Interview with Jaynie Seale on Sky News Breakfast

JAYNIE SEALE, HOST: Well, joining me live is Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. How are you this morning, Minister?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Very well. How are you?

JAYNIE SEALE: Very well, indeed. I know you’ve got a busy day in Parliament, so thank you very much for taking the time out to join us on Sky News at Breakfast.

But let’s talk about the telehealth, because that has certainly been a very successful program, hasn’t it, during the pandemic, especially for the regions?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it gives people who live in the regions access to specialists which traditionally we’ve had to drive several hours for. I know in my area, you know, it’s an 11-hour round trip to get to Sydney and back or a 6-hour round trip to get to Canberra and back. So, for a lot of residents who live in regional Australia it’s that immediate access without the outlay of petrol and accommodation costs that so many of us are used to. So fantastic initiative, and it’s great to see it roll out for specialists.

JAYNIE SEALE: Minister, what are your thoughts on the announcement that we just mentioned as well about the reconstruction authority? We’ve certainly had back-to-back disasters – fires, flood, drought, mice plagues, pandemics and so forth. It is a good thing, do you think?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, I think it is. I mean, we’ve got multiple areas across the state and across the country who are experiencing a compounding effect of multiple natural disasters over the last few years. We’ve gone from drought in 2019 to fires to COVID to floods, and it’s particularly difficult for a number of communities and a number of local councils who have had to deal with those ongoing struggles. The cumulative impact of that on communities is really, really difficult.

It is, I guess, a little frustrating for communities that we try to re-invent the wheel in recovery every time. But I congratulate the New South Wales Government on the reconstruction fund – the reconstruction authority, sorry, and I really hope that it starts to delve into some of the big impacts and big issues we are seeing across the state.

JAYNIE SEALE: Because, as we know, full well, don’t we, Minister, at the moment, you know, major flood warnings continuing. We’ve got storm event after storm event coming, especially in the near future. We just saw that with our meteorologist Alison Osborne there. But it’s just relentless, not only the flooding situation we have now but what people are dealing with. It’s just extraordinary – their mental health, physical health. But we always hear that communities really band together and have a wonderful generosity of spirit.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. We know in times of disaster Australians really do come together, and it’s fabulous to see, you know, communities there for each other in really difficult times. But we’re facing something quite extraordinary. As we said, that cumulative impact of disasters can’t be underestimated on people’s both physical and mental health. And we know at the moment a number of our industries, especially our agricultural industry, is really struggling. And, you know, we’ve got to get a harvest sorted in western New South Wales, and at the moment it’s really difficult to get farm machinery on to the ground because of how wet it is. And for some people they actually can’t get the machinery to farm because of the impact of flooding on a number of local roads.

So, you know, it is a really difficult time for people, for small businesses and for industry. And governments need to be cognisant that recovery will take a long time. I mean, I know in my particular area, you know, we are two years on from the Black Summer bushfire, but our community still bears those scars and there are still significant events we’re trying to assist communities with. So, it’s going to be difficult, but governments will have to step in and be there to assist communities. We can’t just leave it to communities themselves.

JAYNIE SEALE: Yeah, and there’s crisis after crisis, including the cost of living and the housing crisis.

KRISTY MCBAIN: That’s right. I mean, the housing crisis is obviously exacerbated by a number of natural disasters across the country where you’ve had fires and flood take out thousands of homes across the country, which is why I was so proud that this Federal Government, the Albanese Labor Government, has committed to a leadership role in the housing space. The Future Australia Housing fund, $10 billion to actually start to invest in social and affordable housing across the country and working with states and territories and affordable housing providers on prioritising that housing across the country. I think it’s incumbent that three levels of government work together to start dealing with some of the issues. And obviously planning across the country is one of the big issues facing many communities at this point in time, making sure that we’re building in good locations and streamlining the process so we can get more supply into the market as soon as possible.

JAYNIE SEALE: And, yeah, the cost of living as well, for farmers alone, people like yourself having to travel so many hours, the fuel, the energy, the gas – you name it, it’s exacerbated as we know of the incident going on in Ukraine. But it’s pretty dire, isn’t it, for everyone?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, look, it is. And, you know, cost of living has been a really issue over the last couple of years now, exacerbated obviously by COVID, supply chain interruptions and now the energy crisis with the war in Ukraine. But we’ve, you know, just sat through 10 years where, you know, the previous government couldn’t land a single energy policy, which hasn’t provided any certainty for investors in the energy market either. You know, they had 22 policies, didn’t land one. We saw four gigawatts of dispatchable power leave the grid under their watch and only one gigawatt come in to replace it.

So, what we’re doing is providing certainty to the energy market with our Powering Australia plan, and we’ll need to continue to work with providers and regulators to make sure that we get the absolute best deal for the Australian people.

JAYNIE SEALE: Well, I know you’ve got a busy day ahead. Thank you so much for your time, as always. Kristy McBain, the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. Talk to you again soon.