Interview on Sky News Regional, Breakfast with Jaynie Seal

JAYNIE SEAL: Authorities are searching for two missing miners in Queensland in an underground zinc mine. Joining us live is Kristy McBain in Canberra, Minister for Regional Development. Thank you so much for your time, Minister. What can you tell us in terms of the latest situation with the missing miners?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning Jaynie. It’s obviously devastating for the community around Cloncurry to hear this news this morning. You can imagine that the two gentlemen's coworkers are rightly concerned, and we all hope for positive outcome very soon.

SEAL: Absolutely. Because it's been close to around 24 hours now. Have we heard from authorities or anybody there, or any more word at all?

MCBAIN: Not at this stage, and I think they are doing exactly what’s needed at this point in time, which is focusing on that operation to hopefully rescue those two men.

SEAL: Let's turn to other news and RBA Governor, Dr Philip Lowe was questioned yesterday on interest rate rises and admits that he doesn't know how many more will be needed to curb inflation. A lot of worried people out there.

MCBAIN: The cost of living crisis is really hitting homes across the country and we know that hopefully, we've seen the peak of inflation, and that it will hopefully now turn a corner and start to come down.

SEAL: It certainly doesn't sound that way. Property owners in some of the New South Wales local government areas are really looking at rate hikes, but they've also got inflation and council rate rises. Very concerning, and some very upset locals in the community.

MCBAIN: That’s right. We know a number of councils across New South Wales are at this point in time applying for a special rate variation to cover their costs of operation and the cost of maintenance, especially on a number of roads and bridges across the state which have been impacted by multiple rain and flooding events. In New South Wales, we have a rate capping system. The last rate cap last year was 0.7 per cent, at a time when we're seeing inflation quite high. So councils are struggling to keep up with maintenance and providing those services as the cost of everything is going up. That won't make it any easier on residents across multiple council areas in New South Wales who face the possibility of big rate hikes, as well as dealing with interest rates and the general cost of living. So I think that it's time that we actually had a look at rate capping, and the New South Wales Government needs to be cognisant of the fact that tied grant funding can be a real hindrance to communities and needs. They should perhaps look at an untied model where local councils can spend the money that they get from the state government on priority roads and community infrastructure that the community deems necessary.

SEAL: Absolutely. And it's not only council rate rises. It's a rental crisis, it's a health crisis. There's a lot going on. You're in Canberra, in Parliament. What is going to be on the agenda in the next few weeks or so?

MCBAIN: Our $10 billion future housing fund has been put through the house, the single biggest investment in social and affordable housing in over a decade. We know that the housing crisis is hitting regions right across the country, which is why this measure is so incredibly important. Unfortunately, we saw the Greens leave the chamber and not vote for the substantive bill, which I think is a real shame. And the Liberals and Nationals have confirmed their position of saying no to everything. They said no to the single largest investment in social and affordable housing, at a time where we've got a cost of living crisis and a housing crisis. So the Bill now moves to the Senate and I really hope that there is progress with those other parties there, because right now we need to see investment in that sector.

SEAL: All right, Minister Kristy McBain, thank you so much for your time. We'll talk to you again next week.

MCBAIN: Love to chat to you.