FRIDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2016                                   

SUBJECT/S: Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility; PET Scanner; Backpacker Tax; DVA position; Alder A110 shot gun

LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Thanks for coming down everyone. It’s great to have Jason Clare in town. Jason has been up in the Territory many times and it’s fantastic to have him up here and to be meeting with some of the big stakeholders for developing our Northern Territory and the top end of Australia. We’ve met with the chamber already this morning as well as the NT Government to hear about all the work that they’re doing to develop the Territory, and we’ve got more meetings on this afternoon. Great to have you up here Jason. I’ll hand over to Jason

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks, Luke. It’s great to be back here in Darwin, great to be back here with the new Labor Member for Solomon, my good mate, Luke. I’m up here to talk to the new Government and also to talk to business in the Territory about how we develop the north. It’s a very important part of Federal Labor’s agenda to make sure that we’re creating more jobs and more investment right across the north, and in particular right here in the Northern Territory.

It’s good to see that the Gunner Government has hit the ground running. They’re already working to set up those economic summits that are going to create the new jobs for the Territory for the future. I just wish that Malcolm Turnbull’s Government was doing the same thing. They’re just taking too long to do anything here in Darwin or right across the Territory.

Just to give you one example, last night in the Parliament we asked the Turnbull Government what money they’re going to invest in Darwin and right across the Northern Territory through their new Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, that’s $5 billion that they say they’re going to invest in the north, and last night they couldn’t tell us one project that they’re going to invest here in Darwin or right across the Northern Territory. We still don’t know what they’re going to do here or if we’re going to get any investment here in the Northern Territory at all.

I worry that it’s just going to be exactly the same as the delay that we’ve seen with the PET scanner for the hospital here. This was promised to the people of Darwin six years ago, it’s been promised three times by this Government and we’re still waiting. World War II didn’t take this long. It’s been six years since they promised this important medical facility – medical equipment for the hospital – and we’re still waiting.

As a result of this when people get sick, if they get a brain tumour or if they need scans for cancer then they’ve got to go down to Melbourne, they’ve got to go down to Sydney or they’ve got to go down to Adelaide to get treatment. As I heard from just one person today, it often means if people get sick here in Darwin they leave town, and that means that there are fewer people here in town, the family leaves and that’s not good for the people of the north. So I call on Malcolm Turnbull and his Government again, stop breaking your promises and start investing in the Northern Territory.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]?

CLARE: This Government has got to start taking responsibility, they’re in Government, they promised this and it’s about time they delivered. Remember this was promised six years ago, as I said World War II didn’t take this long. Now they’re saying it’s going to take another 18 months and you’ve got to go through another grants program. This is getting ridiculous, they promised it and it’s about time Malcolm Turnbull started meeting his commitments and stopped breaking all of the promises that he’s made.

JOURNALIST: What project do you think that the Federal Government should be investing in, which projects would you think that [inaudible]?

CLARE: One of the key things that you learn as you go right across the north is that you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. We’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in projects that are going to build our resources industry, build our agriculture industry and agribusiness industries, and boost tourism as well.

One of the things we said in the election is that we think at least a billion dollars in that $5 billion infrastructure fund should be invested in tourism infrastructure and expand our airports and our ports, get more tourists to come here to places like Darwin and right across the Territory.

One great potential project here in the Northern Territory that I was briefed on in Canberra only a few days ago is the Sea Dragon Project where we’ve got the potential there to create one of the biggest, if not the biggest, prawn aquaculture projects in the world, right here in the Northern Territory.

JOURNALIST: A lot of people have been critical still about the backpacker tax and the farming and hospitality industries saying that 19.5% is still going to hurt the local industry, so why not support just scrapping it altogether?

CLARE: What I’m worried about here is the damage for this season has already been done. We’ve got mangoes that need to be picked in the next two weeks or so and the information that I’ve got from industry is that about 30-40% of the backpackers that normally come to the Territory every year aren’t coming this year. We’ve seen a drop of 30-40% of backpackers. That means that farmers are going to find it a lot more difficult to get fruit off the trees and get them to market.

The Government has taken too long, this has taken 16 months. This has been going on and on and on, and as a result Northern Territory farmers are suffering. They’re going to have fewer people available to pick their fruit.

Suddenly they’ve come up with a plan and now were hearing that the plan is not going to work, the plan is not going to attract the backpackers back that we need to get the fruit off the trees, get the fruit to market and make sure that we can expand agriculture here in the Territory and not see fruit rotting on the vine.

JOURNALIST: All through the election campaign Labor wasn’t able to articulate an actual policy on [inaudible]. Has that changed at all?

CLARE: We said, and I’ll refer you to what Joel Fitzgibbon said during the campaign, he said that if the Government was willing to ditch this then we would support that – but they prevaricated. They refused to outline exactly what they would do during the election campaign. It has taken months after the election campaign before this government has been prepared to come up with an alternative solution.  Now we are going to interrogate that before a Senate Inquiry over the next few weeks and when Parliament comes back in early November it will be debated in the Senate.  Luke do you want to add to that?

GOSLING: At the end of the day, what we want as far as our working holiday workers are concerned, the backpackers that have been driven away by the Coalition Federal Government’s prevarication on the Backpacker Tax, we want to attract them back to the top end. So that they can pick our fruit and work in the tourism industry, they can be going on tourism trips around the top end.

Tourism small businesses and horticultural businesses are hurting because the backpacker numbers are well down. What we want is a figure of taxation that attracts them back to the Territory. We are going to use the Senate inquiry process to find out what an appropriate figure might be.

We haven’t got access to the Treasury modelling but the Government’s own advice on the Treasury modelling is that 19 percent isn’t going to be the great attraction for these backpackers to come back to the top end. We need to attract them back and in a few short weeks we’ll be able to settle on something for next year that will get those workers hopefully get them back to the top end. 

Can I just have a bit of a spiel about the DVA position? I’ve asked some questions of the Minister for Veterans Affairs.

Down in Federal Parliament this week I had the opportunity to speak in the House of Representatives about the fact that the Minister for Veterans Affairs still has not addressed the issue of the Northern Territory not having a Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs. Why should Territory veterans not be represented in the same way as veterans in any other state around Australia? I also then followed that up, asking him a question in the House and he still has not answered the question. What we want to know is when the Deputy Commissioner position for Veterans Affairs is going to be reappointed to the Northern Territory.

We’ve got a growing number of veterans in the Northern Territory. We deserve representation like any other jurisdiction and we are still waiting for the Minister to give us an answer on that. I just hope that in the coming months we can get some clarity on this issue so that our issues in the top end are represented in Canberra.

JOURNALIST: One quick question, just on the Adler A110 shot gun, obviously a lot of shooting enthusiast up here in the Northern Territory. Mr Gosling do you think an extra two shots are too many? Or do you think the existing rules are fine the way they are?

GOSLING: With the Adler shot gun, seeing what happened in Parliament this weekwith the toing and froing in the Government between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull about what deals were done over this issue of the Adler shot gun was truly incredible. The disunity that is in the Federal Government is unfortunately having an impact across the country because they are not focused on governing in the best interest of Australians, they are certainly not governing in the best interest of growing the north and developing the Northern Territory  which is a real shame. I think it’s very important that we have good strong gun laws in this country and what we should be doing is putting pressure on the government to be clear about what their position is so we can all move forward.

CLARE: I might just add to that because this is the big issue today. It’s been the big issue in Federal Parliament all week and it reached its pinnacle yesterday in Parliament where you had the Prime Minister basically accuse Tony Abbott the former Prime Minister of lying.

Who’s lying? We don’t know, it’s either Malcolm Turnbull who’s lying or it’s Tony Abbott who is lying but one thing is for sure we know one of them is lying. It’s likely that both of them have been involved in some sort of dodgy deal in the Senate to try and get their legislative program through, by doing a deal on gun laws and that’s not good for Australia  and it’s not good for the safety of all Australians.

We are starting to see evidence now that law enforcement agencies like the federal police and other law enforcement agencies in the territories and in the states think that this is a very serious weapon that needs the highest level of classification and yet some other people across the country including National Party politicians and I suspect some CLP politicians want this weapon classified at a lower level. That’s what I’m concerned about. That there has been some attempt to do a dodgy deal in the Senate to classify this weapon at a lower level than the police across the country think that it should be classified at to keep our country safe.

Thank you.