Karratha jobs and skills roundtable discussion

MADELEINE KING: Thanks everyone. Thanks for coming along this afternoon. I’m here today in Karratha with leaders of the Karratha community to talk about the Jobs and Skills Summit the Treasurer is hosting in Canberra in early September. And the idea of this today is to hear from local leaders about the issues facing the community of Karratha and all of their experiences across the north of Western Australia and to feed that information into the skills summit that will be held in Canberra. It’s really important for cities, great cities like that of Karratha to have a voice in Canberra. As the Minister for Northern Australia and as a proud Western Australian, I’m really proud to be able to facilitate a roundtable here today so that the opinions, the great experience, enormous depth of care and affection for this community is heard in Canberra, because the people of Karratha and other cities just like it across the Pilbara need to be heard in Canberra. And the issues that you all face, I want to be addressed and to be addressed properly by our Federal Government in Canberra. And that’s what I’m seeking to do. So with that, I’m ready to take questions.

INTERVIEWER: So what are the issues that you’ll be taking through to Canberra on the Pilbara?

MADELEINE KING: Well, really, one of the very prominent issues that was raised is the housing issue in Karratha. But I think it’s an issue, and I’ve talked I had one of these round tables in Brisbane recently with the Queensland resources industry. The same thing is felt there too. There is a difficulty in getting housing in regional communities and it’s unaffordable for renters, it’s unaffordable to build new housing. So it does create a really quite significant conundrum where you have big companies that are able to pay more for housing and then you don’t have the funding available for people who work in really important services like early education and childcare and health services, nurses, teachers can’t afford to, hospitality workers can’t afford to stay and live in great towns like Karratha. So that’s the number one takeaway. But there are other issues, other liveability issues, cost of living issues. The people here today are very grateful for what the state government has done about capped airfares. And I think that’s a really important initiative for the local community that allows people to travel more easily back to Perth and back to Karratha to see family and friends. So that’s an important initiative the state government’s undertaken, and I’m looking forward to working with the state government on that housing issue as well.

INTERVIEWER: And if the issues are not dealt with, what problems would that cause, do you think?

MADELEINE KING: Well, it causes issues in the community in that people keep having to leave because they just can’t afford it. And so if you’ve got a lack of childcare workers because they can’t afford the rent or afford to live in a place like Karratha, well, then women, which is generally the primary caregiver for children, can’t go and get jobs as well. So you’re reducing your workforce sort of two times over by not being able to find a childcare and education, but also then that childcare work and not being able to be here. Therefore, often the mother at home is also not able to work into the workforce in another area. So that’s what’s really important, that we get it right, so that we increase the workforce and make life better for people in regions and cities like Karratha.

INTERVIEWER: So, overall, how did you feel about the meeting today?

MADELEINE KING: Really positive. I’ve been a very frequent visitor to Karratha and I love coming up here, I’d love to be able to stay longer. It’s a community that really participates and shares ideas and we had people from a lot of different industries and the community groups, which is really important, so I feel really positive about it. I’ve got things to take back to the Jobs and Skills Summit, which I will do, so and I’m really pleased to come and speak to people about the issues, because they’ve got the solutions that are developed here in Karratha, thoughtful solutions that we can help. We’re not going to make it up, we’re going to listen to people and help them implement solutions to the problems this country faces and places like Karratha face.

INTERVIEWER: Were there any solutions put forward by the local people today?

MADELEINE KING: Yeah, there was a few examples, like models. The Pilbara University Centre put forward examples of what they’ve been able to achieve by delving deep into the local issues around nursing training and having a dedicated commitment in the local area to making sure training can happen here. Which is great, because then you have more trainee nurses in the system right here in Karratha. That’s a solution that has developed out of a great need and an urgency right here. Also a model that can be used in other towns and other cities around the country. So I’m going to take those ideas and flesh them out a bit more.

INTERVIEWER: A study by Deloitte estimated that if we don’t reduce carbon emissions, climate related disasters will cost Australian $94 billion a year by 2060. Are you concerned that supporting new fossil fuel projects could have huge economic costs for Australians in the future?

MADELEINE KING: Well, new developments in Australia, this Government supports them as long as they stack up environmentally and financially. So this Government is committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and reducing our target support by 43 per cent by 2030. So that’s a really important direction this government has set this country on that the former Government was unwilling to do in any firm or committed sense. So, what I also want to say is fossil fuel companies and people that have traditionally worked in this area and the companies that operate out of, here in Karratha, they’re on a pathway to net zero emissions as well, and have been for a lot longer than the Commonwealth of Australia has. They’ve been committed to this. They are working to reduce their emissions. All the new projects will have to have a direct correlation to emissions reduction. So I’m confident that we will reduce our emissions, but I do know we will only do it in this country with the resources industry, because we need the resources industry to get Australia and the world to net zero emissions.

INTERVIEWER: Your colleague Tanya Plibersek was in town yesterday to look at heritage risks from the Perdaman urea project. Is this something you’ve discussed with Ms. Plibersek?

MADELEINE KING: The issue is, I’m going to leave it to Minister Plibersek. It’s an important decision and what we know is when Ministers take over the roles of other Ministers, like when Scott Morrison took over the role of many ministers and made a decision in relation to a project on the east coast, it causes an enormous amount of trouble for everyone, for the Commonwealth, for the proponents. So I really want to thank Minister Plibersek for the time she’s taken to come and visit the area and talk to all concerned. And I think that’s a very important thing to do. But the decision does rest with Minister Plibersek and her and her office are doing it and the Department are doing a great job in fleshing that out.

INTERVIEWER: Have you given her your own thoughts on it as her colleague?

MADELEINE KING: I’ve spoken to her about it, just saying that I know there’s an issue and she has called me to let me know about the Section Nine application. That’s a matter of common courtesy between colleagues, we work together, but because of the nature of the decision, it’s really important that the Minister of the day that is responsible has carriage of that, and I really respect that democratic process, unlike the former Prime Minister Scott Morrison.