Transcript - 2DU Radio Dubbo

RICHARD PERNO

Mark Coulton, you're the Federal Member for Parkes. When you've been taking this DPM, as we say, the Deputy Prime Minister around, what are they asking him? 

MARK COULTON 

Look, I think probably front of mind at the moment is what's going to happen in September with JobKeeper and the JobSeeker payments. Probably into the longer term, where we are going, particularly in regional Australia. I think also a lot of people are commenting on how well we've gone out here and the difference that, you know, up until now I think the actions that Michael and the Prime Minister have taken have been well accepted and appreciated by the Australian people. And so at this stage I think if I sum up, I'd say there's an appreciation for what's been done but probably a little bit of nervousness as to what's in front of us and I think that's understandable.  

RICHARD PERNO

It's a double barrel thing and it's, I suppose, a point of a double-edged sword, too, isn't it, Michael McCormack. We want to make sure that everything's alright, but in the bush, you're a boy from the bush from Wagga and you've now traversed this country and more specifically our patch with Mark Coulton, you see the angst of businesses. These little tiny businesses that are fearful that any day now they've just been given a liberation, the ropes have been cut a tad, someone's going to say no, it's all over, shut your business.  

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It is a double-edged sword as Mark has just said and you know, there's much anecdotal evidence that businesses want to re-engage with some of their employees and can't get them back off the couch and that has been one of those things that we don't want a zombie economy also, where some businesses are running dead because of assistance that's being provided out of Canberra, we've done the heavy lifting when it has come to that.  But at the same time we're not going to pull the rug from underneath businesses, we're not going to pull the rug from underneath workers who genuinely need the assistance. So, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, will be making an announcement next week as to where we go from here and I think it will be the right and appropriate level of assistance that we continue to provide.  

RICHARD PERNO

$750, that's a lot of money if you're an apprentice or you're a part-time worker, Michael McCormack? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Particularly if you're earning a lot less than that.  

RICHARD PERNO

So why should I go to work? Why didn't you issue a card, some sort of debit or credit card? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

That's what we're hearing. When we made the measures available we had to do it quickly and we had to do it so that people were also going to spend money in the economy with so many businesses being forced to shut their doors and so the assistance was targeted, it was specific and it was necessary and at the time it was a lifeline to those businesses to be able to keep engaged with their employees, to keep engaged with the economy. And you know, for many of them, they're still struggling and so we understand, we identify that. So, what we do going forward will be the appropriate way to get the economy restarted. Of course, only yesterday we had another 330 cases of coronavirus, of course, we've got that outbreak in Victoria. We've got the one at the Crossroads Hotel.  Some might say it's a second wave. It's not. We're not out of the first yet.  

We're not out of the first and if people haven't downloaded that CovidSafe app, I recommend they do so and they still need to follow what the Chief Medical Officer and others are saying as far as social distancing and not shaking hands and all the rest of it. I know it's hard, it's difficult. I'm a regional Australian, the first thing I often do is just put my hand out to shake hands with somebody. I did it with the Queensland Governor the other day and he reeled back in horror. You know, it's just the natural way that we greet each other in the bush but we need to do what's right, we need to do what's sensible.  

RICHARD PERNO

Go on with this JobKeeper, JobSeeker, you say there's going to be an announcement next week about all of that? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

That's correct. And that was always the case.  

RICHARD PERNO

Why not this week? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, because it was always stated that it was going to be on Thursday July 23. We're still meeting, we're still having these Cabinet discussions, we're still meeting at the highest level and there's not a day goes by I don't talk to Scott Morrison about what we do and how we should do it and also, it's a moving feast.  Coronavirus is changing by the day. There are more cases or, you know, there's more examples of what we need to do from businesses and that's why I'm here today with Mark Coulton in Dubbo to learn and to hear what's being said and what's being experienced around in western New South Wales.  

RICHARD PERNO

Now you've been there, you've done it, Michael McCormack, as Deputy Prime Minister, what are you seeing and what are the farmers saying to you about what their livelihood is like, exports, imports, businesses not being able to trade as we used to? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, there's obviously a bit of nervousness with the trade situation. But we'll sort through that.  Many, many farmers are so delighted that they've actually had a bit of rain and I know down in my patch in the Riverina and elsewhere, I was in Stanthorpe just the other day in Queensland, the Darling Downs and that area and they're going to be getting their first crop for many, many years.  So for some farmers and appreciate that the rain hasn't been totally widespread right across the nation, some farmers are still doing it very tough and still relying on that drought assistance.  

RICHARD PERNO

But it's an irony, isn't it? A big harvest this year up in Queensland and you can't send it anywhere.  

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We'll be able to send it somewhere and we'll be able to get a buyer because it's the world's best.  

RICHARD PERNO

I agree. Clean and green and pristine. What about this stuff coming out of China? Every time we turn around they say we don't like you, up go the tariffs. How did that affect us? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we've got 149.7 billion reasons to ensure that we continue trading with China and that's the level of in fact two-way trade, to be able to deal with China. Yes, it's a difficult situation but these are always things that come up that good governments, sensible, considered, measured governments deal with every term and this is just something that we're working through at the moment. I know the Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham and I know Andrew Gee is doing a lot of work in that regard to ensure that we still get markets for our farmers, markets for our resources.  

RICHARD PERNO

Okay, what about hacking, this cyber hacking? And the elephant in the room is China, yes? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Hacking, of course, is something that businesses need to be aware of as do local governments and if they think that there's something that's a bit untoward then they need to raise that with the appropriate authorities. That's why we're spending a considerable amount of more money on cyber security, on making sure that businesses know that cyber security is very, very important.  

RICHARD PERNO

But every time we mention the word ‘China’ they howl us down and say, you know, that's not right. 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's a tiptoe through the tulips because we know that for a meat processing worker in an abattoir, they don't want to have the next, you know, no trade here slapped on their meat.  We want to make sure that a barley grower in Western or South Australia has a market to which to send their barley.  

RICHARD PERNO

Budget, what are we going to cop and how much of COVID-19 is going to be –  

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's coming up in October. It won't be in surplus, I can assure you that, Richard. We've spent a lot of money but we've done it to make sure we've cushioned the effects of the coronavirus on the economy.  We've made sure that we've brought Australians through this.  We've done it in a sensible and practical way.  The assistance was necessary.  Assistance has to, eventually, be weaned off.  Of course, we've spent more than $260 billion.  There are many, many measures that are still to come but we need to be able to get Australia back working and that's why yesterday the Prime Minister announced the JobTrainer.  We're doing all sorts of things to get Australians back into work.  

RICHARD PERNO

That's been thumbs up all around the place.  

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Mark Coulton has been a fierce advocate for skills and apprentices and to be able to do that sort of thing. I know the Education Minister, Dan Tehan, is working on making sure that our graduates from tertiary institutions are job ready when they come out and finish their courses.  

RICHARD PERNO

And on that too, how are universities handling the lack of Chinese influx, so to speak?  

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Look, I was only speaking to Andrew Vann who is the vice-chancellor of Charles Sturt University just the other day and yes, it's hurt them too. There's not a sector of the economy that hasn't been affected by coronavirus. Whether it's Japan, whether it's Korea, whether it's China, it's all affected a lot of different sectors of the economy.  

RICHARD PERNO

How do you reckon we're going to come out of this and when are we going to come out of it or is this just going to sort of morph into another way of life, Michael McCormack?  Do you think this is going to be the way it is and we'll just have to get used to it? I think Gladys Berejiklian said yesterday that she has no intention of every time somebody coughs or sneezes of closing down the State as others and she said we've got to learn to co-exist with it? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well we can't, we can't do that until we get a vaccine. We have to co-exist and they're very sensible words from Premier Berejiklian.  She understands full-well that we need the economy to be working, we need people back in jobs, that we need that infrastructure being built and that's what I'm doing in conjunction with the States.  $100 billion of Commonwealth money going into infrastructure, things like the Inland Rail, better roads, better community infrastructure.  I know Mark Coulton's been a great advocate for all of those things and will continue to be. Thankfully, agriculture has held up well. We want more markets for our grain, for our beef, for our sheep meat, for our fruit, vegetables, we grow the best food and fibre in all the world, our cotton and we want to be able to have markets for it.  We want to be able to get people to work in those fields of endeavour, to be able to pick the fruit and do all the things that they've done in the past and that will also involve, of course, overseas labour. That will, of course, involve those visa workers who have come here, those backpackers. They're important, too. So there's some challenging times ahead but the Government's up for the task.  

RICHARD PERNO

Mark Coulton, this is the latest press release from your office, Dubbo is set to host more regional events with a new strategy. Elaborate.  

MARK COULTON 

So through the Building Better Regions Fund we've allocated over $42,000 to the Dubbo Council to do a plan and a study on events for the region and as you know, they're already on the front-foot there. I think they're looking at bringing an NRL match here next year, I think that's still in the pipeline. Dubbo is a regional area. People have come here for events like the footy but also we've got the multicultural community now for the festival and so this money is for the Council to do some research, come up with a little plan for events, how we can capitalise on that and Michael mentioned earlier the Elvis Festival in Parkes in January and in January, Parkes was once dead.  Everyone was at the coast, nothing was happening and now 25,000 people descend upon the town.  

RICHARD PERNO

They've got to come up with a plan.  

MARK COULTON 

Yes and this will help them to deliver a research paper that's sort of a framework for these things because there are opportunities in events and particularly in a larger regional centre like this, where it serves a big area, there is an opportunity for a whole range of events and whether it's the racing carnival, whether it's the NRL coming to town, you know, we gave a grant to the Dubbo Dirt Bike Club a couple of weeks ago and they're now working towards – 

RICHARD PERNO

That was a chunk of change, $200,000.  

MARK COULTON 

They want to hold a national championship. Those sorts of things are really important to a community.  

RICHARD PERNO

Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, do you sometimes think, I'd love to go back to the farm at Wagga? 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No. This is a great privilege doing this job and I have to pinch myself some days to realise that I've got a real capacity to help build a better nation and with my great mate Mark Coulton, we've been doing it together since 2010. He was in Parliament a bit longer than that but it's a rare opportunity. You're only a custodian of the position for so long, so you want to do the best you can.  My father always said find a job you love doing, you will never work a day in your life.  

RICHARD PERNO

Pretty true, isn't it?  

MARK COULTON 

Ditto for me.  

RICHARD PERNO

Ditto for me, too. You could always go back to Wagga’s The Daily Advertiser and get fired again.  

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks for bringing that up. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination so I'm in good company.  

RICHARD PERNO

Good to see. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack and our Federal Member for Parkes.  Enjoy your day.  

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks.

MARK COULTON 

Thanks, Richard.  

Media contacts: 

Mr McCormack - Tess Salmon 0467 740 017 | Hannah Maguire 0429 920 254
Mr Coulton – Steph Nicholls 0417 314 920