Transcript - TV interview - Sky News Regional

JAYNIE SEAL: Australia will double its critical mineral subsidies to meet increased demand for components in the sector. The announcement is expected to help unlock vast reserves and kickstart projects failing to attract bank finance. It is a major win for US President Joe Biden after the EU, China and Gulf states also showed interest in minerals access. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the government is committed to transforming Australia into a renewable energy superpower.

PRIME MINISTER, ANTHONY ALBANESE: Lithium, vanadium, cobalt, copper, nickel - are all products in which Australia has an advantage. Rare earths and critical minerals. But what we are doing here is providing what is needed, but we're continuing to engage.

SEAL: Joining me live is Minister Kristy McBain. Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. Thank you so much for joining us, Minister. So, what does this mean for Australia's economy, jobs and the environment?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning, Jaynie. Great to be with you again. It shows that we have a serious commitment to becoming a renewable energy superpower. We know across Australia our resources sector does such a fantastic job in employing so many Australians, but also returning so much to our communities and our economies as well. This is a signal that we are continuing to go down the renewable energy path. We know that the critical minerals that we have in this country are wanted all over the world and we want to be part of that. Instead of having foreign companies come in, we want to help those companies here to produce those critical minerals so that we can sell them to the rest of the world.

SEAL: Are there any downsides at all?

MCBAIN: Obviously, every mining project goes through an environmental impact statement, goes through all of the regulatory processes already. We're not looking to circumvent that. This is about making sure that there is an investment pathway for some of those critical mineral projects to get off the ground. There are no loopholes here. There is still a process that those projects go through, but it's another investment that we are making in value added products here in Australia. We don't want to send things offshore that aren't value added to. We know that the production of our critical minerals is really important here and across the world. The announcement made in the United States is on the back of their Inflation Reduction Act, and we want to make sure that Australia is considered a key partner to the United States in transforming our economies to renewable energy superpowers.

SEAL: And what will it mean for jobs as well?

MCBAIN: Any new mining projects come with a spade of jobs, especially in our regional communities. We look forward to working with those companies on those projects across the country. Most importantly, we look forward to adding more jobs to our economy. Since we came to Government, we've added over 561,000 new jobs to our economy, the most of any Government in history. We look forward to backing the companies and the communities who are after these projects in their backyards.

SEAL: All right, let's turn to another topic now. And in a first major speech the RBA Governor, Michele Bullock mentioned that the RBA is not going to hesitate to raise interest rates in order to tame inflation, something we've been hearing for about a week or so. So, there is the chance of another interest rate rise, which will make it the 13th in 18 months. A lot of people, no doubt very nervous to hear if it is going to increase. What is this going to mean for the cost-of-living and added pressures for many people across the country?

MCBAIN: I can imagine there are a lot of homeowners out there who will be bracing for that announcement next week. We know we're expecting some numbers today, but inflation is not going to reduce in a straight line and we can see supply pressures across the world, especially now with conflict in the Middle East and the on-going war in Ukraine, that our supply chains still aren't back to where they were. It's important though, that we continue to work as a government to reduce cost-of-living pressures on Australian households as much as possible. It's one of the reasons that we recalled Parliament last year to make sure that there would be energy bill relief for Australians and small businesses. In particular, we've passed measures for cheaper childcare, cheaper medicines, we've tripled the bulk billing incentive, we've got fee-free TAFE places. We've got increased paid parental leave, we've lifted rent assistance and income support payments. We're doing what we can to make sure that we're helping people with the cost-of-living, whilst not adding to inflation. There'll be a lot of people wanting to know what's going to happen next week and we will see what happens next week and continue to do our job in taking inflation pressure off people through the cost-of-living measures we've got in place.

SEAL: And let's talk about fire ants, because the Nationals are saying that Labor's announcement to put aside $268 million over four years in federal funding to stop the spread of red important fire ants was delayed and not enough. What do you make of those comments? Is it delayed? Is it not enough?

MCBAIN: The Nationals were part of a Coalition Government for nine years. This is a massive investment by the Albanese Labor Government. We have taken the review that's been happening, we've acted quickly. What this $268 million does is double the size that we will monitor and look to eradicate red imported fire ants. It's really important that we're working with communities on this. Most importantly, this will add 350 new jobs in this space, add 1,400 tonnes of additional bait per year. It's really important that we are working with our communities on this and we haven't delayed any approach. We've been acting responsibly to deal with the issue that is there in our communities. Without this added investment, we could see fire ants as far south as Canberra, as far west as Longreach. We want to make sure that we're working with our communities. That's why there's a $268 million investment in this space. The Minister for Agriculture has been doing a fantastic job in working with the sector to make sure that we're addressing this issue, along with the states and territories.

SEAL: So sorry, just to confirm, there wasn't a delay, are you saying? Or there was a delay?

MCBAIN: The work has been done as it should have been. The Nationals will have you believe that they were doing something. They didn't do what we're currently doing. That's a $268 million investment in this to deal with red fire ants. It's really important that we are working with the sector and, as I said, this will double the size of the area that we already monitor and look to eradicate those red imported fire ants.

SEAL: I'm reading here, David Littleproud saying that Labor was shamed into releasing the cash. We are going to be speaking to David Littleproud in the next hour or so. But, yeah, interesting, I guess, but the main concern is the eradication of them. Where are the main concerns for the fire ants?

MCBAIN: Across Queensland we've got some concerns that have been there for some time now. This additional investment will allow those additional baits, additional staff members. It looks at drone technology as well. It's really important that we are taking up new technologies as they come on board so that we can help communities deal with this issue of red imported fire ants. Not only do they cause a painful sting to livestock and people, but they do have a significant impact on our properties. It's important that this $268 million investment has come forward. Again, the Minister for Agriculture has been working hard in this space, working with interest groups and with states and territories. I look forward to this investment coming online.

SEAL: All right, Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories. Thank you so much for your time.

MCBAIN: Thanks, Jaynie.