4BC Drive with Scott Emerson - 14 December 2021

SUBJECTS: Elon Musk; Anthony Albanese's visit to Queensland, election campaign, Labor rules out power sharing with Greens, hospitality worker shortages; Labor's Skills policy

 Every week we do catch up with Milton Dick Milton, great to have you back on the show.


EMERSON: Now Elon Musk named the Time Magazine Person of the Year. What's your what are your thoughts about Elon Musk?

DICK: Yeah, I was a bit surprised at that. But then again, each year they come up with, I guess, someone a bit outside the square. Look, I think, you know these billionaires, you know, changing sort of the world one electric vehicle at a time.But look, I think these people who are at the cutting edge of industry and business, I don't have a problem with them being named time person of the Year. But I also like to recognize the unsung heroes and perhaps sometimes those that aren't don't have their name up in lights as well. But I'll have a good rate of that time article over the Christmas break.

EMERSON: Yeah, I was asked about who I thought should be the time person of the year on the spot when I was doing the Today program this morning, and they told me before they were going to ask me about this and I said -don't think it's something humorous to say -and I suggested Bluey as a Queenslander good life coach for people. Why not make Mike Bluett, the person?

DICK: Well, I reckon it'd be popular with a whole demographic out there.

EMERSON: They might not be easy to drive, but I reckon.

DICK: Not yet.

EMERSON: Not yet. No, there's no parents out there, I reckon, or watching Bluey because they have to play-

DICK: Right now that school holidays are on, I reckon they'll be cranking it up. Well, particularly over the break.

EMERSON: That's indeed the case. Now, Anthony Albanese, talking about the Today program, I saw him early yesterday morning being interviewed at Sydney Airport. He is on the, I think, the first flight out of Sydney into Queensland and the borders reopened at 1:00 a.m. yesterday morning, but all surprised because he came up yesterday and then we thought we'd try to get him on drive this afternoon. But he's his office now. He's already fled. He's going down to Melbourne today. So the love affair with Queensland, it was a bit more like a speed dating rather than a long term encounter.

DICK: Yeah, look, he wanted to hit the ground running as quickly as possible. We had that chat last week about as soon as the borders would open, and Queensland is really important to Federal Labor. At the next election, we only hold, as you know, Scott, got six out of 30 seats, the lowest Senate vote since World War two, so we know we've been talking about this for the last couple of years that I've been on your show in terms of earning the trust of Queenslanders. I know he went straight to Longman, which is a must win seat for Labor. The most marginal seat in Queensland. Our candidate Rebecca Fanning is putting in a huge effort there, but I also saw him swing by Lilley with Anika Wells and Petrie with Mick our candidate there, so it was good to have him on the ground, and I can give you this scoop that he will be spending a lot of time in Queensland in 2022. And also, I'll give you a little scoop that he'll be holidaying in Queensland over the Christmas break, which is always good to see, particularly putting dollars into our local economy. I know he'll get a great reception when he's out and about.

EMERSON: So he'll be in the budgie smugglers on one of the coast, will he?

DICK: Well, I'm not- I'm not going that far.

EMERSON: The budgie smugglers off the coast?

DICK: No, I'll leave it up to Anthony about what, if, when he dips in the surf. But yeah, he did tell me that he was planning on coming to Queensland when the borders were open, and he'll be up here spending a bit of time, a bit of downtime before I guess we sprint towards the election next year.

EMERSON: Well, I can tell you a scoop as well. I suspect Scott Morrison is spending a lot of time in Queensland as well over the next couple of months. I think it will be pollie Central up here in Queensland. I think we maybe sometimes overplay the idea that it is a battleground state and there it's the most important state in the election. But clearly, look, there are seats at play and both sides are clearly going to be campaigning over the next couple of months to either win or retain them.

DICK: Yeah, look, we've got a huge job and I know the message that Anthony is connecting with Queenslanders and building on the support that we do have here. We've got some terrific representation here from Queensland shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers, Terri Butler and the shadow cabinet and the fantastic Senator Murray Walsh, who is also a shadow minister. But it's the quality, but also we need the quantity. So if we don't pick up seats in Queensland, it's going to be that much harder for us to win seats across Australia. This is going to be a really close election, Scott. I think there's only going to be a handful of seats in it. I still believe that we are the underdogs because we've only taken government three times since World War two and Scott Morrison's a really cunning politician. And I know we'll be throwing everything at this, but I'm really confident with the work that Anthony's done and particularly as we get to see him more over the summer break, but also over Christmas, Queenslanders will know that they've got a guy on their side, but also the plans to build back better as we get through the pandemic and moving forward in 2022 and beyond.

EMERSON: You say Milton Dick, it'll be a close election that Labor is the underdog. If Labor just falls short of having an absolute majority in the lower house, 76 seats so they don't get quite there. Would Labor be willing to be in Government, relying on, let's say, Adam Bandt from the Greens to give them support for a minority government?

DICK: No, the leadership team has made that crystal clear, and I know Tony and Richard Marles both said there will be no negotiations and no power sharing with the Greens. We learned that very difficult lesson in the hung parliament with Julia Gillard. There is no negotiations being planned and I certainly will be doing everything that I can to make sure that the Greens don't increase their representation. They are desperately chasing seats, but we need to make sure we have a strong Labor majority and that we are able to deliver on our commitments and that definitely is not on the agenda.

EMERSON: But if you fall one seat short of having an absolute majority in the lower house, obviously you do want to still be in power is going to have to rely on some members of the crossbench. Are you saying you would not rely on the Greens, who are saying they will back you for supply at least, so you can still form a minority government?

DICK: Well, I think after the election there will be a large crossbench. I think that is a fairly obvious statement and particularly where you see a number of the modern liberals being challenged by a very high profile independents. But from where I'm sitting, Scott, it's a majority Labor Government. It is not a minority parliament for my side of politics. I'm very strong about this. I'm a very, very strong supporter to make sure that we win as many seats as possible, not only here in Queensland, but defend, but also make increases in Western Australia. We've got good prospects. I think in Victoria, Tasmania is a very marginal area with seats like Bass and Braddon and of course, fortress New South Wales, where we've got a big job to do to defend the seats. But there are some opportunities, particularly in the inner areas of Sydney, in Banks and Reed with some great candidates. But we still got a long way to go. And I'm confident that we'll get there, but it's going to take a lot of work, a lot of effort. And Anthony Albanese and our team is really ready up for the challenge now.

EMERSON: Milton Dick, I'm talking to Milton Dick, the Federal Member Labor member for Oxley. I was talking to Wes Lambert a bit earlier from the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association about the desperate need for hospitality workers. He said there was 80,000 vacancies at the moment across the sector. Why aren't kids taking up those jobs at the moment?

DICK: Well, I think it's a really good question, and I've just finalized a report for Federal Labor alongside Lisa Chesters, the Federal Member for Bendigo, a task force into the post-pandemic recovery. Because the future of work and everywhere I've travelled across the country, we've been able to hold over 100 round tables that we've had with industry unions and leaders. They all tell us the same thing. They can't get staff now. We've had shortages, obviously with overseas workers, but also with particularly with restaurant and catering and hospitality. We don't seem to value that as a, I guess, a long career. It's maybe something you do between the ages of 18 and 21 or 22 and then you get the real job, so to speak. We need to change that. If you look around the world and tourism is going to bounce back bigger than ever before. We need to be encouraging young people who are at school now to think about a career in hospitality and particularly tourism. Look, that might start off working in a restaurant, but they might end up working the restaurant or the hotel, the way the world is going and if they work hard enough. So I do think we've had a huge skill shortage under the Morrison Government and that's right across the board, but particularly in hospitality indicators.

EMERSON: Is this an issue of a skills shortage or just that some kids just don't want to go into hospitality? I mean, some of these jobs aren't particularly skilled jobs, but they just don't. And they're paying reasonable wages. They just don't want to do the work.

DICK: Yeah. And I think it's not only there, but it's a whole range of industries. I know in my electorate, which is a big food processing area, they're screaming out for workers at what I call. This is a large- one of the largest food processing companies in Australia. So we do need to encourage young people, but this gets back to the issue that we have had this drop in skills, I know in my own electorate of Oxley, I've lost about 14 hundred trainees over the last eight or so years. This Government has failed in terms of getting young people into the trades, Scott, and that is a big focus for Anthony Albanese, a policy that he announced weekend before last. More TAFE available for more people to get these kids into the jobs, because unless we're training these kids up in the future, we're not going to be able to see our economy build back as soon as possible. So I'm a huge supporter of young people getting into trades and a big shout out to all those kids that have just finished school. And I know some that have told me that they're ensuring that don't worry about becoming a doctor or a lawyer, forgetting it, become a carpenter or a bricklayer. We need you more than ever the way the economy is turning at the moment.

EMERSON: Alright, Milton Dick. This is probably our last chance to talk this year before I take a bit of a break, so thanks for being part of 4BC throughout 2021.

DICK: Thanks, Scott. Best to all your listeners and look forward to chatting more in 2022 through the New Year.

EMERSON: No worries at all. Milton Dick, you have a great Christmas.