Transcript - radio interview - ABC South East (NSW) with Lisa Markham

LISA MARKHAM (HOST): Time now to check in with our federal politicians this week, it's Kristy McBain. She is the Member for Eden-Monaro. Good morning, Kristy.

KRISTY MCBAIN (MINISTER): Good morning, Lisa. How are you?

MARKHAM: Not too bad. How about you?

MCBAIN: Great. Nice to see a bit of rain around the place. We definitely need some as we're heading into this summer, that's for sure.

MARKHAM: Yeah, it would be nice to not water the garden, wouldn't it? What have you been up to this week?

MCBAIN: This week has been school holidays so far. I've just been organising the family a little bit. It’s nice to be home and in one spot for more than a couple of days.

MARKHAM: That must be lovely for you and for the kids as well. I noticed you've been working on turbocharging TAFE centres. What's that all about?

MCBAIN: Absolutely. The Employment White Paper was released earlier this week, which builds on the work that was done in last year's Jobs and Skills Summit. The announcement that came out of that White Paper was an increase to funding to fast track up to six new TAFE Centres of Excellence under the National Skills Agreement. We've already committed $325 million to the National Skills Agreement. Now we will commit an additional $41 million to help turbocharge those TAFE Centres of Excellence and to help develop higher and degree apprenticeships. We know that as we move through this energy transition, there is going to be more skills required. We need to make sure that we've got the skills ready to take up some of those challenges coming our way, including digitisation and dealing with AI.

MARKHAM: And I noticed that the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, we're talking about aged care, has noted that they would like to well, they have requested $1.2 million in a grant to complete the upgrade of kitchen floor coverings and fire compliance in, I believe, the Snowy River Hostel. Have you been contacted about that one?

MCBAIN: I understand councillors last week voted to defer a motion to divest the Snowy River Hostel for another six weeks while they see if a further solution can be reached. Only a couple of weeks ago I met with members of the Snowy River Hostel Steering Committee and other Berridale residents to hear their concerns about the future of aged care, especially our older community members who rely on the services there. I'll continue to work with the committee to seek some answers about the ongoing funding, especially for the aged care services there, including in relation to home care packages, which seem to be a big concern as well. I've written to the Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, and will continue to engage with the department to see what else the Federal Government can do to assist. Ultimately that comes back to the snowy Monaro Council.

MARKHAM: Now, Kristy McBain, as the Mayor of Bega Valley Shire Council, you led our community through bushfires and I guess four years as the Mayor and even longer on the local council. How about fire preparations and has enough been done in the NSW Government, do you think, to prepare the South East for the upcoming bushfire period?

MCBAIN: I want to give a shout out and a massive thank you to all of our RFS volunteers, the paid staff, through the RFS as well. They have done as much backburning as they can, given the weather conditions that we've had over the last few years. They do such a tremendous job working with our community, making sure people are fire ready with their own fire plans, but also understanding where their neighbourhood safer places are and working with property owners to make sure that access to those properties can be achieved. Ultimately, the NSW Bushfire Inquiry was done following the Black Summer Bushfires and we've had three and a half years now to deal with some of those recommendations. More could have been done by the former NSW Government, but what I'm really pleased about is that so many community members are more prepared than they probably have been previously. From a Federal Government perspective, we've seen the co investment of close to $100 million in bushfire mitigation and preparedness with the states through our Disaster Ready Fund, which is something that I was hugely passionate about. We've seen the addition of a large air tanker for aerial firefighting, which was one of the Royal Commission recommendations, which is fantastic. We've also got a new National Situation Room in place, which is a coordination point for all the agencies when we have those natural disasters that impact widely across the region. There's been a lot of work done and obviously we would all want to see more work done in this space, given the experience we've all had. I'm really pleased that so many people are feeling prepared. They've got their bushfire plans ready and ready to enact if they need them.

MARKHAM: Last week we saw the fire danger rise to catastrophic here on the far south coast, with at least 29 schools closed across the region for that reason. Are you worried ahead of the summer? What do you think that we're facing?

MCBAIN: It will be natural for so many people who have that lived experience of the Black Summer Bushfires to have a heightened sense of awareness of the weather and what's around them. That's completely natural. A lot of people are prepared, they have done the work they need to do on their properties, they have got in place their bushfire plans. We've had resilience blueprints and resilient town initiatives go through the area and work with especially some of our smaller communities on what bushfire preparedness looks like. There are a lot of people feeling anxious about the season to come and that's natural, but they are also prepared as best as they can as well.

MARKHAM: And Kristy McBain, what's on for you for the rest of the school holidays?

MCBAIN: I've got a couple of days of zoom meetings and doing a few things locally, but I am really keen to hopefully see a bit more of this rain roll through, get the kids to the movies, and hopefully they'll be able to get out to Magic Mountain or do something like that when the weather finds up again. Really keen to also head to Wanderer this weekend, which is local festival, which I would encourage everyone to support. We only get these things when we've got everyone supporting it. So if you can, get down to Pambula Beach to the Wanderer festival this weekend.

MARKHAM: Thanks, Kristy.

MCBAIN: Have a great day.