today, with our engagement here in Central Queensland, that we’re going to talk the talk on that but also get out and about and hear directly from people, which is really important.
Kieran Gilbert: Peter Dutton has rejected the Treasurer’s invitation. He says it’s a... the summit is a stunt with the unions. Interestingly, though, David Littleproud today said that he would accept an invitation. He says that regional Australia needs a seat at the table. Will the Government extend an invitation to the Nationals leader?
Anthony Chisholm: Well, I think it’s disappointing that the Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, has rejected the invitation in the spirit of goodwill and the spirit of trying to work constructively. And I think if he was sitting in this room today, he would have seen people from across different industries that understand what a significant challenge it is for the local economy and it’s actually holding some of these economies back if we actually don’t get these solutions right.
So, it’s disappointing but not surprising that Peter Dutton, who wants to be a similar version of Tony Abbott – where he just gets out and criticises – but it also shows how disunited they are internally, the fact that a couple of weeks ago they were calling for an invitation, we invite Peter Dutton, he says he doesn’t wanna come, and then we’ve got David Littleproud on the airwaves this morning saying he does want to go and thinks it’s important. So, it’s disappointing that they’re not trying to be constructive and work in the national interest, which is what this whole Jobs Summit is all about.
Kieran Gilbert: So, will the Government then extend an invitation to David Littleproud in that spirit of cooperation that you’re seeking to achieve?
Anthony Chisholm: I’ll leave... That’s a matter for the Treasurer and his team to work out. Obviously, we want to ensure that there’s a wide range of people represented at the summit, but also that’s why we’re out and about in the lead‑up too, ensuring that we’re hearing from as many people across different geographic regions, across different industries, before we get to that summit in September.
Kieran Gilbert: Minister, do you believe that Labor can perform better federally in Central Queensland, and regional Queensland more broadly, where Labor doesn’t have any seats?
Anthony Chisholm: Yeah, and that’s why I suppose we chose... And Anthony Albanese said this in the lead‑up to the election, he’s said it since the election, that he wants to ensure we’re a Government for all of Australia. So, we’re not here today because we want to try and win seats, we’re here today because we want to listen, we want to ensure that these communities are represented in part of that national conversation. So, that needs to be the first and foremost point of why we’re out doing these things. But I think the agenda that we want to take this country forward, the type of governing and style of governing that people are seeing, I think that will be welcomed in all parts of Queensland, but particularly in Central Queensland. So, we’re absolutely determined to ensure we spend as much time here as possible. We made some good promises during the election campaign. I personally, as a senator for Queensland, want to make sure we deliver on those. And I think, as we do that, the people of Central Queensland will see a Government that is genuine, that has their interests at heart, and I’m hoping that in time that will ensure that we build support in this part of the world at the same time.
Kieran Gilbert: And, finally, today we’ve got the Chinese Ambassador at the Press Club. We mentioned the beef industry, big exports from Queensland as well. There would be many there hoping that the regional tensions that we’re seeing at the moment do ease and that we can get that relationship back onto an even keel. Is that the sense you’ve got?
Anthony Chisholm: Obviously, over the last couple of years it has been difficult. But what I’ve also found is that a lot of these industries have gone and found alternative markets. So, they haven’t been sitting back and waiting, they’ve been out there finding other markets to export their product to. And I think that’s something that a lot of industries around the country that have been impacted on... I saw Senator Wong’s...or Minister Wong’s strong comments on this, and we’re not going to change our values, I think it’s important we continue to stand up for them. And I know the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister, and everyone else will continue to do that.
Kieran Gilbert: Assistant Minister for Education and Regional Development, Anthony Chisholm, thank you for joining me today. Appreciate it.