Interview with Simon Lauder, ABC South East radio Breakfast
SIMON LAUDER, HOST: There will be a bit of pomp and ceremony to open the forty-seventh Parliament in Canberra today. The new Senate President and Speaker of the House will be elected and there will even be a 19-gun salute. Then it will be down to business. The Government plans to introduce 18 bills this week, including one to allow 10 days of paid domestic and family violence leave per year, and aged care and emissions reduction targets will also be a priority. To talk about it, we’re joined by the Member for Eden–Monaro Kristy McBain. Good morning.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, Simon.
SIMON LAUDER: Thank you so much for joining us on what’s sure to be a busy and important day. What’s your priority for not just today but this term of Parliament?
KRISTY MCBAIN: I think really importantly in this term of Parliament people want to have some confidence in what the Government is doing, and the Government has made sure that transparency and communication should be the cornerstone of our government. So, we’ve had Ministers out there now for a number of weeks dealing with some portfolio issues that have been left unattended, and there’s been a lot of listening. And over the next three years, my primary goal is to make sure that the people of Eden–Monaro are represented in Parliament, working towards a regional development plan which ties in with state and territory governments’ regional development plans, and making sure that we’ve got access to Parliament and for people to advocate to Ministers of the Crown for the issues that are important to them.
SIMON LAUDER: And Jan in Cooma, her text asking for help for aged care to prevent further closures probably reflects a lot of anxiety in our region at the moment that there will be no aged care in the future. Is Labor’s plan going to prevent further closures?
KRISTY MCBAIN: In the first two weeks of the sitting Parliament, we’re introducing two aged‑care bills. The first one implements a further 17 recommendations of the aged‑care royal commission. So, within our first 100 days of Government, we’re implementing 17 recommendations and the previous Government only managed nine in the 17 months they were in power. It’s a huge issue right across the electorate and I am really aware of that, and we’ve been working really closely with a couple of facilities on plans to make sure that we can support them in what has been a pretty difficult few years for a lot of aged‑care facilities.
SIMON LAUDER: I understand that you met with the New South Wales Member for Monaro, Nichole Overall, yesterday and the state Regional Health Minister, Bronnie Taylor, and Nicole Overall is pushing a proposal to expand the existing Bombala Multi‑Purpose Centre by an additional 30 beds with an estimated cost of $35 million. Is that something you’d like the Albanese Government to get behind?
KRISTY MCBAIN: That request wasn’t specifically made yesterday. I’m well aware that it’s definitely an issue, with the closure of Currawarna, but I’m always prepared to work with anyone from any level of Government to make sure that we can maintain services and more than happy to continue speaking with Nichole and Bronnie on that issue.
SIMON LAUDER: And lots of headlines around Labor’s 43 per cent climate target by 2030, which you’re looking to lock into legislation. Do you think it will pass?
KRISTY MCBAIN: I’m hopeful it will pass. We have a majority government and it’s a policy we went to the election with. I really hope that there’s no point‑scoring over this. What we need to do is lock in a target to start working towards it. Most importantly, what that legislation does is require the Climate Change Minister to come back to the Parliament every year to report on how we are measuring up against our targets so that there is a mechanism to actually be able to understand what is going on in that space. We know that we’ve lost a decade of inaction and we need to get on with work that will help us to reduce our carbon emissions, but, most importantly, to help stabilise our climate.
We have been wracked with a number of natural disasters across the country over the last three years and they are really hurting people. I was talking to both the Mayor of Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains last week. They’ve had five one-in-100-year floods in the last two years and they’ve got communities that are still cut off with ruined infrastructure and high water, so we really have to do everything we can to make sure that we’re assisting people because it’s people that are really hurting right now.
SIMON LAUDER: And on election night, Anthony Albanese said this will be the end of the climate wars, but has that been proven yet or it remains to be seen?
KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, I really hope it is the end of climate wars and I guess we will see in the sitting fortnight what happens in the Senate, but, you know, the last thing we need is to not be able to legislate that target. That target should be there so that future governments are also bound by that higher target. If it’s not legislated, then potentially a new Government can change course and deliver us less.
SIMON LAUDER: And, of course, a lot of anxiety around foot‑and‑mouth disease at the moment. It would be devastating if it made it here. Are you hearing the same around Eden–Monaro and are you going to be pushing for any further vigilance or changes or are you confident that the Government has it in hand?
KRISTY MCBAIN: Absolutely, I’ve heard from a lot of people across Eden–Monaro about their concerns about foot and mouth. I mean, the threat is very serious, and we are taking it very seriously. No Government has ever implemented the amount of biosecurity measures that we have over the last few weeks in regard to foot and mouth. There was another biosecurity ordinance signed only a couple of days ago, which creates different biosecurity zones in airports so that we have people going through another layer of security as they come off planes which are deemed high‑risk by our officials. We had a briefing from the veterinary science doctor yesterday in our ministry and there will be some ongoing communications. The threat is serious, and we will be taking it seriously and as I said, there’s been no Government that’s implemented more biosecurity measures than we have over the last few weeks.
SIMON LAUDER: We’ve talked a lot about mental health issues in our region and nationwide and the need for more services. Some good news on that front this week, I take it, with Bega headspace.
KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, Bega headspace will get close to $800,000 in additional funding to start dealing with demand management and enhancement opportunities. We know that it’s been a particularly difficult three years for a lot of our young people across the region and our services have been met with challenges, resourcing challenges. So, we want to make sure that we are assisting people and that we’re not prolonging any of those issues that people have and trying to get them into a headspace quicker. So, $800,000, which is part of a broader $44 million announcement which will assist 57 headspaces across the country I think is timely and I really hope it does make a difference with those waitlists.
SIMON LAUDER: And you were in Norfolk Island recently, I take it, in your role as Minister for Territories and also there’s going to be Parliament considering whether to allow the ACT and the Northern Territory Parliaments to make their own laws on issues like voluntary assisted dying. Are you busier than ever?
KRISTY MCBAIN: You’re always busy in this role, but my primary focus is always Eden–Monaro, but, yeah, headed to Norfolk Island. They’ve got a series of shipping challenges. We know how difficult it is on the mainland with our supply chains at the moment and the cost of goods sort of escalating, and in Norfolk, you can imagine, that is exacerbated tenfold. They have serious supply challenges and a lot of empty supermarket shelves. The cost of a slab of beer is about $110.
SIMON LAUDER: Yikes!
KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, it’s very difficult at the moment and trying to assist – get them more goods over there as soon as possible is a huge issue. And also, next week in Parliament, introducing the act which will repeal the provisions that were inserted by a previous member of Government which, basically, didn’t allow the ACT and the Northern Territory to have a debate on voluntary assisted dying. So, it’s been a long issue and I know one that there will be many people in Parliament and many people across the ACT, Northern Territory, that will be watching it closely. Hopefully, that passes, and those Legislative Assemblies can have their own debate about whether they wish to implement such an act.
SIMON LAUDER: Kristy McBain, great to talk to you on what’s set to be an important day. Thanks very much.
KRISTY MCBAIN: No worries. Talk to you soon.
SIMON LAUDER: That’s Kristy McBain, member for Eden–Monaro, also the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.