Remarks Norfolk Island
16 November 2018
Subjects: Ley's background, Norfolk Island's biosecurity and tourism
Fletcher Christian: And I'd like to welcome to the studio this morning, the Honourable Sussan Ley, MP and Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories. A big welcome to you Ley, Sussan. We'll get our names right.
Sussan Ley: Morning, Fletch. Lovely to be here. Fantastic.
Fletcher Christian: And it's certainly good to see you here. You've had a nice welcome and enjoyed your stay so far?
Sussan Ley: I have. I've been here for the week.
Fletcher Christian: Yeah.
Sussan Ley: I have packed it full of things to see, people to meet, experiences, opinions and pretty much—well, not everything the island has to offer because how could I possibly in a whole week. So I need to come back, unsupervised, undercover, and just wander around and do those things…
Fletcher Christian: Yeah.
Sussan Ley: …including long walks and looks at the ocean.
Fletcher Christian: It's certainly the place to do that. Now, looking into your background, you're pretty diversified in the things that you've done in your life. Just to name a few—you've been an air traffic control, commercial pilot and a shearer's cook, is that right?
Sussan Ley: That is right.
Fletcher Christian: Wow.
Sussan Ley: A shearer's cook in western Queensland…
Fletcher Christian: Yeah.
Sussan Ley: …during the early 1980s and taught me a lot about life; taught me that always to respect someone who does a hard day's work and how the people that built our society do deserve our respect.
Fletcher Christian: And you've been involved in politics since the early 2000s, I guess.
Sussan Ley: That's right. I'm an old hand now.
Fletcher Christian: [Talks over] Yeah.
Sussan Ley: …in the Federal Parliament. Perhaps too many people are coming and going but hey, I'm still there.
Fletcher Christian: Yeah. Yeah. Alright. Minister, what have you been up to whilst here? There have been different groups to meet.
Sussan Ley: Well, my role was with your Administrator to consult, to listen, to learn, and to work with the administrator and my department—the three of us to deliver to the people of Norfolk Island. So, I'm the Minister for the Territories, that means when I go to the mainland, I speak up for Norfolk Island; and everyone won't agree and we won't always get everything we want but I'm going to push it as hard as I can because I recognise that the transition that the people have experienced has been fast; it's been furious. For some, it's been too fast and there's been a fragmentation and a disconnection along the way, and we can get there—in fact, we will get there—but how do we smooth the path ahead and recognise people's views, their opinions, their concerns, and do what we can.
Fletcher Christian: How many different parties or groups have you met whilst you're here?
Sussan Ley: Fletch, I could probably list 20. I mean, I had a disposition when I came that if somebody wanted to see me, they could. So we squeezed pretty much everybody in. I've got a couple more eating into my shopping time this morning but that's alright too because they're down the street, but it is important and some of these meetings have been 15 minutes; some of them have been an hour 15. But I've encouraged a full, frank expression and look, I didn't need to encourage it.
Fletcher Christian: No. No.
Sussan Ley: I think the straight-talking local people told me what they thought. That's a good thing.
Fletcher Christian: Yeah.
Sussan Ley: That's a good thing. We've got to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.
Fletcher Christian: Yeah. There's been lots of discussions about biosecurity, ruminants, and et cetera; and I guess you've met those respective parties and had a talk about their concerns and got something planned for them.
Sussan Ley: Biosecurity is very important. We've come under Australia's biosecurity regime. There could be advantages to that. For example, I've met people who would like to have an international bee sanctuary here, given the role of bees in pollination of fruit and food for the future. I think that would be terrific. That's actually expressing our disease-free status. On the other hand, I've really heard the frustration of farmers—and I've been a farmer for 17 years in a previous life—who used to be able to import bulls, sheep, goats into the island, rams, and now find themselves up against a wall of bureaucracy. So, I agree with them. It's not good enough. We need a short-term fix so that their production can continue and we need a long-term change to the protocol—when I say long term, I want it to happen as soon as possible—so that we can recognise that disease-free status but also the needs of agriculture.
Fletcher Christian: It sounds like you've got your finger right on the pulse there, Minister. Now, along with those biosecurity and ruminants, what about tourism and food? Did you have a good look at that industry?
Sussan Ley: I would say that that has changed in a fantastic way since I was last here—I was the Opposition spokesperson for the Territories—in this radio station. Just trying to work out if I spoke to you, Fletch, quite possibly nine years ago.
Fletcher Christian: Yeah, that was quite a while. Yeah, you may have, yes.
Sussan Ley: But look, that is one thing that has that has just—it's got potential to transform tourism. Our base, which have always been coming here and love the place and spread the word on the mainland, we need them to continue, but a higher spending, higher yield tourists, perhaps, with more active pursuits in mind to stay maybe for a shorter time because people, in their busy lives, don't always have a week or even four days. So, I have heard strong views about an additional flight, of course, freight because with the tourists and the opening up of different food industries, more things need to come. But the secret is showcasing what's grown on the island and I've seen that and tasted that; and that's really quite special indeed. So, that's somewhere- it couldn't happen without the bright people here, with the ideas they have, that have travelled the world and have brought that knowledge back to Norfolk Island.
Fletcher Christian: Tourism, especially when you say another flight, what seems to be happening more and more is that the planes are getting bigger so you get less frequent flights so it's harder to make shorter stays when you've got, let's say, a 200-seater aircraft. If we're having an upgrade on our runway, it may be able to take bigger aircraft, which means less arriving on- I mean, you might have a 180 arriving on one flight instead of three flights. So, you get not the frequency of flights to shorten your stay, but…
Sussan Ley: [Interrupts] Well, that's a very good point. And with larger aircraft, come bigger economies of scale for the airlines; so they like them. But, if we can fill the larger aircraft and then have an additional flight; it's a win-win. And, I've spoken to a lot of people who have had trouble booking flights—yeah, that's a good problem to have. So, we've got to work with the airlines—and I know your administrator has had some conversations along those lines to—the Australian Government can't make an airline come here, but we can work with them so that if there are areas where we can support extra carrying capacity, whether it be freight or people, I think we need to do that. Because if we get to a point where that really is constraining the growth of Norfolk Island, it's something that can be fixed and must be fixed.
Fletcher Christian: And just throw in the wild card there: to help tourism, of course it needs funding; is there ongoing funding coming from the federal government to help tourism for Norfolk Island?
Sussan Ley: Yes, there is. But as I often say, money to support tourism doesn't just immediately translate into tourists. Now, I was privileged to watch a DVD, a 20-minute presentation from Pitcairn to Pines which, if we can get that in front of tourism wholesalers and just individuals in their workplaces and businesses in Australia, it's actually going to attract that new type of tourist that I mentioned, because it's extremely well done. You know, it really is—I mean, I was blown away by it. So, the product is good, the product sells itself, and we just have to get it in front of as many people on the mainland; and not just there, but we've got New Zealand, we've got the rest of the Pacific and Southeast Asia. So, there are lots of possibilities.
Fletcher Christian: Well sounds good. Moving to the waters surrounding Norfolk Island; anything positive happening with the ocean waters and surrounds and fishing, et cetera, for Norfolk Island?
Sussan Ley: Well, the Australian Government has just announced new marine parks around Australia and the management funding—they were gazetted actually many years ago, so people have known that they've existed. But we've just added a lot of dollars in our environment portfolio to actually manage those parks. So, I was delighted to meet and talk with quite a few of the fishermen here to hear and really to understand that their approach to sustainable fishing would be absolutely on the same page as the Government. Because when it comes to our fisheries, it's all about sustainability. But you see, that's how the people of this island look at it anyway.
Fletcher Christian: [Talks over] That's right.
Sussan Ley: They're not rushing out there to plunder the catch, they actually understand how their lifestyle and the fish that they catch work for both the domestic population and the tourists.
Fletcher Christian: That's great. And of course, we've got our fish in one bin per day at the moment, so that happens every year and that's a responsible attitude towards our fisheries by our local community every year.
Minister, anything else that you would like to…
Sussan Ley: [Interrupts] A couple of quick things, if I may, Fletch. I've been a previous Childcare Minister and a previous Health Minister, so I remain very interested in services for children and health services. So, I called in to Banyan Park yesterday to let them know that we have ongoing fee relief for parents; that's a payment from the Government for early learning—it used to be called childcare, but it's so much more now. That's going to continue for 12 months and effectively is secure. And a great meeting at your hospital, because the design that we're going to do with Norfolk Island Community is going to produce a health service that delivers more than the current one—which has fantastic doctors and people but the facility's looking old and tired. And we know that it needs upgrading.
Fletcher Christian: Well, that sounds great, because health and education is certainly the future of Norfolk Island, and we look forward to that area expanding. And as you were saying, up there Banyan Park there's a huge building program being carried out, and it's looking very good for the youngsters coming through in the future.
Sussan Ley: It's actually incredible. As I said, I've been a childcare minister, so I've visited a lot of a lot of centres and wonderful people there too, and a really energetic parent committee. And good on them, because where there's federal funding that you can apply for, you need people who can fill out paperwork and do it well and they've just come up with something superb.
Fletcher Christian: All right, I think we've covered just about everything, Sussan. Thank you for coming in.
Sussan Ley: We have for this visit, Fletch. I look forward to my next. But meanwhile, the administrator, Eric Hutchinson well-known to so many listeners—I've got to say, he's got an open door policy and if there's messages that you would like to deliver, he's there when we're not and we will maintain a close communication with the people who can make that difference that I've talked about over the next few years.
Fletcher Christian: That sounds great and we look forward to you slipping in the back door and doing some shopping some time in the future.
Sussan Ley: Absolutely.
Fletcher Christian: Okay, the Honourable Sussan Ley, MP here in the studio this morning. It's wonderful to have you and your helpers here today. And enjoy rest you stay; when do you leave?
Sussan Ley: Oh, this afternoon.
Fletcher Christian: This afternoon. Oh, you've better get out there on that shopping trolley. And thank you once again for coming in and very pleasant conditions for you to have your final afternoon here on the island.
Sussan Ley: It's a pleasure.
Fletcher Christian: And do come back and see us again soon.
Sussan Ley: Thank you.
Fletcher Christian: Thank you. There we go. The Honourable Sussan Ley, MP, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories.