SUBJECTS: Foot and mouth disease, teacher shortages, Caroline Kennedy appointment
DAVID KOCH: Well, the threat of foot and mouth disease to Australia is now being treated as a national security issue. It comes after more fragments of the disease were detected, this time at Adelaide Airport. The Agriculture Minister has urged international travellers to do the right thing and declare any meat products. Australia’s border to Indonesia will remain open, though, despite calls from coalition front benches to restrict arrivals. Joining me now, Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley.
Jason, huge issue for Australian farmers. It is a real threat. Should the PM be doing more?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: We’re taking this very seriously, as you’d expect that we should. Anybody that flies into Australia knows how strict our biosecurity rules are. We’ve ramped those up over the course of the last few weeks as people fly in from Indonesia. Now, for example, they’ll walk over those citric acid floor mats that are designed to provide an extra layer of security there. It’s important to note that this is not just Indonesia, though, there are a bunch of other countries where foot and mouth is: China, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, South Africa as well. But this is serious. We’re taking it seriously. Talking to farmers, but also talking to the experts about the steps we need to take.
KOCH: Sussan, Barnaby, for us city slickers, really put it in perspective how dangerous this is for us yesterday. But I suppose Indonesia is one of our biggest trading partners. And as Jason was saying, there are a lot of other countries around there with foot and mouth disease. Why pick on Indonesia?
SUSSAN LEY: Kochie this is a national crisis. It demands a national response. Where is the Prime Minister? He spent more time yesterday cracking jokes on FM radio than leading what needs to be a coordinated, planned response. I come from rural Australia, and I appreciate that Jason comes from Sydney. So does the Prime Minister. Nothing wrong with that. But I am taking calls from farmers and members of my community absolutely terrified about this. And I don’t want to be here in ten years’ time looking back, saying, what more could we have done when FMD has decimated our $80 billion industry?
KOCH: So, what should we do?
LEY: Well, we need the national plan from the Prime Minister down. We need the national leadership. We’ve all heard anecdotes-
KOCH: So, keep borders open though?
LEY: Well, that’s a decision for the government, but we’ve all heard the anecdotes about people coming in, obviously filling in their cards, doing the correct thing, but nothing more. We need more than a social media campaign and a few mats at the airport.
This is a national crisis and the implications of what this would mean for our industries, as I said, coming from regional Australia, listening to people who are absolutely terrified, listening to the Agriculture Minister talking about a three day standstill and maybe compensation. Let’s lead with this. Let’s have Prime Ministerial leadership. That’s what I’m not seeing. And that’s why you’re hearing many members of Parliament express this alarm.
KOCH: Okay, all right.
CLARE: The problem is, they’re all over the shop. You’ve got Barnaby saying “shut the borders,” you’ve got David saying “keep the borders open”. You’ve got Bridget now saying she’ll wash shoes at the airport. The Liberal Party and the National Party don’t have a straight story on this.
LEY: But the reason for that, Jason, is because we’re not having the national leadership. We’re not having the coordinated plan.
CLARE: Lack of national leadership is the reason that the Liberal Party and the National Party can’t get their story straight?
LEY: Because we all need confidence, and it needs to come from the Prime Minister down and it needs to be led by the Prime Minister. Where is he?
CLARE: Well, the government is leading on this. Farmers, the meat industry are all saying, let’s just tone the rhetoric down here, pull the politics out of it and work constructively together. That’s what the farmers want from us. Not close the borders, open the borders, wash the shoes, which is what we’re getting from the opposition at the moment.
LEY: Well, I’m sorry, I don’t want – it doesn’t cut it to tell my people to calm down. They have every right to be anxious and worried.
CLARE: That is not what I’m saying. That’s what the red meat industry is saying. That’s what the Farmers’ Federation is saying.
KOCH: All right. Okay. Jason major announcement today from the government. Let’s talk education, on education.
CLARE: We’ve got a shortage of teachers. It’s getting worse. It’s not just because of COVID and the flu that are keeping teachers out of the classroom. We’ve got more and more kids starting school and fewer young people deciding to become teachers. We took steps this week to prioritise teachers getting visas from overseas to help fill some of those gaps, but that won’t fill the gap on its own.
We need to take steps to encourage more Aussies to become teachers, improve the training that young people get when they’re at Uni before they get into the classroom, but also try and tackle some of the reasons why people are giving up and walking away from the classroom. That will be the focus of a Ministerial Council that will happen that I’ll convene in a couple of weeks’ time.
KOCH: Okay. And Sussan unions saying that in some schools, half the classes of some years are being cancelled because of lack of teachers.
LEY: Good proposal on the surface, we’ll look at the detail. I just want to say thank you to teachers, unsung heroes of the pandemic, standing up every day. It’s a really tough gig, and we owe them a debt of thanks for how they’ve got our young people through the last two years.
CLARE: Bit of bipartisanship there.
KOCH: Well said. Good note to end on. Have a good weekend.
CLARE: Caroline Kennedy coming to Australia as well.
KOCH: Camelot coming to Canberra, as the new US Ambassador.
CLARE: The closest we get to American royalty.
LEY: Shows the strength of the relationship, it’s a strong one.
CLARE: Certainly does, it shows that America treats us seriously, and this is a really serious appointment.
LEY: Welcome, Caroline.