Transcript - 1206 2CC Breakfast with Stephen Cenatiempo

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Time to talk federal politics. Kristy McBain is the Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government and the Member for Eden-Monaro. Kristy, it's been a while. Good to have you back. 

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good to be back, Stephen

CENATIEMPO: I'll tell you what. Now, I know that you keep telling me that you're Minister for Territories, the ACT doesn't really qualify, but I reckon you need to abolish the ACT and absorb it back into NSW. You could be our local Member then.

MCBAIN: Unfortunately, there's currently an act of Parliament and that would be required to change in two houses, and it’s not something on our radar.

CENATIEMPO: Right, okay, moving right along. Something that is on your radar. What's the latest with the Yass sewage treatment plant? We've been talking about that for the better part of a year now.

MCBAIN: Yass water is still a huge issue for the majority of the region and, as you say, it's been an issue for a number of years now. I've been working directly with the council. That business case has now been finalised. I've written a letter of support. It's now with the NSW Government to submit to the National Water Grid Fund, and hopefully that application will be coming forward and will be assessed by the relevant Minister shortly.

CENATIEMPO: Have you thought about rejigging how that program works? As the last time I spoke to you, you told me that basically, the funding comes from the federal government, but council has got to apply to the state government for it, and then they forward the application onto you now. Now because council, there was, I don't know, some error in the way they put their application forward, rather than the NSW Government say, hey, how about we help you do this right, they just sat on it, ignored it. Is there some way that, is there a facility where legislation could be changed that local government could come straight to the Federal Government for funding?

MCBAIN: The way this program is set up is we're working with the states and territories, because they're responsible for water in each jurisdiction. They also have to balance what they need done across the state, which is why it goes to them first. The frustration for so many locals is this is just taking too long. This isn't something that just cropped up six months ago, this is something that they've been dealing with now for years, probably more than a decade. The paperwork side of things gets in the way of actual action on the ground for the community. Absolutely, I understand the frustration. That's why I've met with the NSW Water Minister. We've talked to the Federal Water Minister as well. We've been working with the council really closely. Myself and the state Member are really keen to make sure that there's an actual outcome out of this.

CENATIEMPO: Because there's water issues in the southern part of your electorate as well. Are they similar? What's going on with Cooma? Is it Cooma water or Jindabyne that's the issue?

MCBAIN: Jindabyne has been through similar issues with boil water notices through the special activation precinct. There's just been a big injection of dollars to help upgrade water and sewage treatment to unlock more housing potential in Jindabyne. That's being sorted out through a separate process, but you're right, water is an issue regardless of where you go, particularly in regional areas.

CENATIEMPO: I want to talk immigration for a moment because, obviously, immigration rates are particularly high at the moment and we seem to be bringing in. We talk about a skills shortage, but we don't seem to be bringing people in to address the skill shortage. That might change in this next Budget.

MCBAIN: We've been pretty clear that the migration system is broken, that for too long, there's been too many loopholes in that system, which is why there was three separate reviews into the migration system. You'll see a significant reduction in migration numbers and we'll be really targeting migration to make sure that we are addressing some of our skill shortage areas. It's another reason why there's been such a large bucket of funds going to fee-free TAFE and extra Commonwealth supported University places, because we know when you take money out of those sectors, you end up with the skill shortage we're in. We're really keen to make sure that the migration system is getting back to normal levels. We'll be halving net overseas migration by the end of the next financial year and really focusing on those skill shortage areas.

CENATIEMPO: All right, now I want to talk about this Commonwealth Prac Payment for students undertaking mandatory workplace payments, in particularly nursing and fields like that. What is the purpose behind this? Do we really think that's the impediment behind people going into these professions?

MCBAIN: We don't think it's an impediment, but we know that cost of living is really biting and lots of University students are out working, in some cases more than one part time job, to get them through University. When I was studying, I had three casual jobs to get through Uni, but you've got to give up paid work to do prac. This is an acknowledgement that cost of living is biting. We don't want people going without just because they've got to do a prac element of their course to qualify at the end. It's a modest payment of $319.50 a week. It'll help with rent or food for the week, and gives them something in their pocket so that they're not going without when they've got to do those prac placements.

CENATIEMPO: Now, I mentioned nursing, but what other professions are going to be involved in this?

MCBAIN: Teachers, nurses, midwives, social workers, early childhood educators. The Universities Accord review looked at what the professions we're really keen to uplift and make sure that we are dealing with that cost of living issue. Those were the ones that they particularly highlighted. Those are the ones that we are funding based on their recommendations.

CENATIEMPO: Kristy, good to talk to you. We'll catch up again in a couple of weeks.

MCBAIN: Looking forward to it.