TRANSCRIPT: Interview with MICHAEL CONDON, ABC ILLAWARRA NSW COUNTRY HOUR, 6 SEPTEMBER 2018

E&OE

 Subjects: Reports about the centralisation of weather forecasting jobs at the Bureau of Meteorology; drought policy.

MICHAEL CONDON:       

 Michael McCormack, Deputy PM. Now I was interested in the National Party’s views on, in particularly in regards to the Weather Bureau stuff, there were some talk that the unions are saying that they have been told, everything is going to be centralised for forecasting to Melbourne and Brisbane and they are a bit alarmed by that. Because they say that local knowledge is important in forecasting and doing the best things particularly for, you know, business as agriculture. Does the National Party have a view on this?  

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well look, certainly local forecasting is important and no more important than in times of drought and I know when I went to, well Trangie and other areas around North Western New South Wales, indeed to Quilpie in outback Queensland in South Western Queensland there just the other day to talk the drought with farmers- That’s what they told, both prime ministers, both Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. But I mean, we all know that we can’t make it rain, but we certainly need to know when it is going to rain or at least when we think it’s going to rain and working with the Bureau of Meteorology and making sure that we get climate guides for our farmers so that they can make the critical decisions that they need to make around their stocking density, around cropping, around all those sorts of things, particularly at sowing time, is critical. And so I appreciate that the unions are making a bit of a fuss. There is a review going on. We’ve also got a new Minister for the Environment, who’s going to oversee any reviews of the Bureau of Meteorology. But I can reassure the public that the Bureau’s not considering job cuts. That’s not part of the Government’s agenda. We’re aware just how much local communities value the services that BOM provides and we’re committed to ensuring services will be maintained.

MICHAEL CONDON:

Because they’re saying that, you know, they’ll have forecasters in Brisbane and Melbourne. That’s a long way from WA. That’s a long way from Western New South Wales and Tasmania. Basically they’re saying that a lot of that local knowledge, local forecasting knowledge, would be lost.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK 

Well again, I say that they’re not considering job cuts and certainly we’re always looking at reviews to how we better maximise the value that our departments and that our agencies provide us. So we’ve got a new minister in this regard. But we need to have the very best information available, whilst appreciating that satellite technology is way, way better than it ever was. I mean, we are the Government which has helped our farmers no end. The unions prop up a Labor Party which has no agricultural agenda, no regional Australian agenda. And so we’re obviously, of course, going to support anything that’s going to get better climate advice and forecasting for our farmers and for our regional communities.

MICHAEL CONDON:

Some people were saying it’s a bit of a payback by people that are concerned that they Bureau talks too much about global warming.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, the Bureau also does a very, very sterling job in its weather forecasting. Whilst I appreciate that we don’t always get the weather that is predicted, the fact is they do do a good service. The service is getting better because of the technology advances that have been made in recent years and we stand to help them with the necessary funding to be able to do just that.

MICHAEL CONDON:

So it’s not a political move to try and reduce numbers or to change a message coming out of the Bureau?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, the unions are coming out; they’re saying lots of things about lots of different areas. I mean, we saw just yesterday unions on the march throughout Australia. This is only going to crank up as we get closer to the election. This is what unions do, they want a Bill Shorten-led Government so they can lead him round the nose; I bet he’s union bred, he’s union fed, he’s union led. Fact is, we’re getting on with the job of making sure that our farmers are well looked after and making sure we’re getting on with the job of ensuring that our agencies operated as efficiently as they can and that includes the Bureau of Meteorology.

MICHAEL CONDON:

What about the idea of a drought policy; we’ve heard Joel Fitzgibbon last week saying that the White Paper- we didn’t talk about climate change, there hasn’t really been an effective drought policy -Barnaby Joyce was charged with that. Joel Fitzgibbon says that hasn’t happened; what are you doing as Deputy PM to change that or put in a different, longer term drought policy? We haven’t seen one they’re saying.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well look, Joel Fitzgibbon also wants to tell farmers what they should plant and where they should plant it and how they should go, you know, about their business. We’re not in the business of telling farmers exactly what they should do, but we want to take on board our learnings obviously from this drought. We want to help the farmers get through the drought, that’s first and foremost. And then, ensure we have policies in place to help these farmers going forward for the long term preparation. I mean, that’s why we’ve made sure that in the year of investment silos and fodder storage and all those sorts of things can be written off instantly. That’s why we’ve done similar sorts of tax help for water infrastructure, we did that previously. We stand ready – we’ve already put $1.8 billion on the table to help drought affected communities and that is making a difference. Of course, we can and we must and we will do more, and obviously, that also includes making sure we even further drought proof our nation. And even the CSIRO Report about what we can do to develop the North by way of building potentially six new dams there, it saves the water that currently just runs out to sea. But there all the sorts of things that we should and will be discussing, but let’s get through this drought first; that’s what the immediate concern is for farmers; not politicising as Joel Fitzgibbon is doing.

MICHAEL CONDON:

But I mean we have heard from Joel Fitzgibbon saying it’s very much a sort of band aid efforts and things sort of thrown here and there, no real coordinated policy.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well there is a coordinated policy and certainly, our assistance hasn’t been a band aid and certainly our drought policy – I mean - the Agricultural White Paper made a real difference for our farmers. So in the markets that we’ve opened – never would have happened under Labor and Joel Fitzgibbon, my goodness – but those markets that we’ve opened up and even with the new trade arrangements with Indonesia clinched just the other day with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, those sorts of things never happen under Labor. They talk a big game, they don’t care about farmers, they don’t care about agriculture and certainly Joel Fitzgibbon fits into that respect.

MICHAEL CONDON:

What about the new job for Barnaby Joyce? Is that a bit of a slap in the face for you that he’s been made Drought Envoy?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Not at all. Not at all, in fact I rang Barnaby and offered him the position; I rang Barnaby and discussed the position with him. I mean, Barnaby’s a colleague of mine, he’s doing a good job as the member for New England and given his wide experience, I wanted him to get out, talk to drought communities, more importantly listen to them and convey their thoughts and what they felt we should be doing in addition to what we already are doing. I wanted him to be the conduit between those drought communities and Canberra so that we could have the right policies on the table going forward. And that’s exactly what he’s doing and you know, I’ve spoken to him this week; he’s already out and about. He’s talking to communities and he’s doing precisely what the role needs to do.

[End of excerpt]

MICHAEL CONDON:

That’s the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.

Shane Manning