02 February 2021

SUBJECTS: WA coronavirus lockdown; Shadow Ministry reshuffle; resources.




SUBJECTS: WA coronavirus lockdown; Shadow Ministry reshuffle; resources.

ASHLEIGH GILLON, HOST: Joining us live from Perth now is Madeleine King, the Shadow Resources and Trade Minister. Appreciate your time. Firstly, congratulations on your promotion in last week's reshuffle. Why are you back in Perth? It seems like ACT Health offered exemptions contingent on a negative COVID test. It appears you could have stayed on to see that first parliamentary sitting week through, but you're flown back here to a city under double threat now, with a COVID outbreak and the bushfire in the Perth Hills.

MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND RESOURCES: Thanks Ashleigh. and thank you for the congratulations on the resources portfolio. It’s something I'm really looking forward to having care of for Labor. Yes, I did go back to Perth. Each of us as Members of Parliament have different responsibilities and different roles in the Parliament, also different responsibilities to our electorates and of course, different private and personal responsibilities. So a few of us made the decision to return home. I am very grateful for ACT Health in the options that they provided to us, which was to be able to return home but equally if you're able to meet a number of their conditions, you were able to stay. I had some concerns about what was going to happen at home. I don't have any more information than anyone else, but I had some concerns about the ability to return to Perth and not everyone perhaps shared those concerns as much as me. But some did. And on that basis, and other matters, I did decide to return home to my community.

GILLON: A poll published in The West Australian today suggests that the snap lockdown is widely being supported by Perth residents, although there is obviously some strong criticism in some quarters. We've seen comments from the likes of Peter Dutton suggesting it was an overreaction. We know the economic pain will be palpable. What's your view?

KING: Well, West Australians don't need to take any advice from Peter Dutton. This is the man who's overseen the Ruby Princess, he holds the Home Affairs portfolio and he pretends that he might run quarantine when in fact he just completely walks out the door when any responsibility for quarantine is mentioned. So we won’t here in Western Australia be taking advice from the likes of Peter Dutton on how best to keep this state safe. Mark McGowan's lockdown, it’s welcomed by the community. We've had a really pretty normal 10 months compared to much of the rest of the country, and always in the back of everyone's mind I think we knew that at some point the inevitable would happen and that another case would arise. The reason to have such a quick, short, strict lockdown is for the health of the community, but equally for the health and the long-lasting health of our economy. We know the resources industry can continue to operate through this lockdown if we make sure it's done properly. And I commend the resources industry, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, and all the companies that have voluntarily decided not to change shifts this week while the lockdown is on to prevent extra travel and taken out extra precautions. They've done this before. In March and April they created the resources fly-in fly-out travel bubble. They will do it again if they have to. And because of the lockdown that the Premier of WA has introduced and the actions of the resources industry, that industry will keep going and therefore keep the country's economy going. It’s no less than that. The contribution of the Western Australian resources industry is the backbone of the Australian economy.

GILLON: The resources sector no doubt will be hoping, like all West Australians, that the lockdown does finish on Friday. We're waiting to see today's numbers which will no doubt influence whether or not the lockdown is extended, Whether or not it was inevitable, we're obviously talking about a hotel quarantine failure here, which Mark McGowan has addressed. So certainly debatable if it was inevitable or not in the West. I mentioned your promotion to the shadow resources role. It’s one the CFMEU in NSW, looks like they're pretty unhappy about it, Peter Jordan telling The Australian that he had to Google you to find out who you were. He suggested as a West Australian that you don't understand, coal. How important is coal to Australia's future, and does coal fit into the goal for net zero emissions?

KING: Coal has been an export industry in Australia for a very long time, and as long as there are markets that want to purchase that coal, there are large coal mines, smaller family-owned coal mines, on the east coast that will continue to fulfill those international contracts. And as well they should. I support those companies, those owners and those workers to continue to do that work. The coal market will change as any market may change depending on what other people, other countries, want to buy for their energy mix. And until that happens, we, Labor and I, support that coal industry.

GILLON: How much of that reshuffle was about shoring up support for Anthony Albanese and how confident are you that he will lead the party to the next election?

KING: I'm entirely confident, I'm a great supporter of Anthony. I've been a fan of his for a number of years, for many years. We've all watched him in Parliament for a long time and now he's the most experienced and skilful leader that we have and I really want to get behind and we all do. Any reshuffle offers an opportunity for a refresh, a bit of a reset in certain things, and just like any job that any of us have in any career we may be in, change can be good. A new outlook, new insights, should be welcomed. It’s a good team, a great team that is already working together really well.

GILLON: There's been a refresh on the Coalition benches as well. The new Trade Minister, Dan Tehan, has made it clear that he hopes he can reset Chinese relations. China doesn't seem to be jumping to make that happen despite Mr Tehan’s best efforts. Is it clear to you that China is running a campaign of economic coercion against Australia?

KING: China has changed and a lot of that commentary across many fora reflects that. I agree with that. The leadership has taken different stances but the truth is that the Chinese Australia Free Trade Agreement is just over five years old. And so we've gone from this pinnacle of the relationship to these depths. It’s hard to understand fully why this has happened, but what we know is that the Coalition Government has had oversight of this, and my concern is that there is no plan to shift the dial to try and repair this very important relationship. And Mr Tehan, I know he's trying, and I welcome the letter he sent to the new minister in place in China. And I do hope a response comes. I know we might like it to come sooner, but ministers in our government, let alone other governments, aren't always the most prompt in their responses. So I do agree with Minister Tehan that patience is required. But nonetheless, you can have patience, but you also need a plan. And what is the plan if this initial reset doesn't work? What is the plan to drive investment from other nations? This government has been in government seven years and their diversification plans are in disarray. They sign free trade agreements and then put their feet up and think the job is done. True diversification takes many, many years and dedicated commitment of all ministers that have a hand in export industries. Minister Tehan himself was higher education minister not long ago and we've seen the destruction, pretty much, of that export industry. COVID obviously has a massive part to play in that, but also raising fees for local students, not helping out international students that were trapped here. I mean, he hardly has a good record on our highest, our biggest, services industry in this country.

GILLON: Madeleine King, appreciate you joining us live from Perth. Thanks so much for your time.

KING: Thank you very much, Ashleigh. Best wishes.