• Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Coronavirus; Support package.
01 April 2020

Natalie Barr: Australia’s agriculture and seafood industries have been given a boost this morning with the Government announcing a $170 million support package. The sectors have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis after travel restrictions halted exports. A hundred and ten million dollars has been allocated to organising freight flights of seafood, dairy, fruit and veggies of into key markets. Trade Minister Simon Birmingham joins me from Adelaide this morning. Thanks for your time. Minister, what markets will our exports be heading to first?

Simon Birmingham: Natalie, this is about making sure that we can still get high-quality Australian fish, meat, horticultural products into those traditional export markets of North Asia, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore of course, and the right through to Emirates across UK, Europe and elsewhere.

It’s really important that we preserve jobs in those agricultural sectors. Australia produces far more food than we can possibly eat as a country, we can feed around 75 million people and that’s why we want to make sure that although we’re losing flight capacity because of cancellation of passenger flights, but we definitely keep things going with freight going out of this country so we don’t lose jobs across those farming and fishing industries.

Natalie Barr: Will that impact on the supply and the price of progress at home?

Simon Birmingham: Absolutely not. As I said, we produce far more of these goods than we possibly consume in Australia. This is about ensuring that our farmers and fishers who rely on exports for their incomes and for the jobs they create can continue do so in the future and that we don’t lose those export markets which once lost, can often be very hard to get back.

Natalie Barr: Yeah. With all of these flights heading overseas and then returning home again, what sort of safety measures are you putting in place to make sure the aircraft is safe from the virus?

Simon Birmingham: Very strict safety measures. So flight crews effectively go into quarantine for the limited time that they are in Australia. So they find themselves under very tight conditions for the movement they undertake while they’re here, quarantined, and then of course back on a plane out. We’re also trying to make sure that on those flights back into Australia, we put medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, goods that Australia needs onto those flights wherever we can. And that’s a priority for that backhaul.

Natalie Barr: So what sort of supplies are going to be on those flights?

Simon Birmingham: So heading out of Australia of course, it’s our high quality agricultural product. Coming back in, it’s about protective equipment, face masks, pharmaceuticals, medicines, high-value goods that Australia needs at present. That’s the priority we’ll give for flights in but for flights out, it’s making sure that our farmers and our fishermen can still get a quality product exported out of the country, as they’ve been doing for so many years helping to feed the rest of the world. And just as we’ve supported keeping Australians in their jobs with our massive new JobKeeper payment, this is about making sure that we’re not losing jobs in those agriculture industries just because there aren’t the freight flights to get goods onto at present.

Natalie Barr: Yeah. It’s an important sector, isn’t it? Thank you very much, Simon Birmingham.