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Source: Australian Ministers for Regional Development

Rodger Schirmer: Okay. Welcome ladies and gentlemen to this lovely cold early summer morning. But it a big welcome to the Federal Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie, Deputy PM Michael McCormack. This is another red letter day for Lockhart Shire, in that not only were we recipients some time ago of a million dollars to start a renewable energy project in the shire, but we have now received $1 million drought- help with the drought that we’re not facing as badly here but if we don’t get rain it will turn into a very bad drought. And also the Deputy PM tells me that we’re going to receive an extra $1 million for Roads to Recovery, which will make a very, very big difference to our budget in the council and for that we thank you very much.

I said before and I’ve said it consistently that the Coalition Government have been very, very good for rural Australia generally and we’re right in the middle of that as a small shire. But we’re very, very grateful for this help and it will make a big difference to people that are living in rural areas, not only farmers but people that are running businesses in smaller rural towns. Farmers will face up to another year. Unfortunately, small shops that do it very tough close their doors and they don’t often and come back. So we’re certainly going to be giving whatever help we can with this million-dollar funding to everybody as equitably as possible throughout the shire. So, again, thank you very much. It’s a wonderful gift for our shire and a tremendous boost along for rural Australia, so thank you very much.

Michael McCormack: Thank you Rodger. Good on you.

Rodger Schirmer: Thank you.

Michael McCormack: Well thank you Roger and I too acknowledge Bridget McKenzie, the Agriculture Minister, doing a great job in difficult times. But certainly difficult times today not just with the drought, but with the fires across our nation and they are raging out of control in some areas in Queensland. Certainly there are fires in Western Australia which have started in recent days which are of worrying concern and of course in New South Wales, we have at least 77 fires burning at the moment, 42 thereabouts uncontained. There are two people who have died in these New South Wales fires and seven people who have- we don’t know their whereabouts. We have no confirmation that they are still alive and that is very, very tragic. We obviously as a Government are working very closely with our state governments, so I know that Premier Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales and the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk are very mindful of what we need to do as governments. I’ve just been on a teleconference with Bridget, the Prime Minister, the National Emergency Coordinator, the Minister David Littleproud and the Defence Minister Senator Linda Reynolds to see the situation as it is at the moment, as it is unfolding. Very, very worrying.

I’ve spoken to a number of my colleagues this morning: Barnaby Joyce, Pat Conaghan, David Gillespie, Scott Buchholz, Stuart Robert, Kevin Hogan. They are all very much mindful of the fact that their electorates are on fire and many areas in their electorates, they don’t know whether crews have been able to get to the fires. Of course, we’ve got more than a hundred homes that have been destroyed. A hundred homes have been destroyed and of course we will act with those emergency procedures as far as financing those people who are homeless as soon as, of course, the help is required. Those people will not be left without shelter. Those people will not be left without cash. We will act accordingly. The New South Wales Government of course has called in disaster assistance procedures. That’s important. We will monitor the situation as it unfolds. Rest assured that we are very mindful too of our fire crews. They’ve been fighting these blazes for more than 24 hours now. Some of them are very tired. They’re very weary but they’re battling on. They’re getting help from other states and that’s to be commended. I know that South Australia is sending across crews; Tasmania are likely and Victoria also to do the same. When we have these worst of times, you see the best in Australians.

And it’s so important that for those people who are asked to leave their homes, who are asked to leave their communities, please do so. Please follow what emergency people advise you to do. And for those people who are left in those situations please, please monitor the televisions and the radio and do what you need to do and report into loved ones because we need to know that you’re safe and well. If you have decided to stay and haven’t been able to get in time, please let loved ones know that you are alive and well and doing the best that you can in the circumstances. These are very grave circumstances, both in Queensland and New South Wales and of course as I said earlier Western Australia.

But we are here at The Rock Recreation Oval, the home of the Magpies, the home of The Rock Yerong Creek Football Club. This area has been added- this local government area has been added; six shires to the 122 which have previously received $1 million as far as the Drought Community Support Program. Now those 122 councils have spent that money on upgrading memorial halls, on fixing up a roundabout, on doing the sorts of things in their communities, not just in their major towns, but also in the little villages around to keep money generating in their communities, to keep employment generating in their communities. And this is part of the additional measures that we’ve announced to help combat the drought. The drought is crippling Australia, particularly New South Wales and Queensland and of course each and every state is now drought affected and the 128 councils are right across our nation. So Lockhart Shire is one of six that have been added to the previous 122.

There is also a discretionary $50 million set aside for those councils which may not qualify as far as rainfall, which may not qualify as far as the amount of people directly employed through agriculture in that local government area and we will be monitoring the situation. We urge those councils which have not yet qualified to make contact with us and to send in their cases if they feel as though they should also be receiving money as far as this Drought Community Support Program as well as Roger Schirmer, the Mayor of Lockhart Shire, has just indicated there will be a top up of Roads to Recovery funding for those 128 councils. Now the amount is yet to be determined, but it will be spent in the 2020 calendar year to upgrade roads, to seal perhaps unsealed roads, to perhaps do maintenance. But that decision will be made at a local level and that’s why that program is so important, that’s why that program is so successful because it enables local government areas to make the decisions where they know that they have road upgrades that need doing.

Of course, we’ve also got the loans that we- through the Regional Investment Corporation, so not just for farmers – up to $2 million – but also half a million dollars for regional shopkeepers, for regional businesses. Now, we don’t want people getting into debt beyond which they can service, but we urge and encourage those people who feel as though that they should avail themselves of a loan under a RIC program to talk to their accountants, to talk to their rural financial counsellors, indeed to talk to their families and their banks. And if they feel as though they want to take out a loan to help them through these troubling times, then by all means visit and see if they’re eligible. How they can take part in that program and to make sure that they, if they feel as though they can, to make sure that they can take advantage of the two-year interest-free loans. And of course if we’re still in the same position two years from now as we are right here and now, in drought conditions, we’ll revisit that interest free period, because what we don’t want to do is seeing people who are already struggling get beyond their means.

What we want to do is to provide help for them now when they need it and if they want to use that money on fodder or agistment or whatever the case might be, if they want to use that money to buy capital equipment to help their business in a regional community, then we encourage them to do so. And of course, we’ve also got the 100 gigalitres of water through the South Australian Government cranking up their desalination plant, so that will be offset upstream for fodder growth in the Murray River. These are so important measures to help our communities through the drought. We’ve been there before, we’ve stepped up measures and of course this latest range of and raft of measures are going to help our communities. We’ve listened to the NFF, we’ve listened to the New South Wales Farmers Association, AgForce, Victoria Farmers Federation. We’ve also listened to our communities. Bridget and I have been across the kitchen tables from farmers, as has David Littleproud. We’ve talked to our shopkeepers across their counters. We’ve heard what they need. We’ve heard what they require. We’ve listened to that advice and of course we’ve around the Cabinet table acted upon it, acted accordingly, making sure that we’ve got the right assistance for the right people in the right communities right now. And I’ll ask Bridget to add to those comments and then happy to take any questions.

Bridget McKenzie: Thanks Deputy Prime Minister. I think since our drought announcement, you know, to see the devastation that the fires are wreaking right across your state here in New South Wales, Queensland and now some concern in WA really goes to the challenges that those of us that live and work and raise families and run businesses out in regional Australia face. And so I won’t add much more to your comments other than to say a big thank you to our volunteer rural fire services. These are often drought affected farmers in many of these communities, who are now putting down the feed bucket and heading out on the truck to save someone else’s home, someone else’s business and someone else’s family. So these are lives and livelihoods that are on the line right now. And, you know, our thoughts and our prayers are absolutely with everyone in the fire areas and I know that state governments and the Federal Government is doing everything we can from a systems level to make sure that we’ve got the support going forward.

Just on the drought, I’ve just got in from The Territory and where yesterday I was able to sit down with Territory cattlemen in the Barkly and hear that the drought isn’t just here on the East Coast, it’s very much expanding its impact right throughout Australia and there’s been destocking going on of The Territory herd for many, many months and it’s been great, their response to our drought package announced on Thursday in Canberra, to see that they too will be able to avail themselves of the $200 million BBRF program. So the Farm Household Allowance expanding and being simplified, tens of thousands of farmers across the country will be able to access that support and our Government is absolutely committed to sustaining farmers on the land, to sustaining our rural and regional communities and making sure those agri-service providers, our rural supply stores, our hay contractors, our mechanics are still in our local communities when the rains come and the droughts break because they are going to be critical to the recovery.

And I think, Michael, you just touched on the 100 gigalitre to grow fodder in the southern states. This is a fantastic initiative. Our national herd is at a 25-year low. We are at grave risk of losing critical numbers of breeding stock. Growing this fodder is absolutely essential to make sure that we can very quickly within two to three years ramp up and get back to our usual herd levels. Without that fodder, we won’t be able to and we don’t want farmers making that very tough decision to actually get rid of genetics that they’ve been developing over many, many generations.

In terms of some of the critique, if you like, of our drought package, it’s very, very disappointing as Australia’s Agriculture Minister. It’s usually a portfolio where there’s a lot of bipartisanship because agriculture takes time to be profitable and so usually you’re not going to see as an Ag Min the results of a lot of your hard work, it’ll be someone else. So it’s usually an area of bipartisanship and it’s been very, very disappointing to see since Thursday critique of Farm Household Allowance. I want to make it very, very clear that nobody is getting kicked off Farm Household Allowance. When we came to Government this was a payment that was available to farmers in hardship for three years in their lifetime. We expanded that to make sure that was then four years in your lifetime and on the back of a farmer-led independent review, we’ve actually extended that to four years out of every 10, recognising in this country that droughts don’t just happen once in your lifetime in this country. Periods of hardship if you are a farmer come in a cyclical fashion and we’ve recognised that with this hardship payment.

The legislation before the Senate this week also includes a supplementary lump sum payment to those farmers whose four years are coming to an end this financial year and we’ll make sure that couples will receive a lump sum payment of $13,000. There are an estimated 1,760 farmers whose time on Farm Household Allowance will come to an end this financial year who will be able to apply for that lump sum payment. The legislation in front of the Senate gives the Minister responsible, which is myself, the power to make a rule to ensure that when an additional lump sum payment is required, we’ll be able to make that decision and get that much needed cash into farmers’ bank balances and we’ve made very clear that that is exactly what we’re going to do. Our Government has stood with our farmers and our regional communities and small businesses from day one and we’ll continue, not just when the rains come, but well into recovery.

The second issue I’ve been hearing about was, you know, farmers and small businesses don’t want more loans. Well, as I’ve travelled around rural and regional communities and Michael, we live in these communities as Nats and David Littleproud’s own electorate has been in drought for upwards of seven years. It is an issue we’ve been hearing about. It is a measure that both small businesses and farmers have required. Now, the great opportunity is not to take on new debt, but refinance old debt and save tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments over the two-year interest-free repayment-free period. So there’s great opportunity for our farmers and our small business owners to really get cash flow into your business right now as a result of taking up one of these RIC loans.

And finally I just wanted to touch on people choosing to politicise both the fires and the droughts with respect to climate change. If we turned off every single coal-fired power station in this country right now, those fires would still be occurring and the drought would still be on. Our Government takes seriously the issue of climate change. It’s why we’ve got a whole suite of initiatives that we took to the election for practically working towards lowering our emissions over time, which is what we should do and to meet our international obligations. But we also need to not use these disasters as an opportunity to score cheap political points to win votes in capital cities. The reality is our firefighters are on the front lines trying to save lives and livelihoods. Our farmers are doing it incredibly tough, as are our regional communities. We as an Australian nation federally, locally and at a state level need to be working together on supporting these communities in their hour of need, not using it as an opportunity to score cheap political points. Questions?

Journalist: Bridget McKenzie, can I just ask you one question?

Bridget McKenzie: Yeah.

Journalist: Regarding the 100 gigalitres of water that’s been allocated for fodder growth, why hasn’t it been allocated to rice- the rice industry in terms of growing rice for human consumption? Why has it been allocated to growing for cattle and sheep production?

Bridget McKenzie: Well because we were wanting to address the fodder shortage that’s occurring as the drought extends. You know, if I think about one of the issues that’s impacting the Australian dairy industry across all three eastern seaboard states, it’s the cost of fodder. You know, as fodder subsidies have hit and farmers, particularly in New South Wales, have required increased grain and fodder to actually keep livestock alive. The price then has actually gone through the roof, so other commodities such as dairy are paying record prices and their input costs are going through the roof. So we know we need to grow more fodder to keep our breeder herd in particular alive until after the drought breaks and so that’s why we’ve prioritised this water being spent for that particular product.

Journalist: Irrigators I’ve spoken to are very appreciative that there is some action being taken here, but they are concerned about how it’s being allocated. The figures that have come out around 25 megs per farmer- per irrigator, most ones- irrigators I’ve spoken to have said they don’t really have paddocks to- that small- that are small enough to utilise that amount of water and it would be great if it was a top up but they haven’t got any water to start with. And it’s- yeah, the economy of scale is not making sense for them if it’s just 25 megs. What sort of thoughts process went into this and what’s your response to that?

Michael McCormack: Well, it’s a good start and a hundred gigalitres is going to provide a lot of silage, a lot of hay, a lot of fodder. So it’s a very, very good start and it shows what you can do when you’ve got a South Australian Government with a Premier in Steven Marshall who want to take a national leadership role, who want to make sure that they respond to this emergency, not just thinking of themselves but thinking of others as well. And what we’ve seen in this drought – and I have to give credit where it’s due – that is people actually thinking of themselves- thinking of others rather themselves particularly as- and I’ll certainly address your question. But when we consider the Building Better Regions Fund, $200 million, going to those local government areas which most need it. Now, other local government areas would love to be able to apply- those that aren’t in drought would love to be able to apply, but this is a drought-only round. So it’s a drought-dedicated round. And yet, while I’ve spoken to some of those councils which aren’t now eligible because it is a drought-only round and they aren’t in a drought affected area, they’ve said well this is the right decision. This is a responsible decision to take and we as Australians want to see those drought communities pull through this, get through this with the best available assistance and we commend the Government for doing just that.

And it’s a similar story with the 100 gigalitres. So we’ve seen the South Australian Government actually cranking up its de-sal plant, providing 100 gigalitres which will be for purposes obviously in South Australia and it will be offset upstream, other- water that they would have otherwise received via the normal Murray-Darling processes, they’ll be able to use for- it’ll be able to be used for growing fodder up and down the Murray. So this is so important and, look, it’s a good start. If, you know, if we can do this- do this in times of drought, we should be able to do it in other times as well. So I commend Steven Marshall, a very good person, a very good Premier, somebody who’s got a mind to ensure that the rest of the nation is being able to benefit from his wisdom, his foresight and playing the right and responsible thing to do as a Premier should in times of crisis.

And there will be a tender process obviously. And look, farmers have told us that that is enough water to be able to grow fodder. Of course, it won’t suit every circumstance. It will certainly help in growing fodder. It will certainly help in keeping our breeding stock alive. It’s a good decision and it’s a good start.

Journalist: How are you going to actually regulate that they are growing fodder? Is it a goodwill system?

Michael McCormack: Well, David Littleproud has said that there will be very much the ruler run over how we allocate the water, where it’s allocated and how much water is allocated and what in fact it’s going to grow. So it will be monitored. We’re working through that at the moment, but the fact that the South Australian Cabinet only sat down on Thursday and agreed to it, we made our announcement just a few hours after that, so we’re working through that process. But the fact is we’ve got the 100 gigalitres. Fact is, Stephen Marshall has shown great national leadership to come on board with this situation which is going to very much help our farmers in other states and we’re very delighted that he’s done so and we’ll work through the processes, we’ll be able to grow more fodder and as Bridget McKenzie, the Agriculture Minister, has just indicated, that will keep our breeding stock alive, fed well and able to be kept rather than send to the slaughterhouse.

Journalist: So what support system is in place to help farmers determine what they are or are not entitled to under drought relief?

Michael McCormack: Well what we don’t want them to do is use the 100 gigalitres or their allocation thereof for other than growing fodder. We’ve been quite clear about that. We will be monitoring the situation and we’ll be making sure that it is used in the right way.

Bridget McKenzie: Is that to go how they can- yeah …

Journalist: [Talks over] In terms of, I mean, the whole range of support …

Bridget McKenzie: So what we’ve announced in earlier iterations of our drought response is actually the Farm Hub, which is a one-stop-shop where farmers can actually go to access not just Federal Government support information, but what’s available in their home state as well. It has been very difficult, I think, for a lot of our farmers and regional communities to understand what support is out there and we’ve seen that reflected in the Farm Household Allowance figures. You know, so many people self-assessing and not getting in touch with their local rural financial counsellor, sitting down at the kitchen table and saying you know am I eligible for this support and how can you help me apply? So we’ve created the Farm Hub, a website where you can go and actually get all the information available for the support structures for your particular region.

Journalist: So if you are establishing kind of a side fund for local government level assistance under the drought, does that mean the Government won’t be reassessing its selection or eligibility criteria for local government area- the $1 million support?

Bridget McKenzie: There’s a discretionary component to what we announced on Thursday which will give the Minister the options to make decisions, talk to local councils, talk to local community leaders about what is needed in their particular area. For instance, in previous rounds the Bega Shire was a recipient of DCP because of some unique issues around bushfires and drought impacting on the dairy industry. So, this fund has been used to respond in a variety of ways and giving ministers the discretionary component means that no matter where you are in Australia, if you’re struggling through drought the minister will be able to engage with you and your local community leaders and make a determination.

Journalist: But the …

Journalist: [Talks over] Just on that, if the Bega Valley Shire Council has received it, how come the neighbouring Snowy Monaro Council which is actually drought declared is not and then again the Lockhart Shire which is drought declared [indistinct].

Michael McCormack: Well there has to be criteria and there has to be unfortunately or fortunately, whichever way you like to look at it, lines on a map drawn because what we- what the criteria has been and the fact is there have to be a 17 per cent reliance on agriculture for employment and of course rainfall figures come into it. There are other measures but just because it’s drought declared by the state – and most of New South Wales is drought declared – some of the communities are very much reliant almost wholly and solely on agriculture. Many of those communities have not seen a drop of rain, whereas other communities and you drive through them, some of the local government areas, yes, it’s dry, yes, farmers’ incomes are down but there’s a lot of hay there. There’s still stock in the paddocks.

And so we’ve had to be very discretionary with this as far as making sure that we’ve got the extra $50 million as part of this latest drought measure package. We’ve got that so that the Minister can hear from local government areas which feel that they should have been included but weren’t which- despite the fact that they might not have a total reliance on agriculture, despite the fact that they might have had some showers in sporadic patches of their local government areas, they’re still very dry, their farmers’ incomes are low, hope and spirits are flagging in their local towns. They can apply. They should go to the Minister and write to the Minister, David Littleproud and put their case and I’d urge and encourage them to do so.

I mean, I know in my local government- in my Riverina electorate, there are 12 local government areas. Well, nine have received- nine have received the $1 million payment. Lockhart is the latest to do that as well as Hilltops which is based around Young, but Junee, Cootamundra Gundagai and Wagga Wagga have not. Now, Wagga Wagga’s reliance on agriculture as far as employment’s concerned is only around 4 per cent. Very, very lucky that we’ve got a very strong military presence with all three arms of the Defence. Very lucky we’ve got a vibrant university and of course a huge services industry. It’s dry around Wagga Wagga. Of course, Mangoplah is in Wagga Wagga local government area, so is Humula, so is Tarcutta. They know- those farmers know that it’s very dry there, but there’s also a big rate base that’ll get that particular local government area through.

I’ve spoken to Neil Smith, the mayor of Junee, this morning and he understands that we will look at Junee as far as a discretionary payment, but he understands that they have had some rain. And of course yesterday I spoke to Abb McAlister, the Cootamundra Gundagai Mayor, and whilst they’re disappointed that they haven’t been included, the fact is we will look at them as far as a discretionary payment is concerned and Gundagai and Cootamundra have received some showers and there is some hay around the paddocks and there are some stock on hand. So it is a case by case basis and we will continue to monitor the situation as we’ve done the entire drought through.

Journalist: Just another question, sorry, on the hundred gigalitres. Just the fodder that’s produced with this water, is there going to be a price cap on it in terms of when it’s sold on to livestock producers? Is that- has that stage been thought through yet?

Bridget McKenzie: Okay. My understanding is that will just be released onto the market and obviously increasing supply of fodder available to all farmers, not just drought affected farmers, will actually be of benefit right across our primary production network. As I stated early, dairy farmers are feeling the pinch with an absolute skyrocketing of their input costs. You know, whilst we’ve got historically high milk prices at the moment, they’re not seeing the benefit of it because their electricity’s gone through the roof, their fodder prices have gone through the roof and if you’re an irrigating dairy farmer, your water’s gone through the roof. So we need to get more fodder into the system on mass. This will actually make that happen. I think it’s an incredibly creative way to solve what has been an intractable problem and it will also give those dairy farmers along the Murray and other farmers who may not have been able to afford any temporary water at 900 bucks in recent weeks another avenue to raise much needed cash.

Journalist: The other question was just we’ve spoken to some growers in the north of the state who are fodder producers and obviously they could be negatively impacted if the price drops for them and for their business. Is that being taken into account?

Bridget McKenzie: Well anyone that’s producing fodder right now is getting a very good price for it. And I know that any farmer, whether they’re a fodder producer or someone that’s looking to purchase fodder, doesn’t want to be making money out of someone else’s misery. We need to make sure that we’re all working hard to make sure we keep the breeding stock alive in a way that ensures fodder producers in the north of the state are still making a living and I’m very confident that they will still be able to make a sizeable living out of fodder production, that our dairy farmers- we’ve got more fodder into the system. And, you know, even our grain growers over in the West who have been supplementing fodder and grain over here on the east throughout the drought are also still being able to turn a profit, which is what we want to see. We want to see a profitable and sustainable agricultural industry. It is incredibly difficult in drought times for that to occur. But I think you often see the best of our regional communities and our agricultural industries. You know, I’m often at meetings where a grain grower will sidle up and say I’m feeling guilty about having a great season, or your dairy farmers saying look I don’t want to bag out the grain guys but, so there is a real appreciation and understanding within agriculture more broadly that when someone’s doing it tough, other people are going to be making some good money out there and that’s just how agriculture goes in Australia. So I think we just need to appreciate that we’re doing it tough out in the regions and farmers will be helping farmers through growing fodder thanks to this hundred gigalitres.

Unidentified Speaker: And I am sorry to just interrupt. We’ve actually only got time for one more question.

Bridget McKenzie: We’ve got to go to Moree.

Unidentified Speaker: So one more question, sorry about that.

Journalist: Will the …

Unidentified Speaker: [Talks over] [Inaudible]

Journalist: Well, the Victorian Government has announced a date which they’d shut down their native timber logging industry. I mean, do you think that if New South Wales were to adopt a similar policy that it would damage regions like the Riverina and the Southern Slopes?

Bridget McKenzie: Any government that wants to see prosperous and sustainable regional communities needs to back the sustainable management of our hardwood and our forestry sectors. I am absolutely appalled as a Victorian Senator, as a daughter of a logger who grew up in a timber town, that our state Government under Daniel Andrews, seeking to win votes in Brunswick and Fitzroy, has sought to shut down a sustainable native hardwood forestry system, employing over 4,700 people. It is an absolute indictment. It says everything that is wrong with the Labor Party, not just in Victoria but it would seem at a national level that they just do not appreciate that if you do not live in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane you actually contribute to the entire wealth of this nation and that the entire country suffers if we’re not producing food and if we’re not fishing and if we’re not harvesting. Every hardwood tree that is cut down in Victoria is replanted. This is a sustainably managed industry, employing thousands of people. And so I would be incredibly disappointed if New South Wales chose to follow such a poor example of leadership as the Daniel Andrews Victorian Government has shown last week in shutting down a sustainably managed forestry industry.

Michael McCormack: I might just add, I bumped into a former Labor Member in the airport last night and he was absolutely going spare. And he said it’s a good thing I’m not- still not in Parliament because I would definitely cross the floor about this. He was absolutely, almost violently angry about the decision that’s been taken by the Victorian Labor Government. But mind you, this is the same Victorian Labor Government which thinks that climate change is going to be such that it will never rain again and they don’t need to build any dams. Thank goodness we’ve got Peter Walsh and Steph Ryan, who are talking about the Buffalo project near Myrtleford. Thank goodness we’ve got people in the National Party and in the Liberal Party who want to see our regional communities sustained, who want to see regional communities in Victoria and elsewhere going ahead, being able to use their produce, being able to harvest their trees. I mean, this is just madness. And let me tell you, I think if Daniel Andrews actually scratches the surface of his Labor caucus, he’ll find there’s a lot of opposition to what he’s just done.

Unidentified Speaker: One more question.

Journalist: [Talks over] [Inaudible]

Michael McCormack: It’s all good.

Bridget McKenzie: Facial recognition stuff?

Journalist: Yeah, the facial recognition stuff? You know what I’m talking about Michael [indistinct].

Bridget McKenzie: You ask your own question and then answer it.


Michael McCormack: Well this is a matter for the states. Certainly we obviously live in an age where technology is moving at a rapid pace and of course we always want to keep ahead, if not apace with technology changes. What we want to do is make sure that our schools are safe places to be. What we want to make sure is that they’re the most convenient and easy places to be as far as making sure that roll calls are done, making sure that all those things are done so that we can get on with the lessons of the day. But this is a matter for states. States run schools. We’ll see what the situation- how it unfolds. There’s nothing before Parliament at the moment and we’ll just- we’ll see what the states say about it.

That alright? Good. Excellent. Okay, thank you guys.