Transcript - Interview - Sky News Regional Breakfast with Jaynie Seal

JAYNIE SEAL: Labor has dedicated $7.8 billion to new cost of living measures in this year's budget. The main focus is a $3 billion energy bill relief package which will see households receive a $300 rebate. Joining me live is Minister for Regional Development, Kristy McBain. Minister, thank you so much for joining us. We've certainly had mixed reactions, as expected for this year's budget announcements in terms of the energy relief. Let's start with that. Many people are welcoming it, but many people are saying that it should be means tested and billionaires should not really need to receive the $300. What's your take?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning, Jaynie. Great to be with you again. The $300 energy rebate goes to directly to energy companies. They don't have the ability to means test this. If we were to means test this it would add on several billion dollars more to actually administer the program. By doing it blanket across the country and sending that $300 rebate direct to our energy providers, it’s putting downward pressure on electricity prices, which will in turn have a downward effect on inflation. What it is doing is tackling that inflation monster that has been gripping the entire world through this one measure.

SEAL: All right, what about the regions? Again, mixed reports. Some people are welcoming some of the changes. A lot of people saying health, for example, really didn't get much of a look in and the roads were of major concern, the. The lack of funding there.

MCBAIN: When it comes to road funding, you've seen the largest increases going to local councils than ever before. There's the $500 million per year Roads to Recovery program, which we're doubling over a number of years until it gets to a billion dollars a year. That means that every local council across the country will be expecting more money for road maintenance and road repair from this financial year onwards, until it reaches that billion dollars in a couple of years. We've increased Road Black Spot funding to $150 million a year. We've created a new $200 million Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program. All of these programs are being increased under the Albanese Labor Government, and we don't need colour-coded spreadsheets for these. Roads to recovery literally goes to every council across the country, because every community deserves safer local roads to drive on. They're really good announcements and really good programs. When it comes to health measures, we have seen more investment in our health sector since Labor came to office in 2022, than there has been in many years. Including listing new breast cancer drugs on the PBS, which is something that so many people across the country are really applauding. We've seen that $3.5 billion added to the Medicare scheme to make sure that we can triple the bulk billing incentive. Since that measure came in, 555,000 additional free medical appointments have been taken up across regional Australia. There's always going to be more to do in the health sector, but we're actually tackling the problem by incentivising doctors to work in rural and remote areas by waiving HECS fees. We've added the first ever medical school in the Northern Territory, because we know that people want to be able to train where they live and then work locally. We are working with the health works force, with over $100 million measure as well. There is more to do in the health sector, but only a Labor Government take strengthening Medicare seriously.

SEAL: We're going to be speaking to a psychologist in Dubbo shortly, Tanya Foster. And she also is a founder of a health collective hub. She speaks to a lot of GPs, for example, and she also teaches at Sydney University in Dubbo. While I'm sure she welcomes some of the announcements, I did have a quick chat to her yesterday and she's just fearful of the GP’s, the lack of funding for them. She trains them at Sydney University and a lot of medical students are deciding not to perhaps choose GPs as a career and go into more specialised treatments. What do you say on that aspect? Because it's not just Tanya that we speak to in terms of GPs that are, you know, not wanting medical people, I should say, training to be GPs. Do we need more? Like, what can we do in that space?

MCBAIN: That is a really big concern. What we see happening across our university sector is a number of people training in medical fields, and they're not choosing to go into that GP specialisation. That number has slowly dropped from about 50 per cent of medical graduates going into GP specialisations, to about 15 per cent, which is incredibly frustrating. We are working on some of those things, waiving HECS fees by saying to people, if you go and work in these rural and remote areas, we will waive the entire fee that you've paid during university. We're working with the universities to set up more medical schools across regional Australia. to make sure that people who want to train locally, can then work locally as well. We've seen that working really well in some parts of the country. There's more to do here, but it's only under a Labor Government that you actually get increased investment in the health sector. Yesterday, I saw a former Deputy Prime Minister complaining that there was more money needed in the Medicare system. If only he was in a position to do something about that in the nine years he spent in government. Unfortunately, those big investments in the health sector always come when Labor comes to government, because we believe that Medicare is the beating heart of our healthcare system. We continue to invest in it, to get the doctors we need. To make sure that they're paid well, we’re putting incentives in place to really help the states and territories deal with their concerns about hospital funding, where that was a big chunk of this budget as well.

SEAL: All right. Well, certainly a lot to unpack there. There's, I think about 1,000 pages worth of reading, isn't there, from the budget, which everybody can have a look. Minister Kristy McBain, a little light bedtime reading.

MCBAIN: That's it. Just a little bit. We know what to do on the weekend right.

SEAL: Thank you so much for your time, as always. And we'll touch base with you again next week.

MCBAIN: Good to be with.