Transcript - Minister McBain - radio interview - ABC South East NSW, Breakfast with Simon Lauder

SIMON LAUDER, HOST: Well, let’s talk about the federal Budget now. We’re facing a bleak couple of years in terms of household budgets. The Treasury is forecasting sustained high living costs and declining real wages. The Budget forecasts real wages won’t start to pick up for another couple of years, and the Budget is tipping electricity prices to increase by about 56 per cent in the next couple of years as well.

There’s a bit to talk about locally, and that’s why we have Eden-Monaro MP, Kristy McBain, joining us.

Hello, how are you?

KRISTY MCBAIN, MINISTER: Good morning, Simon.

SIMON LAUDER: Yeah, those cost-of-living pressures, it looks like the squeeze is still going to be on us for the next couple of years.

KRISTY MCBAIN: We’re facing an uncertain and difficult time across the world, but I think we’ve struck a balance and this Budget is right for the times and makes us more ready for the future. And there are some difficult times ahead, but we’ve been really upfront about the challenges, and we’re not seeking to hide those from the Australian public. We’re being very upfront about the world we’re living in and what we can see happening.

SIMON LAUDER: So what are some of the measures in the Budget that will help families dealing with those pressures at the moment?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, I think it delivers on the commitments that we made to the Australian people. It delivers responsible cost of living relief that doesn’t put further pressure on inflation. It makes some targeted investments to build a stronger and more resilient economy. And it starts the hard yards of budget repair, because we need to be able to pay for what’s important for people, and we know that there are some rising pressures in that Budget. So, you know, we need to start that budget repair.

SIMON LAUDER: There was a bit of extra detail yesterday on the Government’s aspirational target for a million new homes in Australia over the next 10 years, I think it is. But the Federal Government itself only locked in to deliver an extra 10,000 homes starting from mid-2024 and hoping the states will match that bringing it up to 20,000. Realistically is it going to make much difference to the housing affordability problem we’re facing?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Well, that builds on top of our commitments already with the $10 billion Future Housing Fund and our commitment to build 30,000 homes over the first five years. So this adds an additional $350 million in federal funding to deliver 10,000 affordable homes from 2024.

And the reason that date was chosen is because we’ve had a serious discussion with industry and understood what the current pipeline is. We don’t want to put more pressure on our supply chains. We don’t want to put more pressure on the construction industry already, which is why we’ve set that time frame. But what it does is show a clear aspiration that the Federal Government needs to work with the state and territory governments to deliver more social and affordable housing across this country. And we know some areas are under significant pressure after bushfires.

Our own community is under pressure after the Black Summer bushfires. We know many flood-ravaged communities like Lismore are under pressure because of the homes that they’ve been – that they’ve lost from that flooding event. So, we know that there is more to do in this space. So instead of letting the markets or state and territory governments go it alone, we’ve committed to being part of the solution.

SIMON LAUDER: And will those homes be available as affordable rentals for low-income families?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Yeah, that is the aim, that these affordable homes will be built across the country in areas where we know that there are jobs but there are no houses for workers to take up their jobs. We want to make sure that those affordable homes are going in to areas where our frontline workers are working but can no longer afford to live. So it’s a targeted investment to make sure that workers can live in the areas where their jobs are.

SIMON LAUDER: And before the election Labor was promising to establish 50 urgent care clinics around the nation. And I understand that’s been funded, including one for Batemans Bay. What about Eden-Monaro? Will there be one there?

KRISTY MCBAIN: There isn’t an urgent care clinic in Eden-Monaro, but there are significant investments in strengthening Medicare and dealing with some of the struggles that we have already in our health system. We’re extending a lot of the support that exists for our primary health networks. We know that we need to get more doctors into our regions and we want to do that as soon as possible.

SIMON LAUDER: Yeah, we know that’s a current struggle for the Bombala Medical Clinic with the locum, Dr Gleeson, leaving, or announcing his imminent departure. Has that occupied you a bit lately, trying to work out a solution for a GP in Bombala?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Look, I think it’s occupying the entire community. And I’ve had regular updates with Dr Hamish Steiner in Cooma about some of the challenges facing Bombala and the medical practice there. We know that there are towns and villages across Eden-Monaro that are also facing similar struggles, which is why we have to make sure that we are doing everything we can to train and retain doctors in regional areas, that we start dealing with the issues in Medicare, making it easier for doctors to bill and use the system. And we know that we’ve got to get the training right. And for so many of us we have come to that conclusion that we have to make it easier for rural and regional kids to go to university and use those skills in the communities, which is why I’m so incredibly proud that our Government has committed to 20,000 additional university places, many of which are universities that operate in rural and regional areas, many of which we know already operate in our area.

SIMON LAUDER: And before we leave the Budget behind, anything else for Eden-Monaro that you wanted to point to?

KRISTY MCBAIN: We obviously funded a range of election commitments, which is a really important part of our job as a government is delivering on those commitments that we took to the election. So I’m really pleased that all of those commitments are in the Budget. And it’s fantastic that we’ll now get to work with communities, with local councils, to deliver those commitments across Eden-Monaro.

I think most importantly, though, this Budget not only delivers on those election commitments, it delivers on a range of priorities that people have been talking about with me for a couple of years – that Mitigation and Resilience Fund is so important to so many people across Eden-Monaro. We can’t change the disasters we’ve been in, but we can help better prepare our communities for what’s coming in the future. And I think that’s one of the lessons that we should heed from the Black Summer bushfires – is making sure we’ve got more resilient towns going forward.

I’m really excited that we are moving towards fee-free TAFE places and those additional university places, because there has been some really big discussions on being able to access training and education and still living in the areas that we know and love. And making sure that we are prioritising a future made in Australia. And we're incredibly lucky to have a company like Bega Cheese already in our region. A couple of our sawmills, we’ve got some defence industry companies, but what else could we do in our region where we keep those jobs in Australia and make more of what we have here I think is something that we’re all really excited about.

SIMON LAUDER: Any new money in the Budget last night for phone black spots or for the Kings Highway?

KRISTY MCBAIN: We took some election commitments, which are now funded in the Budget. There’s $1 million for black spot connection on the Princes Highway, on the Snowy Monaro Highway – sorry, on the Snowy Mountain Highway and on the Monaro Highway, and $2.5 million along the Princes Highway. We’re taking seriously the recommendations of both the Royal Commission into the Black Summer bushfires and the New South Wales bushfire inquiry about the need for telecommunication on our major transport corridors. And that’s the beginning of investments in mobile black spots. And I’m really looking forward to those starting.

SIMON LAUDER: Okay. And not necessarily a Budget question – although perhaps for future budgets – on Monday morning on ABC South East we heard from the CEO of Monaro Family Services, Pauline Cook, and she told us that she had great concerns for the mental health of young people in the region. She said there’s been a big increase in self-harm and school refusal, sexual activity at a young age, and some recent suicides, very sadly. She’s calling for more community-based mental health support. So not telehealth, not a clinical service and not outreach, but people who are based in the community where young people can walk in and get assistance straight away. Is that something you can look out in the near future?

KRISTY MCBAIN: The mental health of our communities right across the place has been suffering, especially those communities that have been impacted by natural disasters. We’ve got some commitments in this Budget investing in the mental health of Australians living in regional, rural and remote communities, and we’ll continue to fund those mental health services around regional Australia.

We’ve taken some initiatives to expand the Headspace network. We are looking at how we can look at those youth-focused primary care supports in communities, because we know that sometimes Headspace isn’t a place that people want to go into. But we are expanding mental health support for flood-ravaged communities. There’s $13 million extra going in there. There’s some more money going towards regional psychiatry telehealth services, and there’s some additional initiatives for suicide prevention as well, which will be delivered through the primary health networks.

I think you can always do more in this space, and I look forward to working with Monaro Family Intervention Services and talking to them about what they’re seeing in the community.

SIMON LAUDER: All right, Kristy McBain, great to get your wrap of the budget this morning. Thanks a lot.

KRISTY MCBAIN: No worries. Talk to you again soon.

SIMON LAUDER: Kristy McBain, the Member for Eden-Monaro talking about what was in the Budget for the south east.