03 March 2021

SUBJECTSMining industry in the Goldfields; Labor’s resources policies; China trade tensions; sexual assault allegations against Cabinet minister. 


IVO DA SILVA, HOST: A member of the Federal Labor team is in the Goldfields to tout their credentials when it comes to the mining industry, in the Goldfields. Madeleine King is the Shadow Minister for Trade and also the Shadow Minister for Resources, and she joins me in the studio. Good morning, Ms King. Why are you in the Goldfields today?
MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES: Well thanks Ivo, thanks for having me here this morning. It's a pleasure to be here in Kalgoorlie. Look, I've come out to the Goldfields as my first sort of official trip as Shadow Resources Minister, and that's a job I got appointed to about four weeks ago. This is my first opportunity to make a trip to any resources site around the country, and I've chosen Kalgoorlie and the Goldfields because I think it is really at the very heart of the beginning of the resources industry in Western Australia. I am a bit of a traditionalist, I like history, and I think the history of the Goldfields is something that's really important to me and really important to Western Australians and the whole resources industry, whether it be iron ore or more modern, rare earths I guess, the more modern extractive industries that we now pursue, that we recognise what a change happened here when gold was discovered back in the Gold Rush days of the 1890s and created this magnificent regional city that is the heart of the state, in my opinion.
DA SILVA: What specific policies would Labor like to introduce, or where does it see its policy platform when it comes to mining in WA, and specifically the Goldfields?
KING: Yes, certainly, we're still working on specific policy ideas. There’s a lot of speculation about whether there's a federal election this year, but at the core of our thinking on mining and resources is support for that industry, and making sure we can do everything we can do as a government to make sure that mining resources can continue and prosper in line with environmental expectations and other regulations, workplace regulations and things that make the world go round and make us happier workers and create revenue and prosperity for the state and the nation.
DA SILVA: One of the big areas that I'm sure people, it’s been touted many a time, is the fringe benefits tax. It's one of the biggest things that inhibit people living in the Goldfields region. Would a Labor government, if elected, look at the fringe benefits tax because, again, it is the biggest thing that I get from people talking about moving to the Goldfields.
KING: Ivo, It's the biggest thing I get too. I speak to people, and that was raised with me last night at a meeting. Look, I cannot make any commitment on that right now.
DA SILVA: You could do it here (laughter)
KING: Yeah yeah (laughter)
KING: But I'm more than willing to take that to my federal colleagues, and it's something that, it bears looking at, anything bears looking at, and I do accept the challenges of living in regional areas and attracting people to regional areas. I think one of the great things about the industry in Kalgoorlie is that people, for the most part, live here and work here, and that's what makes it a thriving city, so that's important to maintain. Any policy that can help that remain the case, we should have a good look at it, so I'm more than happy to take that suggestion on.
DA SILVA: You're new to the gig. What have you found so far in being in that shadow portfolio?
KING: Well, it's very busy. The trade portfolio is also quite busy, but there's a lot of interest in the topic, and that's great. I think it's really good that people are interested in resources, but I think one of the challenges is explaining to the vast majority of Australians that perhaps don't engage with the mining resources industry, just how particularly significant it is. I don't just mean in terms of gross domestic product or revenue it provides the country but the technical capabilities and advancement that happens all over the mining resources industry, I think is not well understood. I think it should be better understood, and that will lead to having more younger people study mining-related courses at TAFEs and universities. And that's what's going to be critical because we are facing a skilled labour shortage in this country because there's just less people enrolling in these degrees. I think we've got to think about it more than just digging rocks out and shipping them off kind of prospect, because that's not what it is. It’s highly technical, it's really tremendously hard work, and it requires a lot of commitment from the workers themselves as well as the companies that pursue these resources. I think that's one of the challenges of the portfolio is trying to get across to the wider community just how difficult, yet highly technical, the extraction of these resources is.
DA SILVA: Another technical and very important issue that you probably face is China and trade, trying to work through the complexities of what it's like. How do you describe to someone who might not be politically charged, how important this relationship is?
KING: It is difficult sometimes to explain it, but I think people in the resources industry kind of understand, and I think Western Australians particularly understand how important the relationship with China is. In one sense, it's simple, this is the market that we send most of our things to. So when you sell anything on a site, you need a purchaser for you to be able to sell your thing, so this is our main purchaser. And if they go, or they stop buying our things, then we have less revenue, and that means less jobs.
DA SILVA: Has the art of diplomacy lost its lustre over a few years and its importance In the behind the scenes, where if we're not talking about it on radio, it's probably a great thing because things are happening on the backchannels?
KING: Look, that's a really good point. I think corporations and businesses that work in China have been doing this all the time for decades, whether it's winemakers, the barley growers, the resources industry, the cray fishers, they've got relationships that go back decades, and they work hard on them, and they're trying to maintain them right now in the midst of this trade crisis. What I feel may have happened, and I'm not entirely certain, is that at the top level, the government signed a China Australia Free Trade Agreement, but then the kind of legwork stopped happening, or it seemed to have stopped happening. So we've got all the business people who employ people here in Australia working really hard at these relationships, but maybe our leaders took their eye off the ball, so to speak, and haven't. So it needs a reinvigoration, that really top-level dialogue, which is going to be hard to do.
DA SILVA: Madeleine King is my guest. She's the Shadow Minister for Trade and also the Shadow Minister for Resources. Can't let you go without asking this question. Canberra and Parliament have been consumed over allegations of rape by a current federal government minister. As a politician, as a woman, Monday is International Women's Day as well, one who works in and around Parliament House, how does a big issue like this affect you?
KING: It casts a pall over the whole Parliament, there's no doubt about it, so it is difficult to deal with. It makes what is a wonderful place, I mean the Australian Parliament is quite a remarkable place, and what people are trying to achieve in it, no matter what side of politics they're from, is pretty special. But to have this hanging over everyone is really quite depressing. I'll be frank. And it affects us all, whether we're the elected Members of the Parliament or the people that work with us. And everyone works really hard, I should say. So it's going to take a long time to resolve, but clearly these kinds of incidents, violent sexual assaults, have been going on unchecked for some time, and it really has to stop. As a woman, it is, I can't say anything other than depressing really. It affects us. We must keep going on with our work, of course, we must, but in the meantime, we have to recognise that something is seriously wrong in the culture of the Parliament but also in the country where there's this sense of entitlement that some men think they can do exactly what they want to women, and that is wrong.
DA SILVA: Thank you very much, Ms King. Enjoy your time in the Goldfields and thank you for sharing some time with us here on ABC Goldfields and Esperance.
KING: Thanks, I'll see you again soon.