Interview with Jaynie Seal, Sky News Regional Breakfast

JAYNIE SEAL: The Federal Government is expected to slash billions of dollars in funds for upcoming rail and road projects. Transport Minister Catherine King will unveil what projects are on the chopping block. Following a review into the $120 billion budget allocation, the report found 82 of the 274 projects should immediately be scrapped and a further 36 to have funding withdrawn. Well, joining me live is Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Minister Kristy McBain. So, good morning to you, Kristy. Certainly, a lot of pressure on the Government regarding this.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning, Jaynie. Good to be with you. It's really important that we get this pipeline right. The rate that it was going under the Liberals and Nationals, that pipeline blew out from 150 projects to 800 projects, but no additional dollars attached to that infrastructure spent. If we were to keep the pipeline as it is, we wouldn't be able to build anything new until 2033. It's all well and good to issue a press release and say you're going to do something, but it has to be backed up by money. Unfortunately, the Liberals and Nationals who talk a big game on good economic management were very poor in infrastructure delivery. They issued a lot of press releases but unfortunately didn't add any new money to that pipeline. Now we've got to come in and have a look at it. We've got projects that weren't even costed but added to the pipeline. It's really important that this review took place and obviously the Minister for Infrastructure will have more to say on that.

SEAL: And more to say, no doubt, on the new legislation that is certainly being rushed through Parliament today. And that's in response to the High Court decision which saw the release of 83 criminals from immigration detention. What can you tell us, Minister? Because it was certainly a very fiery debate yesterday in Parliament and no doubt that tensions will be high again today.

MCBAIN: The decision by the High Court last week overturned more than two decades of court precedent and overturned Liberal legislation that has been in place for a long period of time. It's really important that we respond to this in a calm, measured and frank manner. What we've seen by the Coalition is an attempt to politicise what has been a High Court decision. We've heard calls from the other side to ignore the High Court ruling and get on and do something which would upturn the Constitution. The Liberals and Nationals have just spent the best part of a year railing against any changes to the Constitution, saying that it had to be paramount. We see it now where they're saying, well, actually, don't worry about the separation of powers or the Constitution, go off and do something. It's really important we deal with this in a calm and measured manner. That's why legislation is being introduced after the Solicitor General has looked at a whole range of options, after there's been advice provided. We need to make sure that we deal with this in a frank manner. Community safety is the utmost concern, which is why the AFP and Border Force have been working with state policing authorities to make sure that there were appropriate measures put in place before the release of anyone from detention.

SEAL. So, do you believe that Labor was calm and clear yesterday in Parliament as well?

MCBAIN: What we saw was the attempt to weaponise a decision made by the High Court and link that to antisemitism. It's been very tough in Parliament the last couple of days with some of the rhetoric we've heard coming out of the other side. It's incumbent upon everyone, when we see divisions in our community, especially leaders, to be calm and measured in what they're saying. You've not seen that from the opposition. We need to address this and it should be a bipartisan moment in this Parliament to deal with this matter calmly and to get across some legislation that will deal with any future issues.

SEAL: We've got some stats from the Scanlon Foundation saying 33 per cent of people are concerned about migration intake. What are your thoughts on those stats?

MCBAIN: Obviously, migration numbers have been higher this year. We've seen overseas students coming back now that borders are free to move across, which is really fantastic. There are many hospitality businesses across the place who will be really happy to see those overseas students and backpackers back in the area. I don't think that there is a business out there that is saying that they've got their pick of workers. We know businesses are still crying out for workers. It's really important that we've got a good migration policy, that we've got skilled and unskilled workers that can fill job vacancies across the country. I've got businesses right across regions especially who are crying out for more workers. This country was built on migration and it's important that we have a good migration policy. There's no need for concern here. It's really about making sure that we can fill some of those job vacancies we've got across our economy. Businesses, for one, especially agricultural enterprises, are asking for more workers to come into this country.

SEAL: And we just spoke to the shadow Assistant Regional Health Minister just a half an hour or so ago, Dr. Anne Webster on GPs and how many are leaving. They're exhausted. There's 39,000 approximately, and almost three in ten say that they intend to retire in the next five years, and a lot of them moving away from the regions as well. So, what do you say to that? Because obviously we need so many doctors.

MCBAIN: This is not a new thing. This is something that the entire industry has been grappling with now for many years, especially getting our doctors out to regional, rural and remote areas. We have said we will waive HECS fees for doctors and nurse practitioners who practice in rural and remote areas for five years. We've increased the number of Commonwealth supported places at universities. We've been working with the sector to see how we can attract and retain more doctors into regional areas, and a huge part of that is training them in regional locations. I know firsthand that I had to leave my hometown to access tertiary education, so we need to make things easier because I'm sure that there are a tonne of regional kids who are out there who aspire to be a doctor or a nurse in their hometowns. Leaving to get that education can be tough and once you're gone, it's hard to get back in some circumstances. We're really supporting getting that training piece right, and we'll continue to work with the sector on how else we can assist get more doctors into regional areas.

SEAL: All right, well, certainly tough times and tense times, as we've been talking about. And, yes, be interesting to see how it goes today in Parliament. Always great to see you. Thank you so much, Minister Kristy McBain.

MCBAIN: Thanks, Jaynie. And just a quick shout out, good luck to the Aussie cricketers in their semifinal. I hope the rain holds off. We are hopeful of a finals appearance very soon.

SEAL: All right. Yes, well said. I don't know about that weather, but we'll see how we go. Thanks so much.