Interview with Paul Culliver, ABC Capricornia Breakfast

6 February 2023


SUBJECTS: Fuel tax credits; agriculture investment; back to Parliament
PAUL CULLIVER, HOST: If you drive a vehicle not on public roads, there’s a good chance you’re taking benefit of the fuel tax credit. It’s the idea that you shouldn’t need to be paying the full excise that goes into keeping our public roads in good nick. So, of course, if you work on a farm or, indeed, on a mine site, that’s the time when you might be driving a heavy vehicle or, indeed, any kind of vehicle a whole lot and using fuel, getting that fuel tax credit back.
The Grattan Institute have put out a report suggesting that we could save something like $4 billion a year if we just halved the fuel tax credit, and David Littleproud the Leader of the Nationals, spoke to Meecham Philpott this morning saying he’s worried it’s going to get cut.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD GRAB: The Minerals Council has wind of the ideology that this Government has, and they’re very concerned that they’re going to remove the fuel tax credit system away from them, and potentially that could lead into agriculture as well.
PAUL CULLIVER: All right. Let’s find out if there’s any truth in it. Murray Watt is the Federal Agriculture Minister, good morning to you, Minister.
PAUL CULLIVER: Are you cutting the fuel tax credit?
MURRAY WATT: No, we’re not, this is just more nonsense from David Littleproud. I’m sort of getting a bit used to it, really. This guy seems to wake up every day and think about what he can throw at the wall and see if it sticks, and this is just his latest one. So I can categorically tell your listeners that this is not on our agenda. We’re not working on it. We’re not considering it. It’s just nonsense from David Littleproud.
PAUL CULLIVER: All right. So it’s not going to be reduced, it’s not going to be halved, it’s not going to be anything like that?
MURRAY WATT: No, there are no changes to the fuel tax credit which are on our agenda at all. So, one of these days David Littleproud will start thinking about facts and talk about reality, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to come any time soon.
PAUL CULLIVER: Is the fuel tax credit, though, an issue in terms of subsidising what is a fossil fuel emitting way of moving things around the country?
MURRAY WATT: Well, I realise that there are different views on this, and obviously the Grattan Institute has put up their views. And, you know, there are people who disagree with them. Obviously our Government is taking strong action on climate change in general with much stronger targets than the former government had in place. And obviously recently we were in Gladstone announcing changes to the Safeguards Mechanism, which is all about working with heavy industry to reduce the emissions they create. So we do have a range of measures in place to take stronger action on climate change and reduce emissions, but this is not one of them.
PAUL CULLIVER: Do you think the fuel tax credit is going to need to be reformed at some point?
MURRAY WATT: Look, I’m not going to sort of speculate about the future, all I can talk about is what our current plans are and what this Government is planning to do. And this is not something that is on our agenda. And I think what we’ve preferred to do is to take an economy-wide approach to dealing with climate change. Unfortunately the likes of David Littleproud and all of his colleagues never did anything on climate change, and what that’s actually meant is that farmers are losing money. The Department of Agriculture, federally, our research organisation has come up with evidence that over the last 20 years due to changes to seasons due to climate change, the average farm profits have fallen by about 23 per cent. So farmers are literally paying a price for climate change, let alone the rest of the community. And that is why we need to take action. But we need to take sensible action, and we need to work with industry in doing so.
PAUL CULLIVER: The argument is if you reduce the fuel tax credit or got rid of it, say, in the agriculture space, it would then incentivise you to pursue lower emission technologies for your vehicles on farm. Is there a different way the Federal Government should be doing that, then?
MURRAY WATT: Well we’ve obviously put in place a range of measures to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles. And that is mostly happening at the kind of consumer passenger-type vehicles at moment. But I’ve seen some of the farm machinery that’s being created now that is increasingly electric or, in some cases, they’re working towards hydrogen. So we are going to be, you know, over time looking at continuing those sorts of incentives to encourage the uptake of those types of vehicles. But, as I say, the sort of thing that David Littleproud is talking about is just not on our agenda at all.
PAUL CULLIVER: All right. So just to be very clear about this; the Federal Budget in May, there will be no changes to the fuel tax credit?
MURRAY WATT: Correct, there’s no changes on our agenda at all. But what will be in the May Budget is a lot more support for agriculture, like we did last year. You know, strong biosecurity, helping farmers get the workforce that they need, those Free Trade Agreements that we’ve signed coming into force and opening up new markets for farmers, fee-free TAFE places for agriculture to help train locals in agriculture, and many other things as well. They’re the real things that are happening under the Albanese Government; not just the dreamland of David Littleproud.
PAUL CULLIVER: All right. First day back at Parliament, what’s on the agenda?
MURRAY WATT: Yeah, it’s good to be back for Parliament. It’s obviously going to be a big year this year. And I think really what we’re going to be trying to do is fix some of the problems that the last government left behind – Medicare is in a terrible state and I’ve doorknocked people in Central Queensland, Paul, who can’t get GP appointments, and that’s one of those things that we want to try and fix. So rebuilding Medicare, helping people with cost of living pressures with cheaper child care, cheaper medicines, as I say, fee-free TAFE places and, of course, the Voice is going to be a big issue this year as well to try and bring the country together on that.
PAUL CULLIVER: Yeah, we haven’t heard anything more about that urgent care clinic that’s meant to be coming to Rockhampton. Will we hear something about that soon?
MURRAY WATT: Yeah, as you remember, Paul, we did commit in the election to deliver one of those urgent care clinics for Central Queensland. We haven’t quite finalised the location of that yet, but that will, no doubt, be announced before too long. And really what that’s about is trying to provide people with other options for after-hours care. At the moment, of course, it’s so hard to get a GP appointment in the middle of the day let alone after hours, and that’s one of the reasons we see so much pressure on our emergency departments in our hospitals. And that urgent care clinic will make a big difference. So looking forward to being able to announce something about that before too long.
PAUL CULLIVER: All right. Appreciate your time today, Minister. Thank you.
MURRAY WATT: Good on you, Paul.