4BC Drive with Scott Emerson - 22 February 2022


SUBJECTSRussia and Ukraine; Labor’s COVID Recovery Taskforce Report; Queensland Mask Restrictions Easing.   

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST:  All eyes are on Russia after Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the Ukrainian territory surrounding the country's borders. These are the so-called peacekeepers, a number of countries are considering sanctions against Russia. And of course, we're removing our embassy staff as well out of Ukraine. What do you make of the current situation Milton Dick?

MILTON DICK, MEMBER FOR OXLEY: Look, it's just a blatant violation of international law and you know, I really feel for the people of Ukraine who would be utterly I guess, despairing at this time, and I certainly support what the Government's doing at the moment. I think right around the world, those of us that believe in territorial integrity, you know, we stand strong and support the Ukrainian people.

EMERSON: Yeah, look, it's a terrible situation there. Now, Peter Dutton has reiterated that we won't be sending troops to Ukraine at all, but he has said there will be some assistance in terms of maybe the technology side of things. From Labor's perspective, what do you think Australia should be doing in terms of any aid or sanctions? If Russia does invade Ukraine?

DICK: Well, look, I think there's a few things that we can do. Obviously, any citizens that are there, we've been putting the call out, to make sure they're, you know, safe and sound. Obviously looking at any aid that we can do, I think is important. Obviously, the Federal Opposition will be receiving briefings, ongoing briefings from the Government, but I guess it's about the unification or the united stand of all people around the world, to send a very clear message about what Russia is doing. I know I've been speaking to a few Ukrainian Australians, they've still got family there. They are utterly concerned about what this could mean. Hopefully, that pressure will continue, but whether we need to impose targeted sanctions or consideration of military assistance, and that could be anything from cyber security or beyond. I think it is a wait and see approach but the Federal Opposition stands ready to show our support and anything that we need to do to make sure that Australia remains united and has a bipartisan political approach to this issue, Scott.

EMERSON: Now, I'm talking to Milton Dick, he's the Labor member for Oxley, you are also the co-chair of Labor's Pandemic Recovery, Jobs and Industry Task Force. And today, Milton, you're in Tasmania with Anthony Albanese to launch the report. What is Labor's plan?

DICK: Well as a couple of things. We've been conducting a task force into what the economy will look like, post the pandemic, we want to make sure that we get the settings right and then we put a full set of policies forward to help the economy grow, we did around 100 roundtables. I travelled the country a little bit. And we had around 200 submissions from both big business and small businesses, and also workers and community groups. 

But the clear message we got from the business community is that we do have a skills issue. Down here in Tasmania for example, and in Queensland, we've seen a reduction in apprenticeships over the last 10 or so years. And it's critical that as businesses come out of pandemic, they have a clear roadmap in terms of getting those right skills and apprenticeships and traineeships on board, but also the issue about manufacturing and making things in Australia. That was a very clear message we heard from a range of industries and from a range of sectors. Down here in Tasmania we launched the report that Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles at James Boag - a bit of an institution down here - brewery and they are looking at adaptive ways of dealing with the pandemic recovery, looking at innovation in terms of manufacturing and being best practice. So, I think right across Australia, businesses are crying out for leadership and certainly our reconstruction fund, whether it be looking at more TAFE places and university places to make sure that we skill up Australians and invest in our best resource, which is our people.

EMERSON: In terms of coming out of the pandemic. We look at the economic side of things, unemployment is very low and we forecast it'll drop below 4%. And the economy is doing much better than most other economies around the world. On the election coming up, traditionally, the Liberals do well in terms of getting votes from the- well the tick from voters on the economic credentials. How hard is it for Labor to compete against the Coalition on those areas? When I say the economy, the growth is pretty good. Unemployment rate very low.

DICK: Well when you look at the half a million Australians that are still looking for more work, when you look at the fact that there are businesses still struggling, this economic record by the Government isn't as strong as they like to make out Scott. Yes, it's good to see unemployment coming down. But we've still got to look at wage growth to make sure that we're lifting wages. And how do we do that? By increasing economic productivity by investing in those key areas of skills and training if we are to be competitive in the world stage, and COVID has knocked around manufacturing in this country. But what we've learned out of it is if we have the best minds in this country working together, we can lead this through a manufacturing lead recovery. So we'll be putting forth a lot more issues on the table as we head towards the election. But the policies that Anthony Albanese has already outlined will lift economic productivity, invest in our people and deal with things like the cost of living as well, whether that be childcare, energy prices, all of those things that Australians want leadership on. It is going to be a tough fight heading towards the election. I still maintain it's going to be a very close election. But I'm confident the work that the task force has done and laying out some of those policies that we've already done will be in the best possible position to make sure that the future of the economy will be in very strong hands underneath Anthony Albanese Labor Government.

EMERSON: And just finally today, Milton Dick, The Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk announced in Parliament today that the restrictions on masks in most places will be dropped from March 4th, still some areas like on public transport in aged care facilities, etc. But primarily in indoors, we won't have to have masks on from March 4th. How have you gone with Masks? Now be honest about this, have you enjoyed wearing them? Do you like the bit of anonymity from wearing a mask, or are you just happy to see them go?

DICK: Well, it's hard for me to blend into a crowd Scott, you know like everyone I don't think anyone loves wearing a face mask but from Friday, March 4th I think it is good news, when we can take the mask off. But I think it is also a real credit to every single Queenslander who had done the right thing of either stepping up, getting vaccinated, staying safe. And I think that has been better than most, but I think it will be a huge relief and I know it has caused some angst, particularly for some older people who've had to wear masks, but they'll no longer be required in things like schools and even out and about when we're out in the community. I want to pay tribute to all the Queenslanders that have been wearing masks. We haven't had the silly fights around the world that you see about the anti-maskers or whatnot. Most Queenslanders have been decent and done the right thing I think it's credit to them that they've worked hard and now they can take their mask off and maybe enjoy a bit of face time with everyone and get to see everyone's smiles.

EMERSON: Alright then Milton Dick. Always good to have a chat. We'll catch you again next week.

DICK: We'll see you then.