Monte Irvine, Host: I’ve been joined on the phone now by New South Wales Labor Senator Tim Ayres. Good morning, Senator. How are you this morning?
Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: G’day, Monte. Good to be on the show.
Monte Irvine: Now, Senator, how was your weekend?
Assistant Minister: It was pretty good. It was pretty good. I – as you know, Monte, we’ve got a new – we were talking earlier before the show, we’ve got a new puppy dog in the house. I think you caught me unaware a few weeks ago when I came on the show and you asked me how my weekend was and I said it was dreadful, because the family dog, Clancy, who we’d had for a very long time had died. As it happened, we’d ordered a couple of months ago a new pup, and we’ve got – and she’s just turned up, so we’ve got – Shirley’s arrived in the house and hit the house like a tonne of bricks. It’s like having a new baby in the house, except it bites you. She’s captured the hearts of the family very quickly, this dog. So, anyway, short story is I’ve been up since 4 with a puppy dog that refuses to go to bed.
Monte Irvine: Fair enough. Well, talking about things that refuse to go to bed, the Matildas refused to lose over the weekend to France, setting them up for a semi-final berth against England on Wednesday. But how exciting is it to have women’s soccer doing so well in Australia?
Assistant Minister: I’ve never seen anything like that, that last match. It was absolutely extraordinary television. I know that this, I think, is the biggest viewing audience for 20 years, this game. This team has – you know, they said at the beginning of the tournament that their job was to inspire a future generation of boys and girls – girls, in particular, of course – to play football and to get excited about sport. Well, you know, there in the quarter finals, now every Australian is on the edge of their seat. They’ve got – it’s a remarkable achievement what they’ve done. What a fantastic group of women to have driven this outcome. Just marvellous to watch.
Monte Irvine: Absolutely. I mean, the ratings information that we’ve gotten from Channel 7 in relation to this, 7.2 million people reached, an average viewing audience of 4.17, it’s the number one rating TV sport program of the decade.
Assistant Minister: It’s just marvellous, isn’t it. And what’s wonderful, apart from how fantastic the games are, you know, it's the pan out – as the camera pans out into the crowds at the games, big crowds at all these games, and what you see is thousands and thousands of kids, particularly – particularly girls, who are just so excited about this and what it means. We've come a long way as a country, Monte. It's fantastic to see this sport, particularly women's sport, elevated so high. This team are absolutely magnificent.
I thought I was going to faint. You know, 20 penalties. A penalty shoot-out that went for 20 penalties. Never seen anything like it. And I bet your listeners are probably tuning in to the next game as well.
Monte Irvine: Absolutely. I know in our household it was literally edge-of-the-seat stuff when it got down to that. And, I’ll be honest, it’s probably about the second game of soccer I’ve ever watched on television. And it’s like this is pretty interesting stuff. I know there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening. They seem to go backwards to go forwards. But once they get down there they really get down there. And it’s always very exciting to watch.
Assistant Minister: Well, I’ve got a lot of mates who are regular soccer watchers. And, you know, I watch it from time to time. But I agree with you – there is something about this team and Australia hosting this world tournament that’s just gripped the nation. The talent with which they play on the pitch, but the excitement they bring to the game is just absolutely fantastic to watch. And everybody from the Prime Minister through – right through the country, absolutely captivated by this, by this series. And you know, I’ll be watching the next one. I think we all will. And fingers crossed for another Matilda’s victory. It would be so good to see them get through. But they have played their hearts out already and done the country proud.
Monte Irvine: The Prime Minister has suggested that possibility, in consultation with the state governments, of a public holiday if it gets to the grand final. Have noted that the Leader of the National Party, the federal National Party, David Littleproud, has actually come out against it saying no, we don’t need a public holiday. It would be so much stress and trouble for the small business owners who are already doing it tough. What’s your thoughts on that?
Assistant Minister: Well, I saw somebody this morning called poor old David Littleproud “Captain Killjoy.” I think he just sort of missed the mood of the country. You know, there’s got to be a bit of joy in this, hasn’t there, for Australians. I’ll wait to see what the Prime Minister and the Premiers have to say about this. And let’s hope for a Matildas eventual victory. Wouldn’t it be a terrific thing? A national celebration of this team that have done us so proud.
I remember another former Labor Prime Minister after the America’s Cup victory who said famously that, you know, any boss who sacked somebody for not coming in today is a bum.
Well, you know, we’ve got to be able to share these things, these great national moments with each other. And this has been –this is a year where we’re working hard as a country to push through some challenging economic circumstances. You’ve got war in Europe, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine that has caused, you know, pretty tough economic circumstances for many – for many Australian households. And having a bit of a celebration for a team that’s done the country so proud - if they make it all the way through, sounds like a fine idea to me, but I’ll wait to see what the Prime Minister and the Premiers come up with.
Monte Irvine: The Prime Minister was in Tamworth on Friday, and I had the privilege of talking to him Friday morning where he announced $38 million to go into farming research for making drought-resistant crops and drought-resistant livestock. That’s a big announcement for farmers in regional New South Wales and, of course, this area. On top of the tariffs being lifted on barley for China, it seems like the Federal Government is starting to take – or has taken a very positive stance in the right direction to help farmers.
Assistant Minister: Well, the Prime Minister was in Tamworth for the Bush Summit. I think he’s been to every one of the Daily Telegraph’s Bush Summits that they’ve held, you know, every year. We are committed to fighting for agriculture and we’re committed to making sure that we push Australian agriculture exports up the value chain, that we diversify our exports, that we build productive capacity.
The Prime Minister’s trip was to Tamworth and then – I’m very sorry I missed the trip because he flew on then to the Mount Isa Rodeo, which looked like a lot of fun. These commitments to agricultural research that he and Agriculture Minister Murray Watt made on Friday, they are important commitments. You know, there are big challenges in Australian agriculture. We need to meet those challenges with, yes, with our farmers and their, you know, their work on country to improve the productive performance of their properties, but also by backing them with world-leading research.
As the son of an agricultural research scientist I know how much agricultural research matters for farm productivity, for dealing with the big challenges of water availability and getting the right strains of crops, you know, dealing with all of the challenges that there are in agriculture. So I’m delighted to see Anthony Albanese make a commitment of an additional $38 million to a series of programs that are really going to matter. It’s a new direction for the $5 billion Future Drought Fund, which is about providing long-term funding beyond the election cycle to facilitate and support sustainable farming practices.
So we’re going to back our agriculture sector every way that we can. There are always tough issues in agriculture, but this government’s determined to be a government for the whole country. And we’re going to be a government that supports Australian agriculture.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt is the hardest-working agriculture minister in recent memory. You know, he is out there all of the time talking not just to farmers but also to scientists and the whole sector, building a strong agenda for Australian agriculture and the Albanese government.
Monte Irvine: Fantastic. Senator, thank you so much for your time. As always, it’s a wonderful pleasure to be talking to you first thing on a Monday morning. You have a great week. Look after Shirley – make sure she’s getting used to her new surrounds.
Assistant Minister: She’s a ratbag, Monte. I’ve got a real handful here. But I’ll do my best. I’ll talk to you next week.
Monte Irvine: Fantastic. That was Senator Tim Ayres.