88.9 FM with Macca

17 June 2024

MATT “MACCA” MACCARTHY, HOST: Senator Tim Ayres joins us. Tim, how are you this morning? 


SENATOR TIM AYRES: I'm good Macca. Good to be on the show. 


MACCA: Absolutely. Good to have you here. Believe you're on your way to PNG? 


SENATOR AYRES: I'll be in Papua New Guinea for three days this week with a delegation of Australian Ministers. It's part of our annual ministerial engagement with Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is a very important strategic partner for Australia. There is a long history that goes back right through the colonial period where Australia and Papua New Guinea were closely engaged together, including the period where Australia had responsibility, in administration terms, of Papua New Guinea. Of course, our cooperation during the Second World War and all of the history of Australian soldiers and Papua New Guineans working together to defend Australia. And now, Papua New Guinea, with a growing population and enormous land mass there in the Pacific, needs Australia's support and Australia's engagement as it makes its way through the 21st century. They have got an enormous development task on their hands, and there's very significant opportunities for Australia to support that growing economy in Papua New Guinea's interest and in Australia's interest.  


MACCA: On the subject of overseas, Chinese Premier Li Quang is in town at the moment, meets with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese today. What do you think is on the discussion agenda?  


SENATOR AYRES: Hey Macca, can I just come back to one issue on Papua New Guinea that I know your listeners will be interested in. One of the big issues, one of the big opportunities for Australia and Papua New Guinea, of course, is them entering the National Rugby League with a National Rugby League team. I know Australian NRL fans are excited about that opportunity. There are tens of thousands of PNG rugby league players who'd love an opportunity to try out for the National Rugby League. It's a really great opportunity. It's one of the things that we'll be promoting on this trip.  


Turning to the Chinese Premier's visit. This is the first visit in seven years by somebody from China's leadership. It is an important opportunity for dialogue. We have been working hard as a government, always in Australia's national interest, to stabilise the relationship with China. In particular, there's been a lot of public focus on the trade questions. This is a relationship that is consequential for Australia. It comes with a set of challenges as a result of geostrategic competition in the region in which we live. But for this government, our view is that Australia's national interest is best prosecuted in a way where we are engaging in dialogue in the national interest, and this is a very important opportunity to do that.  


MACCA: Certainly. [We’ll] try and get a bit of a rundown on this meeting when we talk to you next week. Tim. Be interesting to get some of the details.  


I do have a listener question that we put to our Federal member, Barnaby Joyce, last week regarding technology on meat. Whether or not you might be able to answer this question on vaccinations...I'll play it for you as well. I'm interested to get your thoughts. 


SENATOR AYRES: I will give it a go Macca. 


LISTENER: Hi Macca, I'm wondering, can you ask Mr Joyce, can he confirm the report Anthony Albanese has stated that all farmers will be using mRNA technology on their cattle now, or otherwise they will cop a fine for not using it? I also want to know why we're still pushing ahead with this technology when it's been called out worldwide how dangerous it is? If they start putting it in the cattle with spike protein transferring to us and our bloodstream. It's been called out in Japan, Philippines...290,000 excess deaths. Here we've got an excess death high rate. Why are we still using this? Has the health department overthrown our government?  


MACCA: Big question for you, Tim. 


SENATOR AYRES: Thanks for the opportunity to respond to that. Can I just say two things? Firstly, there is no plan to fine people who don't use a particular technology in terms of their cattle. That is just dead wrong. But the second thing is, I've got to call it out, mate, this conspiracy theory stuff around vaccines, around science, around our health is out there on social media. Not very much good happens on social media. But this conspiracy theory stuff, where people are told to do their own research and then are pointed to all of these conspiracy theory websites. It's very harmful and it undermines confidence in science, it undermines confidence in public research, and it's dead wrong. Of course, nothing is beyond criticism and it's good to have people engage in the public discussion about these questions, but conspiracy theories about vaccines are very unhelpful I have to say. There is research going on in all sorts of vaccine capability. When you look at the biosecurity issues for Australia, our number one biosecurity issue is foot-and-mouth disease. If foot-and-mouth disease gets into the Australian national herd, it's projected to have an $80 billion impact on the economy. It would be devastating for the Australian farming community. So, I don't apologise for a second for the fact that the CSIRO, Departments of Agriculture, primary industry around the country, and the private sector research will very much be focused on building strategies to deal with biosecurity issues like foot-and-mouth disease, or lumpy skin disease for our pork. All these issues, whether it's in animal health or human health, these are things that scientific research and pharmaceutical research are going to defend people and defend our agriculture sector against what could be some pretty bad outcomes. But the theory that somehow people are planning to pose fines on people for inoculating their stock. I mean, I know as a kid that grew up on a farm, we inoculated stock all the time. We did our stock for ticks. We did all the things that were there to keep our herds safe and to make sure that we're as productive and efficient as possible. 


MACCA: Appreciate the answers on that one.  


Tim, just want to talk to you about renewables for a second. Obviously, a lot of talk about this Paris Agreement, whether or not the renewables targets for 2030 are actually going to be reached. I saw the Four Corners episode the other day with wind farms, particularly polarising community very close to us in the Nundle area, only a 45-minute drive from Tamworth. Are we on track? Where are we up to? 


SENATOR AYRES: We are on track. It is a stretch target. This isn't a government that sets low targets that are easy targets. It will require substantial investment, but what it will mean is power for households and businesses will be cheaper because there's certainty around the target and because business is investing in the generation capacity and in the transmission capacity that is required. There are billions of dollars worth of investment in new energy, and Australia needs a new energy system for this century. Under the last government, we had ten years where nothing happened in energy policy. There were 23 energy policies that they had, and they couldn't land a single one of them. There was constant change and uncertainty, and what that meant was that there was disinvestment. Companies that could choose whether they invested in new, cheap renewable energy in Australia or in overseas, invested overseas because the Australian jurisdiction was hopeless. That's why we had four gigawatts of energy go out of the system and only one gigawatt gets put in. That's why we had 24 coal fired power stations close down or announced their closure over the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government period, and very little new energy capability built. What is required is investment confidence, and that requires certainty and a clear plan about how investment is going to be built. That's what this government's delivered. It'll mean cheaper energy. It'll mean new manufacturing, and it'll mean new jobs, almost all of it in regional Australia. I understand some of these issues around wind in country communities, of course, need to be the subject of proper consultation and engagement. You will never get a project, whether it's a factory or a shopping centre or a wind farm development, where there will be universal agreement. That's not the way our system works. You’re never going to get everybody to agree, and it has different effects on different people, and people see things differently. I watched the Four Corners program too, but the government will continue to work through this in a careful way. We need new energy. We need cheap electricity, and we need certainty for investment. The biggest sovereign risk to Australian industry today is Peter Dutton and David Littleproud’s plan to wreck energy certainty. That's what we're focused on, delivering for households, and delivering for new manufacturing. 


MACCA: Senator Tim Ayres thank you for the chat. Appreciate you getting a fair bit to do, particularly with Li Quang in Canberra. I believe he's just arrived. We're actually seeing the footage at the moment on ABC News, the Chinese Premier arrives, and there is a fair welcoming party there for him just outside of Parliament. 


SENATOR AYRES: There's always a lot of focus on these international trips. There's a lot of pomp and ceremony and all that sort of stuff. It is an opportunity to engage in Australia's national interest, to be clear and direct with our Chinese counterparts, about where we can cooperate but also about where we disagree. Always in Australia's national interest. That's the key. What should be at the centre of a government's consideration of these things, not politics, but what is in the national interest. 


MACCA: Very good. Thank you, Senator Tim Ayres for the chat, and hopefully we'll talk to you this time next week. 


SENATOR AYRES: Catch you next week.