Sounds of the Mountains 96.3 radio interview with David Eisenhauer
HOST DAVID EISENHAUER: Our next guest has a very busy day today and tomorrow. The Federal Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit is underway, but that’s one job of many for a Minister and member for Eden–Monaro. Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain, joins us on the line. Minister, a very good morning to you.
MINISTER KRISTY McBAIN: Good morning, Dave. How are you?
DAVID EISENHAUER: Not too bad on this beautiful first day of Spring.
KRISTY McBAIN: It is gorgeous; the first day of Spring is here and, hopefully, that rain stays away for some time to come yet, and we get to enjoy some of these beautiful Spring days.
DAVID EISENHAUER: Well, we’ve had such a big run of weather, Kris, I know we’ve got the bushfire danger period kicking into gear today in various centres, including down the bottom section there of the Eden–Monaro electorate, down around the coast and up, you know, the top end of New South Wales as well. But importantly, you’re in an SES shed this morning.
KRISTY McBAIN: Yeah, that’s right. I think our first responders have done such a magnificent job over the last few years responding to bushfires, to floods, manning roadblocks during COVID times, and just here with Fortem this morning thanking first responders for the work they do in our communities.
DAVID EISENHAUER: Kristy, another thing you’ve got the breakfast, and then you’ve got today and tomorrow the Jobs and Skills Summit which is underway.
KRISTY McBAIN: Yeah, really important. I think there has been a lot of talk about the Jobs and Skills Summit because I think regardless of where you live in this country, we are experiencing a worker shortage, especially in some of our more skilled professions. I held nine different roundtables in the lead-up to the Jobs and Skills Summit, both locally in Eden–Monaro and then more broadly with my ministerial hat on, and there were some really consistent themes that came out of that. Obviously, skilled migration is one. But the other consistent themes, especially in the regions, were around housing. You know, there’s a real chicken‑and‑egg situation where we have a housing shortage in parts of our country, and it’s hard to attract workers when we can’t find anywhere for workers to live. So, you know, there has to be some work done on that planning side of things as well.
DAVID EISENHAUER: Kristy, one thing you and I have talked about many times over the years we’ve been chatting, when you were in opposition and now in government, is the issue of mobile phone connectivity or internet connectivity in a general sense.
KRISTY McBAIN: Yeah, absolutely and that theme did come through in the Jobs and Skills Summit, that to grow a business, or to move a business to a regional area, we have to make sure that we have good connectivity, both mobile phone and internet. So, we obviously took some policies to the election to increase the coverage of our mobile phone towers, to increase our NBN coverage across the region, and we need to make sure that that is delivered as soon as possible to make sure that our communities aren’t left behind as well.
DAVID EISENHAUER: And it’s been an issue – I know we’ve mentioned it many, many times. It’s hard in the hills, as you know full well; in the mountains, it’s a bit different out on the plains, where you’ve got flat country, for the radio signal to run, but around the mountains it’s difficult. Paul Broad and Snowy Hydro put all those towers up the Snowy Mountains side; that was a big start. That was something very special, wasn’t it?
KRISTY McBAIN: Yeah, that’s right. And I think the important thing is there’s no one‑size‑fits‑all approach that’s going to work in our country, and we obviously know that coming from where we do where the topography is quite different from other parts of the country. And so that’s been one of the things that I’ve been inputting into the party is that, you know, it’s really important that sometimes the big macro tower isn’t the solution that will work for some communities. So, we have to take advantage of the technology that is available to us, and it’s changing daily, and keep abreast of what will work better in areas like ours which have more difficult terrain.
DAVID EISENHAUER: Kristy, we mentioned the name there Paul Broad and Snowy Hydro and, of course, it’s smack-bang in the middle of your electorate. This is Snowy 2.0 with Tantangara and Lobs Hole. Your thoughts on Paul’s resignation?
KRISTY McBAIN: I think Paul’s done a tremendous job with Snowy over the last decade or so, and we now have a big nation-building project on our hands in Snowy 2.0, and I wish him the best of luck in his next chapter. And I guess we need to take this as an opportunity to refresh that management and have a new set of eyes cast over the project long term and, hopefully, we can come up with a good solution.
DAVID EISENHAUER: And it’s such a – we talked about jobs and skills creation when we started chatting today and we started talking about apprentices. One example, just one example, of absolute stellar leadership in those apprenticeship programs, we talked the Clontarf Foundation. Kristy, I know that’s something close to your heart as well. What a great boon that is for our local region in that intake with Snowy; a couple of those kids that have been through the Clontarf Academy now working as apprentices for Snowy Hydro.
KRISTY McBAIN: Yeah, Snowy does such an amazing job with their apprenticeship scheme, but more broadly we need to make it attractive for people to take on apprenticeships in a whole range of different trades. And that was definitely one of the issues that was loud and clear during the roundtables in the lead-up to Jobs and Skills – that we need to make apprenticeships more attractive to people, and we know that incentives over time have definitely reduced. But what we also need to do is make sure that we’ve got access to good vocational training in the towns and villages where we live and actually highlight it as a really good career option. I think we have degraded the value of vocational training over time, and it’s incumbent upon us all to make sure that people, both young and old, see it as a great career option to work in the trades.
DAVID EISENHAUER: We’re paying our apprentices enough do you think, Kristy?
KRISTY McBAIN: Look, as a small business owner, it is very difficult for people to be living on the apprenticeship wage. It is difficult for businesses and for apprentices, but we have to come up with a better solution to make sure that people continue to take up apprentices and, most importantly, that businesses feel confident taking them on and get that support from the apprenticeship services to do that.
DAVID EISENHAUER: My word. They are so important, the future of our industries, and as we mentioned there with our businesses where it’s parks or Snowy, our timber industries, our mills, our local region, there is so much and, of course, tourism such a big part of our district as well – all requires those apprentices to come through. Kristy, it’s news time – nearly out of time. Anything you’d like to add this morning on our chat? Sorry, it’s a bit rushed today, but it’s kind of all crammed into one half-hour.
KRISTY McBAIN: No, it’s obviously a great honour to be re-elected as the member for Eden–Monaro, and I’m back out in Tumut this month and I look forward to catching up with people. As always, my offices in Queanbeyan and Bega are always open and always happy to help people as much as we can with the issues they’re having, but look forward to continuing to talk to you, Dave, on Sounds of the Mountains and working together to make sure that the future in Eden–Monaro is very bright for our community.
DAVID EISENHAUER: And Kristy, thank you, and Mel, for taking the time out to – I mean, Mel, it’s been backwards and forwards a bit to organise because of your busy schedule as Minister. We really appreciate your time, Kristy. Enjoy your day and all the best at the summit today.
KRISTY McBAIN: Thank you.
DAVID EISENHAUER: There you go. Of course, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, member for Eden–Monaro, Kristy McBain, just joining us for a quick chat there. Lots more things to talk about with Kristy, but we’re out of time. It’s eight o’clock.