Interview with Joe Hildebrand, 2GB

JOE HILDEBRAND, HOST: Phil has texted in and said, “Joe, you’re making too much sense about living with COVID”. This restriction madness has to stop. So am I right? Is Phil right? And is this how the community feels?

Well someone who knows a fair bit about how the community in Eden feels is the Member for Eden‑Monaro and former Mayor Kristy McBain and she joins me on the line right now. G’day, Kristy, how are you?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good thanks, Joe, how are you?

JOE HILDEBRAND: Excellent. Very well, thank you, ma’am. Thanks for joining us. Firstly, I suppose, what is the sentiment in the community about the Coral Princess heading to Eden and passengers being able to disembark barring – assuming they’ve got a clear rapid antigen test, is this a great boon for tourism and a sign we’re getting back to normal, or is this reckless and causing anxiety in people?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, I think it will be the first cruise ship that has docked in Eden for probably over two years now and hopefully this will be the first of many cruise ships to dock this season.

You know, we have been subjected to border closures both on the New South Wales and the Victorian side of the border, we’ve had ACT border closures to us and when you’ve got towns that rely on tourism it’s been an incredibly difficult couple of years and throw in, obviously, the Black Summer bushfires and things have been really tough for businesses.

So, look, we do have to learn to live with COVID and I know that there are many people in our communities who will be taking extra precautions when cruise ships are in, but I think that that balance is right. New South Wales Health has said, you know, there are some extra testing procedures before anyone gets off the ship, which I think is a good thing, but I think there are a lot of businesses and definitely, a community that is happy to welcome people and those who are more sceptical will take those added precautions, I think.

JOE HILDEBRAND: And I’ve got to say it’s no secret I’m a big fan of Albo, and of course, I’m a big fan of Dominic Perrottet as well for that matter, but I think it is terrific to see the Federal and New South Wales governments despite being of political stripes, different political stripes, really working hand‑in‑glove on this issue, and of course on bushfire relief.

You would have seen a joint statement, you mentioned the impact the bushfires had on the South Coast, on the Sapphire Coast, how much that has devastated communities. I’ve got to say it is so good to see a Liberal State Government and a Labor Federal Government working together without then, you know, what you often have, the sniping and the backgrounding after the cameras have switched off.

  KRISTY MCBAIN: I think the time is now to put aside those partisan differences just for the sake of it. We’ve got state and territory governments, we’ve got local governments who are all in need of assistance and the Federal Government should be one that is there to help people regardless of their political persuasion. And I think what you’re now seeing is a Federal Government that’s seriously interested in collaboration and cooperation for the benefit of communities. It’s been, as I said, a pretty tough time for a lot of communities right across the place and we’re seeing that again now with the latest round of flooding events and, you know, communities pull together, and they should expect the same of their governments at state and federal level.

JOE HILDEBRAND: And it is, it’s an area obviously it’s got its famous agricultural produce, Bega Shire Council of which you were the mayor, very famous for its cheese, but this is an area that really relies on tourism, doesn’t it, to survive? This is an area that needs, you know, boats coming in, cars driving down for the community to be able to thrive and survive.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, so many of our coastal towns obviously rely pretty heavily on tourism. You know, having said that we’ve also got a pretty large agricultural sector and the news out of Indonesia is of considerable concern to a number of my constituents.

JOE HILDEBRAND: Yep, the foot and mouth disease outbreak potentially.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Exactly right. And, you know, that will have a bigger impact on communities across the country if that finds its way to Australia. And I’m so pleased that Senator Murray Watt on top of already having to deal with a number of the flooding issues, is also going to Indonesia to get a full briefing on the outbreak of foot and mouth over there.

JOE HILDEBRAND: He’s really had a baptism of fire, hasn’t he?

KRISTY MCBAIN: I mean could a bloke have found himself in a worse position in terms of natural disasters than obviously this biosecurity threat. You know, he’s doing a fabulous job and I think what you see from our team is that we are a team and that we are all pulling together. I know a number of my colleagues who are members of these flooding areas are speaking to myself, to Murray, to Matt Thistlethwaite and to the Prime Minister every day about some of the issues that are impacting their communities and obviously, the recovery efforts from previous floods and from the Black Summer are still underway. So, there are towns and communities right across this country doing it tough and the one thing we can all do to help out is go and visit them when they’re up for it because their local economies have been smashed.

JOE HILDEBRAND: Yeah, absolutely. And as I said I absolutely love the Sapphire Coast, it is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, it is beautiful. I was there, I think the last time we spoke I was there a few weeks ago in the beautiful little town of Pambula.

One thing that is, and I do sympathise a bit with the government, but it is a bit of a Sophie’s choice it has with this fuel excise. Obviously, you’re going to be relying on people to be taking driving holidays, to be driving down these school holidays or others over the summer holidays to visit towns like Eden and Bega and towns on the Sapphire Coast. How much is the reintroduction of the 22 cent a litre fuel excise going to dampen the ability of families and the capacity of families to be able to take those big driving holidays?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well probably it is different for a whole range of families depending on their situation and their circumstances. I think what we’ve seen over the last couple of years is people actually prepared to spend money and holiday and travel within Australia. You know, previously people have been probably too quick to jump on a plane and head overseas when we’ve got so much amazing scenery right here in our own backyard. So, you know, I hope they continue to take into account that every dollar they spend locally actually is a good thing for local economies, it’s a good thing for small businesses and small communities and take that into account before they book that overseas trip.

JOE HILDEBRAND: We’ve just got an interesting question which I think is emblematic of the way the debate has changed and the way the policy settings have changed. One listener has written in and said, “Why Eden, Joe, why not somewhere in Queensland?” And presumably saying, “Well why, this ship is already, you know, off the coast of Brisbane, or whatever, why is it coming to New South Wales?” The answer I think is because we want it to, because we want passengers to come and see our beautiful tourist destinations, to spend their money and because we’re living with COVID now.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, that’s right, and I think Eden is now a cruise ship destination. It has been for a number of years. There’s been significant investment into the Port of Eden so that cruise ships could dock in town. It’s one of the only ports where you can actually get off in the township itself.


KRISTY MCBAIN: And, you know, we’ve got beautiful coastal towns right across this country and it’s great that people are being able to experience them in a car or on a boat. So, the more cruise ships across our country the better I think for a number of small communities.

JOE HILDEBRAND: I could not agree more. How are the whales in Eden, are they still hanging around? Are they coming back?

KRISTY MCBAIN: They are. Our best season is between September and November, so if you’re keen on seeing some whales head down then.

JOE HILDEBRAND: Okay. So, if you’re on the Coral Princess just disembark at Eden, wait three months and you’ll probably see a whale. In fact, you definitely will, that’s a personal guarantee from the local member.

KRISTY MCBAIN: That’s right. Spend your money for three months, we’d be more than happy with that.

JOE HILDEBRAND: Yeah, you can get some very nice long-term accommodation deals I’m sure as well. Kristy McBain, the Member for Eden‑Monaro, Monaro I should say. That’s a mortal sin.


JOE HILDEBRAND: And the Minister for – the other one’s a car, and a good car too.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yes, that’s right.

JOE HILDEBRAND: And the Minister for Regional Development. Thank you very much for joining us on afternoons.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Thanks Joe, have a good arvo.

JOE HILDEBRAND: Cheers Kristy, you too.

Media contact:

Minister McBain – Melanie Leach 0492 318 450