Interview - Sky News Regional Australia, Breakfast with Jaynie Seal

JAYNIE SEAL, HOST: With the housing crisis continuing to affect much of Australia, urgent action is needed, including connectivity. Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories joins me now. Thank you so much for joining us.

So among the key concerns we’ve certainly got the housing crisis, we’ve seen the Jobs and Skills Summit, various summits, indeed, but tell us what is really needed in the regions at the moment.

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Thank you. And thanks for having me this morning. Housing has been one of the key themes throughout the Jobs and Skills Summit, but I held nine roundtables in the leadup to the Jobs and Skills Summit and it was a consistent theme right across. Really pleased that out of that Jobs and Skills Summit we now have unlocked $575 million worth of social and affordable housing investment with the states and territories. We’ve had a decade where housing wasn’t discussed under the former Government and now we’ve had five meetings with state and territory housing ministers with our own housing minister, and it is one of the cornerstones of Labor’s plan going forward for the $10 billion Future Housing Fund to build up to 30,000 social and affordable homes in the first five years.

JAYNIE SEAL: All right. And in terms of jobs, we’ve certainly got a lot of jobs – up to around 90,000 available I believe across parts of regional Australia. What are you calling for in terms of the trades? I know that you’ve been mentioning a stronger focus on trades, for example. What is needed there?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Some of the things that have been spoken about are access to education in our regional areas. It’s really hard to upskill when we don’t have access to TAFE and universities at the same rate as our metropolitan counterparts. So making it easier for our regional cohorts to go into trades and training is a big focus of ours.

If you look at the criteria for those additional 20,000 university places, we’re targeting rural and regional kids through some of our metrics. Those first in the family to go to university, those lower socioeconomic groups, and other minority groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. We want to encourage more people, especially in the regions, to enter trades and training, and we can do that by making it easier for them to access that. And a large part of our policy platform is around making it easier to access.

JAYNIE SEAL: And certainly there has been a misconception over many years about regions and, you know, just various stories, but we are hearing more and more people moving from the cities to the regions and there are just so many opportunities, as you’ve certainly mentioned, and big events as well, including the Henty Machinery Field Days, which I believe is southern Australia’s single biggest agricultural event.

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, it was fantastic to be out at the Henty Machinery Field Day this week. After a two-year hiatus you could see how important it was for people to get back out and about. I think it took me 40 minutes to get into the car park from the main street of town, which is how popular it is. So great to be there with so many people really focused on some of the technological advances that we are seeing. There were universities there talking about the research that they’re doing, Landcare and how they’re looking after aspects of our land, and obviously it’s a great social day for so many people.

Those of us who live in the regions know how fantastic it is and how important it is to get out and about with your family and friends and your neighbours to events like these. The thing that we need to concentrate on as a government, which we are, is the connectivity issue. Because so many people have said to us that they could expand their business or they’d love to do more business in our rural and regional areas if they had better access to connectivity. And I’m so proud that the Albanese Labor Government is listening to people on the ground and prioritising regional connectivity.

JAYNIE SEAL: And, Minister, I am going to have to bring up something. A few weeks ago it was revealed that there was a breach in the ministerial code of conduct regarding shares still held by three Labor ministers, including yourself. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was happy with your explanation. But can you tell us, Minister, why did you sell the shares to your husband?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, the code of conduct is really important to everybody, and I think communities are telling us that they want politicians, they want people at all levels of government, to be transparent. I disclosed what I had done because it was the right and proper thing to do. I had transferred those shares to my husband prior to seeing a copy of the written code of conduct. Once I knew that wasn’t an adequate divestment we put in place the measures to sell those shares, and at all times I disclosed what we were doing. At all times there was never a conflict of interest that existed.

So it’s right and proper that those things were disclosed to be scrutinised. I’ve never backed away from it. We should have sold those shares earlier, and I was the first to acknowledge that. At no stage was there a conflict of interest.

JAYNIE SEAL: All right. And how are you feeling about it now?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, I guess it’s probably a bit embarrassing that you didn’t get it done soon enough. But at all times I disclosed and at all times there was never a conflict of interest in place. So the matter’s now done.

JAYNIE SEAL: All right thank you so much for your time. Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.