ABC South East NSW, Breakfast interview with Simon Launder

SIMON LAUNDER, HOST: Now, did you hear the Federal Treasurer yesterday say that our budget position is $50 billion better than forecast? That’s, you know, a small margin there. Yet there’s no move to extend the fuel excise cut that will double next week. Let’s hear how the Member for Eden-Monaro defends that decision when we know the cost-of-living pressures that so many are facing. Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain joins me on the line now. G’day, Kristy.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, how are you?

SIMON LAUNDER: I’m going really well. How are you going?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Pretty good.

SIMON LAUNDER: Excellent to hear. Now, no move from the Federal Government to extend the fuel excise despite a $50 billion improvement on a forecast position. Why? What’s driving that, Kristy?

KRISTY MCBAIN: There are a number of budgeting constraints obviously, and even though we do have a better position largely due to our exports, we need to be really careful with our budget going forward because we just don’t know what’s around the corner. So we’re not going to look at extending that fuel excise because it is a huge hit to the budget. We are dealing with some of the other cost-of-living pressures in the budget, including making medicines cheaper. They’ll be $12.50 cheaper than the current rate, which is down to $30 per script, which adds up to quite a saving. And we’ll also be looking at making childcare cheaper, implementing those election promises at this budget cycle.

SIMON LAUNDER: There are also concerns that a $1 million grant for the Monaro rail trail may be in jeopardy. Can you tell us anything about that?

KRISTY MCBAIN: During the election I committed some funds to kick off the project of the Monaro rail trail. Snowy Monaro Council is going through a consultation phase and it’s with them to work with local community to ascertain how they want to proceed with it at this point in time.

SIMON LAUNDER: Now, we’ve also been following in the Monaro the issue of the Currawarna aged care facility in Bombala, which has closed as a nursing home but looking to reopen as an assisted living service. Is that a development you support, and will it get any federal assistance?

KRISTY MCBAIN: I met with the group last week in regards to that assisted living proposal. They’ve still got a bit more work to do in terms of getting their entity up and running. I definitely committed to working with them to see what funding options may be out there. And so we’ll continue to liaise with them to see whether we can see that come to fruition.

SIMON LAUNDER: And as the Minister for Local Government, are you concerned about the financial challenges facing the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, in particular with the New South Wales Office of Local Government keeping a close eye on that situation?

KRISTY MCBAIN: I’m concerned about financial sustainability of a range of local council areas across the country. The costs of raw materials, the cost of insurance and the cost of electricity is definitely having an impact on councils, especially in states where we have that rate-pegging environment. So it’s really incumbent upon both state and federal governments to work with local councils to help them get through this period but to make sure that we are delivering the services and infrastructure to communities that they need. And obviously there are some key pieces of infrastructure and key pieces of service delivery that they do on behalf of other levels of government as well. We want to make sure that they can continue to do that well into the future. So I’m working really closely with the peak associations and with individual councils to see how we can help.

SIMON LAUNDER: Now, as the Minister for Regional Development and Local Government what are you really fighting for at the moment at the federal level, Kristy?

KRISTY MCBAIN: My role takes in quite a few areas, but I’m really keen to work with my colleagues to put in place a regional investment framework which will make funding – hopefully – that grant funding a bit more transparent and show when we’re going to invest in locations and why, to enable state governments, local governments and private enterprise to hinge their own investments off of that. So trying to make it a lot more transparent and go across election cycles so that we don’t end up in some of the positions we’ve been in over the last little while.

SIMON LAUNDER: And what about when you’re wearing your Member for Eden-Monaro hat? What local issues are you taking to the federal Parliament?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Bushfire recovery is still a huge one, and I’ve worked really closely with my colleague the Minister for Emergency Management Senator Watt and now the new Special Envoy into Disaster Recovery Senator Sheldon about repurposing that recovery – so the Response and Recovery Fund into a Mitigation and Resilience Fund. And I’m looking forward to that legislation coming through the House in the next couple of weeks. I think it’s really important that we turn our minds to how we can make ourselves more resilient and mitigate against those future natural disasters because there should be a learning, there should be a lesson learnt out of what we’ve all experienced.

SIMON LAUNDER: Now, I hear you took part in the Henty Field Days yesterday. What was the vibe on the ground there?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, there were thousands of people there yesterday. I think it took about 40 minutes to get into the car park, which is fantastic. It shows how many people are keen to get out and about and participate after what’s been a two-year hiatus because of COVID. But, so great to be there and having a chat to Regional Development Australia, both Murray and Riverina, the local land service, a number of exhibitors. It was great to be there. There was a really great vibe about it, and I’m sure over the next couple of days they’re going to be inundated with many, many more people coming through the doors.

SIMON LAUNDER: We’ve got another big event happening here in the south east on the weekend – the first ever Wanderer Festival. Are you going to be in attendance, Kristy?

KRISTY MCBAIN: How good is it that these events are back up and running, and really look forward to heading down to Wanderer to have a bit of a squiz. I’ll be at home watching the AFL Grand Final first, though, because my – half of my family are Cats supporters. So we’ll be there watching that first and then head down to Wanderer.

SIMON LAUNDER: We won’t hold that against them. Kristy, thanks so much for your time on a Wednesday morning.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Thanks, Simon. Have a great day.