2CC 1206 AM Canberra interview with Stephen Cenatiempo

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: And one person whose job it is to think about what’s better for everybody is of course the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain. Kristy, haven’t spoken to you in ages.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, Stephen. I was just about to say it’s been a while.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: It has. What have you been up to?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, like a lot of other MPs and ministers, a tonne of briefings and still getting around my community, which is large, as you know. So today I start the day in Yass and then I’m off to the Henty Field Day before heading to Jingellic and Tumut this afternoon.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: The Henty Field Day. Gee, I haven’t been to the Henty Field Days in years. How have the first few months as a minister gone? What’s been the biggest learning curve for you?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, it’s been really interesting. You know, you get a tonne of briefings from departments about a range of programs and policies that are currently in place and trying to align now our election commitments and priorities into that policy framework has been an interesting piece.

I think, you know, the bizarre thing – and it’s probably not bizarre to a lot of people across Canberra, but – whenever you go anywhere in the building people refer to you as “Minister”, and I keep telling everyone, “My name’s actually Kristy.” But it’s a hard thing to shift I think for a lot of public servants who are used to that hierarchical approach.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Well, don’t think me disrespectful if I keep calling you Kristy.

KRISTY MCBAIN: No, not at all. I prefer it.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Now, I’ve got to ask you – as the Minister for Territories and Regional Development how much oversight do you have of the governments in both the ACT and the Northern Territory. And I’m sort of – I guess this is a leading question because I want to get into territory rights in a moment. But what sort of responsibility do you have from an oversight perspective of those two legislatures?

KRISTY MCBAIN: So, the self-governing territories have their own parliaments and there isn’t a role for me to play in intervening in their political decisions or their parliaments. In Canberra, for example, my role basically sits with the statutory authority with the National Capital Authority. So, we have a weekly catch-up with the National Capital Authority on all things that happen in the Parliamentary Triangle.

For the non-self-governing territories, we have an administrator appointed, which is in Norfolk Island and then one that covers both Christmas and Cocos islands. And they are effectively my representative on the islands so that we can liaise with communities on those islands about decisions that are going to impact them.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: But, I mean, power in the territories – and specifically the self-governing territories – still lies with the Commonwealth. So that’s my biggest concern here when we talk about territory rights. And I want to get away from euthanasia for a moment, because that’s a philosophical issue that people are going to have different views on. But I wonder about the capacity of basically governments that are elected very similar – you know, and you’ve been on council, so you know how these things work.


STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: I mean, you can get people elected to a council with half a dozen votes. And we see that in the Territory Assembly as well where, you know, there are a number of people that are – that sit in the Assembly that only have a handful of votes. Surely there’s got to be some oversight from the Federal Government.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, it’s generally more than half a dozen, Stephen, but I take your point. No, look –

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Sixty or 70, then, righto.

KRISTY MCBAIN: I think it’s really important that wherever we have a local government or a territory government that we allow them to have those full and frank discussions and make their own laws in accordance with the wishes of the population. At the end of the day, the population has elected every level of government and they should have confidence that those levels of government are discussing issues that matter to them. And, you know, I think it’s important that we do that.

I mean, we’ve got a lot of councils across the country in administration. We have some non-self-governing territories, and people cry out for that democratic voice to have local people decide the issues that are of most importance to them. And I think the territory rights issue, if you take away, you know, the euthanasia debate, is simply about making sure that an elected level of government can have full and frank discussions and make laws for their territory or community based on what they’re hearing from the populous. And I think that’s a good thing.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: But that’s my point – if you’re elected under the Hare-Clark system – or as I like to call it, Duckworth-Lewis – you’re not really democratically elected. And let’s not forget that in the ACT the referendum for self-government actually failed twice. So, you know, it’s all well and good to say, you know, this is what the people of the territory want, but the people of the ACT didn’t actually want their own government.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, well, the Hare-Clark system is a recognised form of election. It’s used in Tasmania as well. And when you look at the size of Tasmania and compare that to the ACT, you know, it’s a similar size and the representative proportion of what Tassie has in parliament far exceeds the ACT. You know, I think everyone, regardless of the size of the population, should be entitled to have their views heard through their elected members.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Yeah, I don’t know that Tasmania is – you know everybody uses Tasmania as the comparison, but, firstly, Tasmania is a state and, secondly, I don’t think anybody has ever accused any Tasmanian Government of any variety of actually being effective.

KRISTY MCBAIN: No comment, Stephen.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Moving right along. DrinkWise Stay Tasteful, tell us about this program.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, fantastic initiative by DrinkWise with the pear and grape foundation and local industry. It’s a simple method of educating consumers when they’re at our cellar doors. For a lot of us that means driving from cellar door to cellar door when we’re on an outing across the wineries, especially in Eden-Monaro, and keeping track of how much you’ve drank in that tasting is really important because we want everyone to have a great experience, drink in moderation and get home safely. So, a great initiative by DrinkWise and the industry. And it was fantastic to launch that at Four Winds Winery at Murrumbateman yesterday.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Yeah, I think it is – because I have long railed against our drinking culture in Australia and this view that you can’t have a good time unless you get an absolute skinful. But I guess in this case that’s not what people are trying to do. But I guess you’ve just got to be careful. When you’re going from winery to winery it does tend to add up after a while.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, exactly. And we know a lot of our wineries are in the regions, which does mean you’re driving between them. So, we just want to make sure that people are educated in how many tastings actually amount to a full standard drink. So, it’s an innovative way to do it, and I think they’re looking at some other options as well. But it was fantastic to launch the Capital Regions DrinkWise initiative, which is Stay Tasteful While Tasting, which I thought was apt, in Murrumbateman yesterday.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: So how much tasting did you do?

KRISTY MCBAIN: I only did one.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Very responsible. Kristy, good to talk to you.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Very responsible. Great to talk to you, Stephen.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: All the best. Kristy McBain is the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.