ABC South East NSW, Breakfast with Simon Lauder

SIMON LAUDER, HOST: But first it’s time to catch up with the Member for Eden-Monaro. It’s been more than a week now since a huge rain dump caused the Cooma Creek to rise pretty unexpectedly and flood several businesses on Sharp Street, and Kristy McBain has been visiting those businesses. As we know, also the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories – good morning.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, Simon. How are you?

LAUDER: Yeah, really well. Thanks for joining us. Look, what was it like visiting those businesses in Cooma yesterday?

MCBAIN: As you can imagine, there are – there is a big clean-up effort happening in those businesses. But we are – we need insurance assessors across the country to be rolling out their work as fast as humanly possible, because the longer people have to sit and wait for those answers, the longer that clean-up takes. So, yeah, for a lot of people in Cooma it feels like, I think, to them, like, “what’s next?”.


MCBAIN: And then over the last couple of days we’ve seen flooding in the Yass main streets cutting off Murrumbateman. We’ve seen flooding in the main street of Adelong, flooding in Tumut and obviously the Bega River last week cut off Jellat Flats again. So I think for a lot of our communities it’s, just the latest thing in a string of what’s been a pretty tough three years.

LAUDER: And I guess there’s been way too much practice for insurance companies lately. Are they getting better at doing, timely assessments, or is there room for improvement there? Are there still frustrations?

MCBAIN: I think it’s really hard when you’ve got three states impacted – New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania – in this latest round, and I know that some companies are doing a really great job but others are absolutely inundated with claims and that will obviously take time to get through. But each person’s experience is probably going to be a little bit different, and so we just need to be there to support communities through this part of that clean-up part. But also long-term, a lot of the businesses that have been impacted, have felt a bit of a downturn because of COVID and then we saw obviously an uptick with people out and about spending and now I think, it’s difficult with, the cost of living going up and they’re whacked with, a clean-up process for their businesses.

So, be gentle and kind to each other out there and really support our local businesses, because, without their support there are a whole range of things that we wouldn’t be able to do in the community, like sporting activities and whatnot. We know that our small businesses are usually the number one sponsors for a whole range of things that we do in our communities, so get behind them.

LAUDER: And you mentioned last week after the Federal Budget that the Government is going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars or up to $200 million per year on prevention and resilience through the Disaster Ready Fund. Do you reckon that might include some projects here in the south-east?

MCBAIN: Yes, so not only have we repurposed the previous government’s recovery fund, which sort of didn’t do a single mitigation project, we’re going to repurpose that so we can work with states and territories to hand out $200 million per year and, where appropriate, get the states and territories to partner with us to double that fund to start dealing with some of the mitigation and resilience measures that our communities are asking us to invest in.

And we also know that insurance companies are saying they want investment in mitigation and resilience funding, and we need that to happen so that people can have access to good insurance but also cost-effective insurance. And if we – for every dollar we invest in mitigation resilience work, we’re saving close to $11 on the recovery phase, so that’s really important.

Also, we’ve added an additional $3 billion to the Budget to deal with some of the disasters that have occurred but also more that are likely to happen given that the current weather patterns – which is just an acknowledgement of, what’s likely to take place over the next few months – those one-off Disaster Recovery Payments dealing with some of those disaster business issues and also continuing to work with the states and territories to roll out support where needed.

LAUDER: Okay. And now to industrial relations and the new workplace bill, which I think was introduced to Parliament last week. It aims to give workers more power to negotiate flexible hours, but employer groups are fighting the plans for multi-employer bargaining. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it’s a concern because we could see a seismic shift in the way in which bargaining is structured in Australia. How do you respond to that? Is it going to be a return to industry-wide pattern agreements?

MCBAIN: No, I don’t think so. I mean, one of the things that we know coming out of the last decade of government was that there was a deliberate design feature in the former government’s economic policy, and that was to keep wages low. And they freely admitted that. But what we need to do is make sure that we are getting wages moving, and this bill will help promote job security, close the gender pay gap, modernise the workplace bargaining system and get wages moving.

There was already multi-employer bargaining possible under the Fair Work Act under three streams. So this isn’t a new concept. What this does is actually refine what it does, vary the existing streams a little bit to get wages moving. I think that a lot of the employers who are small businesses are asking for some assistance in especially how wages are structured. There are so many award agreements out there that sometimes, small businesses find it difficult to figure out which applies to them, which allowances apply to them, and everyone wants to do the right thing in this system.

And I know from a small business perspective that there is going to be some happier businesses where they can actually see and jump on a multi-employer bargaining system where the work is being done and they simply have to implement the end product, which is what the wages and conditions are. So I think that there are going to be some real advantages to the system under this bill. But, as I said, multi-employer bargaining is not a new thing under the Fair Work Act; it’s already available.

LAUDER: We’re getting quite a few text messages this morning about problem gambling, just off the back of the news that the Federal Government wants to replace the “Gamble Responsibly” message in gambling ads with things like “Chances are you’re about to lose”, and, “Imagine what you could be buying instead”, some, perhaps, messages that might cut through a bit more. Look, do you hear much about problem gambling in your talks around Eden-Monaro?

MCBAIN: Really interestingly, a lot of people don’t talk to me about problem gambling, but a lot of people do talk to me about the advertising structure of a lot of our gambling sites, especially those that are available online or via apps on our phones. So, it is something that is being raised particularly around

“do we need to see it in the middle of the day?” or “do we need to see it during sporting events?” where we’ve got kids watching, and should we look at implementing at a structure that only has it playing after a certain time at night, like so many restrictions that are put on other types of advertising?

I think this is a good first step to acknowledge that we need to do more than just say gamble responsibly. And I really hope that we look at what else we can do in this way.

LAUDER: All right. We’ll watch that space. Kristy McBain, great to talk to you again this morning. Thanks a lot.

MCBAIN: Thanks, Simon.

LAUDER: Kristy McBain there the Member for Eden-Monaro.