1206 2CC, Breakfast with Stephen Centaiempo

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Time to talk federal politics with the member for Eden-Monaro. She's the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. And proof that I do have friends on the Labor side of politics. Kristy McBain, good morning.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning, Stephen. And happy Valentine's Day to you!

CENATIEMPO: To you too, but is it appropriate to say happy Valentine's Day to people that are in a relationship with somebody else, though?

MCBAIN: It’s another day on the calendar that people celebrate!

CENATIEMPO: I'm not being critical, being a single bloke, I don't know the protocols, that's all.

MCBAIN: It's another hallmark holiday. I'm sure some people make some money off it. Some people celebrate it and some people mark it as just another day in the calendar.

CENATIEMPO: So being a sitting week, you’re going to spend it in your office, I imagine?

MCBAIN: Absolutely I am!

CENATIEMPO: All right, moving on, we've been talking about roads and the state of the roads here in the ACT. I was talking to Nichole Overall yesterday and she made the point that the Monaro electorate has the 6th biggest road network in New South Wales. When you take Eden-Monaro into account, it's even bigger than that. Talk to us about the funding that's been announced for local roads.

MCBAIN: Well Eden-Monaro is one of the largest electorates across the country, so our road network is huge, both the sealed and the unsealed network. We've just announced $500 million under Phase 4 of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. It helps all councils deliver on those priority local roads and community infrastructure projects. It's untied funding, so councils get to go to their community and talk to them about the most important roads or community infrastructure that they want to see delivered. It’s another way that we're assisting councils to get through some of that maintenance right now after the rain we've had across the country.

CENATIEMPO: I want to talk for a moment about the housing accord. Nice idea in principle, but where I see the problem is that there's too many moving parts, particularly from your perspective, getting local government involved in this. It's like herding cats. In terms of local government, surely the best way for them would be to get out of the way of land releases, and make it easier for developers to actually build places. How do you make that happen in your role as Minister?

MCBAIN: Well one of the biggest issues is that local governments are constrained by each state and territory's planning legislation. We've got a planning system that dates back to a time where everyone expected they'd have a single block with a three-bedroom, one bathroom dwelling on it. It’s really difficult for some of our developers to get through that system. I mean, in my part of the world, I've had a developer tell me he spent eight years trying to get a release of land and it keeps being flipped between New South Wales Water and New South Wales Planning. He can't get a resolution at a time where we know we need more land releases. So, planning requirements across the country really need to be fit for the 21st century and it's incumbent upon every state and territory jurisdiction to make sure that they are making it easier for us to deal with these housing issues.

CENATIEMPO: As the Minister for Local Government, how do you facilitate that?

MCBAIN: Look, it's about getting all of the Planning Ministers in a room and having a conversation about what we need to see. We understand that there's always the need for some regulation, but we don't need to over complicate things. And I think far too often we've seen regulations added to regulations, and none of them taken away. So now you've got people trying to navigate planning documents that are hundreds and hundreds of pages long, instead of actually getting down to what we need to do, which is facilitate the release of land and help people get on and build. And that's also incumbent upon state and territory governments to do the same thing as well. We know in regional New South Wales, we're about 50,000 public and affordable homes short of what we need. So it's time that governments step up to the challenge. When the Future Housing Fund comes to this parliament, I think that the Liberals, Nationals and the Greens need to understand that you either do something, or you continue to do nothing. And I'm on the side of actually trying to do something.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, in general terms I agree with you. The problem with that mentality from a government perspective is that you hit on the point of legislation being hundreds of pages long, whenever governments change legislation, they don't cut back the number of pages, they just add to it. I mean, surely we got to get to a point where we just set fire to the old act and start again?

MCBAIN: Yeah, there's always the chance for governments to do that when they review legislation, but the planning legislation sits with the states and territories. They really need to have a think about facilitating what the communities are asking for. The communities are saying we need the release of land, we need building of affordable and social houses, we actually just need the building of houses. At the moment, that legislation is so complex that we're not seeing that happen.

CENATIEMPO: You might want to knock on the doors of the territory government here and get something done on this side of it. Anyway, moving right along, I won't get into that now. I'm interested in this. The HELP debt is set to be wiped for regional doctors and nurses. Are we talking about existing doctors and nurses or people who are going into the profession?

MCBAIN: Look, the legislation is currently being drafted by the Education Minister in conjunction with the Health Minister. We know that Medicare hasn't kept pace with the rising costs of running practices, especially across remote and rural communities. This is another way to incentivise our doctors to get out into remote and rural communities. I live in the region, so I'm naturally biased, but it's a great lifestyle and a great place to raise kids. The constraints of city living just aren't there for us. And I think when people experience it, they have something built up in their head and when they actually get out there, they realise what a sense of community there is in regional areas. So I'm really hoping this will facilitate doctors and nurse practitioners moving to eligible areas, as classified under that Modified Monash scale of remoteness. There are a lot of places across Eden-Monaro, and across many regions in the country where you can make a real difference as a doctor or nurse practitioner.

CENATIEMPO: We certainly need to do something to get doctors and nurses to the regions, that's for sure. Kristy, good to talk to you. We'll catch up with you again soon.

MCBAIN: Speak to you soon.

CENATIEMPO: All the best. Kristy McBain, the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, and the member for Eden-Monaro.