88.9FM Tamworth with Macca

24 April 2024



Matt “Macca” MacCarthy, Host: Tim Ayres joins us this morning, Senator from New South Wales. Tim, how are you this morning?

Senator Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: I'm good Macca. Good morning to your listeners.

Macca: Thank you for coming in, mate. I've had a couple of days off and appreciate you talking to us on a Wednesday. School holidays, as you can appreciate, with the kids and whatever, it's a whole lot of fun especially when they're fighting temps and whatnot. So it's been a good couple of days.

Senator Ayres: That's marvellous, absolutely terrific. That sounds really good. I apologise for the quality, I'm on the road to Kempsey going to the Akubra factory.

Macca: Yeah, believe that, under new ownership as well and obviously Made in Australia is one that I want to talk to you about because you're just back from another trip back in Australia at the moment. What does Made in Australia mean to you and what should it mean to us? And also, just give us the update on that Akubra factory because I believe it's under new ownership.

Senator Ayres: Yeah, well, the first thing is, we know that manufacturing matters to Australians, particularly in country towns, regional Australia, big industrial heartlands. We've seen over the past few decades Australian manufacturing jobs flooding offshore, and that means lost opportunities for apprenticeships and engineering cadetships, lost investment, particularly in regional Australia. And we have an opportunity now to rebuild manufacturing. And that's what the Anthony Albanese government's Future Made in Australia strategy is all about. It is the biggest pro-manufacturing industry policy in Australian political history, where they're backing manufacturing, with big incentives for onshore investment, working with the manufacturing sector to locate new factories in country towns and regional Australia.

Macca: So, I want to talk to you about the regional manufacturing hubs. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me that we've got so much arable land right in the middle of Australia, yet we're sending a lot of our manufacturing plants and even our watering plants and all of these sorts of things overseas and then buying things back at exorbitant rates when we've got all of Australia out there, unused. 50% of Australia or something that is basically bare dirt. Why can't we get some of these manufacturing plants in some of our country out there to try and keep all of this on Australian soil?

Senator Ayres: Well, that's spot-on Macca. These new factories are not going to be built in the CBDs of Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane. Factories of their nature are going to be out here in the regions where there's space, where there's a workforce, and also right next to Australia's comparative advantages. It's in the regions that we've got access to cheap solar and cheap wind. It's in the regions where, you know, Australia has all of the minerals that are required in the transition to Net Zero around the world. So, in electric vehicles, for example, 11 or 12 minerals, Australia has deposits of all of them in abundance. Now we can choose as a country to sit on our hands and look at all those opportunities flow off. We can make sure we're value-adding in Australia. Lithium, for example, if we continue to just export lithium ore overseas, that is used in car batteries, then we will only capture half a percent of the total value of the lithium value chain. If we move up the value chain and process lithium more, all the way through to batteries and recycling of the batteries, that's where the good jobs are. That's where the good investment lies. And that means real jobs for Australians, particularly in the bush.

Macca: Speaking of electric cars. Two words for you, if we were to play a game of word association, Tim: Elon Musk.

Senator Ayres: Yeah, I have watched this with absolute horror. You know, we've seen what happened in Sydney. We've seen these violent, terrible stabbings that have broken the hearts of Australians. And Elon Musk and Twitter, or X or whatever they're called now, propagating this stuff on their platforms with no sense of social responsibility. So, it's social media with no social responsibility. And I, like many of your listeners, become increasingly concerned about the proliferation of extremist propaganda. The proliferation of unsourced, unreliable, untrue disinformation and misinformation. And, it is fair enough, I think, it's what Australians expect, for Albo and the federal government to stand up in our interest to say we've had enough of this and that's why we're taking action against X or Twitter or whatever that called in the Federal Court. We're going to use every tool at our disposal to keep Australians safe, mate. And, you know, there's some things about social media that are really good, but some of us it's a cesspit, as you know. And we want to keep, particularly our kids safe. And it's not an easy job. But we're very focused on following through and using the powers that we've got to protect Australians from this kind of revolting stuff on social media.

Macca: Absolutely. I think these blokes have got too much power between him and some of these other fellows, with their social media, Zuckerberg and whatever. So hopefully, they can regulate that a little bit easier. And the bad part about it is there's so many uneducated people, they can just put their own opinions up, and they can change the opinions, literally 1000 views, all of a sudden, there's 1000 more people that may not have have seen that otherwise, and social media, sadly, is to blame.

Senator Ayres: Well, people see stuff on social media, and they think that it's true. That's the problem. And it is completely unreliable. I contrast it with what's going on in country media at the moment. You know, your station, always under pressure for fun. Country newspapers, the barrier daily truth, which is, you know, been around for probably 150 years, closed its doors last week, you know, doing all of the stuff about kids’ sport, supporting farmers with local weather information, what the council's up to. That's high-quality journalism that actually takes skill and preparation to do. We've seen 150 country newspapers close down over the last five years. But the contrast is this absolute tribe that's generated often by people you'd cross the street to avoid. You know, there's a lot of good people on social media, but some of this content is produced with the worst of motives, by people who know it's untrue, or share it thoughtlessly, without thinking about the credibility of it. We've got enough problems without inventing them, Macca, without conspiracy theorists inventing new problems for us. And, you know, I think you're right to point to 'yep, we've gotta hold these social media barons to account to protect the interests of ordinary Australians'. But also, we have got a responsibility, haven't we, to make a critical evaluation of it. Is this really true? Particularly before we share something.

Macca: Well, they say believe half of what you read and even less of what you hear.

Senator Ayres: I think it was, I don't know if that was Groucho Marx or somebody else who said, you know, a lie can do three laps of the world before the truth could tie up its shoelace. That's even more true with social media. And I just ask people to, you know, be really thoughtful about what you're seeing and trust your local media. You know, it doesn't mean they always get it right. But they're starting from a foundation in the community of being focused on the interests of the community. And, you know, if you're not buying your local paper at the moment, make sure you buy it every week.

Macca: Absolutely. And listening to your local radio station because you'll all be sorry. It's like anything isn't it. We noticed that over COVID, when some of these services weren't around, we were lucky enough to stay with our community for that period, then you go begging for it, and that's why live music is more popular now than it ever has been.

Senator Ayres: That's right. Radio matters so much. We're seeing an explosion of live music. I met with the live music industry last week, particularly in country music Macca. Like some of the new Australian country music is absolutely fantastic, and it's really got a burst of life because people want to get back to the venues and hear stuff. And I can't imagine how important your show's been, and other country shows during that COVID period when people felt isolated. And being able to listen to something that's local, that gives you a bit of news, a bit of yarn, even the advertising, you know, listening to what's going on in the local community, getting the local news, that really, really matters. And, you know, we've got to back it. And that means, yep, the government's got a role to play here. But also each of us, if you get off the socials and get onto the local paper and get on the local radio, that's part of community building as well.

Macca: Absolutely. And of course, government funding to help those organisations. So, I'll send you some account details if you can bang a bit of money in a radio station account that'd be great. But speaking of funding, obviously, a few programs happening here. The highway, which we can talk more about next time we check next week. But more, I guess, the Aquatic Centre, we're just waiting on some information. I've spoken to Mayor Russell Webb this morning, and also member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, who believed that we're still awaiting some funds to get that project off the ground under the Growing Regions Fund. Where are we up to with that, you know?

Senator Ayres: Well, that's right. And I'd like to think Russell and Kevin for their advocacy on this project. It is a $600 million program, the Growing Regions Fund. I've just come from opening a big sporting facility in Coffs Harbour, the Sportz Central there, that's a $6.3 million program that was funded under both governments, both the previous government and our government and local sporting institutions really matter in the community. You know, tens of thousands of kids will go through that facility. Now, the Tamworth aquatic proposal, and I'm sure it's a good proposal, is as I understand it at the second round, and there are, you know, announcements will be made in due course. Shortly, as I understand it. This has been administered a bit differently. We are making sure, you know, there's a lot of scandal around, you know, grant funding being done through a political partisan lens before, rather than our public interest lens. So, we've built in some extra processes to make sure that public money's been expended in the public interest. It's a $600 million program, but that means that people like me don't interfere in these processes. I'm certain that Tamworth needs this facility, I'm certain that it's a really good proposal. It's good to see the local mayor and local member out there advocating for it. And, you know, I look forward to there being an announcement over the coming weeks I'm told.

Macca: Certainly keep us posted on that. As far as youth and sport, you mentioned Active Kids, government pulled back a bit of support on some of these Active Kids vouchers. Is there anything coming as far as renewing these or having a better look at these to see how we can actually support- I mean, all of our kids at the moment, particularly school holidays, we're not seeing as many at the skate parks and the local parks and whatever these Active Kids vouchers have been knocked back a little bit. Is the government looking at putting a bit of a spotlight on this to say, 'hey, you know, this is the future of our society. These kids need to be active instead of in front of iPads all bloody week.'

Senator Ayres: Sure thing Macca. Look, I agree with you. Active Kids is, of course, a state government program. And I'll make some inquiries and make sure I understand what is planned for that program. But your major points, spot on. Sport in country towns really matters. Getting kids playing team sports, competing and sharing that experience with each other. The 1000s and 1000s of mums and dads and coaches and referees who volunteer. This is the kind of thing that is healthy for kids, gives them a good lifestyle, gives them good values, and we need to see that in country towns, particularly country towns where you know, we want to have good options available for kids. We want to have good examples out there for kids. So, sport really matters. That's why I was really proud of getting along there to make this announcement and this opening today at this facility in Coffs Harbour. Every town needs good sporting facilities.

Macca: PM's pretty active at the moment on the Kokoda track, they tell me. Hopefully somebody filled up his water bottle. My question to you is there any plans to change or devalue the commemoration? We're seeing these little groups popping at the moment we need to get rid of the word Anzac Day, it just needs to be called April 25th. All of this absolute rubbish. Barnaby, our federal member of course, the other day cameout and said, as long as his boots are on the ground, Anzac Day term will not be changing. And we will be celebrating in commemoration of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. Level with me, Tim, has the government had any opportunities or had any conversations over the desk about actually devaluing this commemoration?

Senator Ayres: No, I've never heard this suggestion before. On your program is the first I've heard it. It's one of those things where, you know, there's a beat up on social media, some of it not very well motivated. And, you know, you can see clearly how this government and every Australian government, it doesn't matter what perspective you come from, Anzac Day is a really important day for Australia and for Australians. It's important to Barnaby Joyce, it's important to me, it's important to the Prime Minister. In being over there in Kokoda, with the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea with two days for the two Prime Ministers to talk together, to work together. It's not an easy walk. To do that trail shows the importance of the commemoration of ANZAC Day. You know, I remember ANZAC Days as a kid in Glen Innes, how important that was to us, to reflect upon the sacrifices of the people who came before us. To reaffirm our commitment to supporting those people who are in our defence forces, we saw just the other day, the terrible loss of young Jack Fitzgibbon on a parachute exercise. It just reminds us of the constant danger that those people are in. It's also, Macca, A reaffirmation of our commitment to do the things that we need to do to build our defence force capability, but also to engage in our region and across the world so that we minimize the prospects of there being conflict again. War is a terrible, terrible thing. And our previous generations have experienced it. And I know that they will hope and that I hope that future generations never experienced the horror of war. But ANZAC days are a reminder of the importance of those issues, and those values for Australia and Australians.

Macca: Well, let's hope it stays exactly the way it is. Senator Tim Ayres, thank you very much for the chat today. And we look forward to catching up with you hopefully next week, and hopefully you have a good ANZAC Day and I dare say, we'll celebrate, commemorate the best way we can but no doubt a few services on for yourself locally.

Senator Ayres: I'll be there. I'll be there bright and early tomorrow morning at an ANZAC ceremony in Sydney, that will be there at the University where, you know, there are young graduates of the University who have been serving Australia in conflicts around the world, gathered together from all across, particularly, country New South Wales. Very important, very important commemoration. It's something I do every year. And I urge all your listeners, you know, get up, get up at five, get down there and just listen carefully to the experiences of all of those people who have served, and just be there quietly. You know, it's not a day for really, you know, a morning for noisy celebration. It's a quiet commemoration that's properly solemn, and all of your listeners who can get down, you know, you really, really should. Very special day.

Macca: Senator Tim Ayres, thanks for the chat.

Senator Ayres: Ok, Macca, good to talk to you. See ya.