Interview on 22C Breakfast with Stephen Cenatiempo

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Time to talk federal politics with the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and the Member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain. Kristy, good morning.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, Stephen.

CENATIEMPO: Before we get onto a couple of issues that you want to talk about, I want to talk about this Bombala multipurpose service. The Coalition in New South Wales have promised $15 million to expand it to cope with aged care residents, because the aged care facilities in the in the town and surrounding areas have been forced to close. They need the feds to kick in $22 million, and, of course, it is a Federal Government responsibility, aged care. They say that a proposal has been with the Federal Government since April of last year. You're the local member there, I can't imagine that you don't want to see this thing go ahead?

MCBAIN: We’ve been working on aged care issues with Bombala now for well over a year. We’ve attended meetings in Bombala and we've met with several groups in Bombala. All of the politicians involved have said this is above politics and we need to come to solutions. We're on an eve of a state election and all of a sudden, we're pushing this idea like we're not doing anything. The previous Morrison Government wouldn't even talk to the New South Wales Government.

CENATIEMPO: But they're gone now Kristy. This proposal has been there, and it's not just been there on the eve of an election, this proposal has been there since April, what are we waiting for?

MCBAIN: There's been no announcement of funds until the eve of an election. The aged care beds have been with MPS’ for a long time across New South Wales. This isn't just a Federal Government responsibility, the federal and state governments have been working collaboratively together, and everyone involved knows that. There's been several meetings held and we are very close to a solution on it.

CENATIEMPO: Okay, what does that mean? When is it going to happen?

MCBAIN: We're all working towards the end goal, and that is aged care beds for Bombala. I'm sure there'll be more to say on that very soon.

CENATIEMPO: All right, keep us posted then. Now, we've seen over the last few years a number of natural disasters, bushfires, floods, etc. What is the government doing to ensure communities in Eden-Monaro are going to be better prepared in the future? Because we're already seeing, with a couple of hot days in New South Wales, fires are popping up all over the place.

MCBAIN: We had grass fires yesterday in Googong and Binalong, and we've had 35 declared natural disasters since 2016 in Eden-Monaro, which is pretty prolific across our region. We went to the last election with the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund, the Disaster Ready Fund, and we have announced $2.6 million in funding to aid organisations across the region to help target capacity building and preparedness and prevention strategies for parts of our community. We're really looking forward to continuing that work on resilience and mitigation, because it's clear that communities want to be better prepared for the next time something happens. It's been fantastic to see a number of these local ideas now get funding and work towards those resilience strategies or mitigation strategies.

CENATIEMPO: What's this announcement? $677,000 for local holiday and caravan parks.

MCBAIN: We know so many people are now choosing to holiday in their own backyards and caravan parks provide a place where a lot of people can holiday. There is a whole range, from budget friendly to quite stylish camping options. We've been able to invest in seven caravan parks across Eden-Monaro. The $677,000 is to improve visitor experience. They take in the depth and breadth of Eden-Monaro. If you are out and about, please make sure you use one of our caravan parks or other accommodation providers, because we could always use Canberran’s money in the Eden-Monaro local economy.

CENATIEMPO: But it's not just us here in Canberra. I mean, the South Coast seems to have become the go to place for Aussie holidays, hasn't it?

MCBAIN: We probably had the first summer in three years where we haven't been interrupted by Bushfires or COVID to some extent. And anyone who was on the South Coast over summer will know how incredibly busy it was, which is fantastic to see. Many of those businesses are still recovering and I really appreciate the patience that people have shown. We know that staff shortages are crippling businesses everywhere, but everyone relaxed and settled into holiday life. A number of businesses on the South Coast have all reported that they've done a really good trade over summer and they're looking forward to that continuing going on.

CENATIEMPO: You've also made an announcement that there's going to be support provided for apprentices working in the clean energy sector. Why not be agnostic about this and just bump up the number of apprentices across the board and let business decide where they're going to go?

MCBAIN: That's what we've done. There are 180,000 fee-free TAFE places across the country. We know we've got skill shortages and we'd like to see people taking up apprenticeships, such as child care and energy apprenticeships. It's a growing industry and we need to make sure that we've got the skills going forward. Under this scheme, not only can they access that fee-free TAFE place, but for the energy apprenticeships, we will also provide additional monetary support to make sure that people can get to and from their place of learning. We need to start skilling up our country for the industries that are coming now.

CENATIEMPO: It would remiss of me not to raise this before I let you go, you and I have talked about Mobile Phone Black Spots, particularly in your electorate, because we know that there are a number in your electorate. A pretty damning report from the Auditor-General suggesting that your government has done exactly what you accused the previous government had done with these grants for Black Spots.

MCBAIN: The first round of Black Spot funding that is coming out deals with our election commitments. It was not an open application process, it was entirely our election commitment. The outrage from the opposition is ridiculous because this is an election commitment issue. Black Spot funding will then be open as per normal in the usual sense, so people can apply and will be treated on their merits.

CENATIEMPO: But this wasn't those opposite, as you call them. This was the Auditor's General.

MCBAIN: Yesterday in Parliament I was on my feet talking about recovery funding and had a big spray from those opposite about the rorting of mobile phone funds. These were election commitments and we've had a Royal Commission and a New South Wales Bushfire Inquiry which suggested that we need to get serious about mobile phone black spots on our transport corridors. I made a series of election commitments dealing with those black spot issues based on what the Royal Commission and the New South Wales Bushfire Inquiry said and what locals were telling me. I don't think anyone out there would begrudge an electorate like Eden-Monaro, which lost over 1,000 homes in the Black Summer Bushfire getting those election commitments fulfilled. That is pretty easily explainable and it's what the community has asked for.

CENATIEMPO: If you promise before an election to feather the nest of Labor electorates, that’s is okay. It's just if you do it after an election, it's not.

MCBAIN: You go to an election and you make commitments to your electorate. If Labor weren't in government, I wouldn't have been able to fulfil those commitments. It's a normal process of electioneering, and I think that's well accepted.

CENATIEMPO: When you guys do it, it's not pork-barreling where the other side does it is. Kristy, good to talk to you. Catch up again soon.

MCBAIN: See you soon.

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