Interview with Eddie McGuire and Luke Darcy, Triple M Melbourne Hot Breakfast

Eddie McGuire: When you get the chance to speak to the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia you take it on Triple M's Hot Breakfast and Michael McCormack is on the line this morning. Leader of the National Party, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, so he's got a fair bit of portfolio work to do and he joins us this morning. Good morning, Michael.

Michael McCormack: Good morning Eddie. G'day Luke.

Luke Darcy: G'day Michael.

Eddie McGuire: Michael, a couple of things first off. Yesterday you and the Prime Minister were out on the hustings, as they say, how bad is the drought in parts of Australia that we don't even hear about down here in Melbourne?

Michael McCormack: Look, it's very very dry. It hasn't rained in some parts of Queensland for longer than they care to remember, and they're now in their seventh successive drought season and of course where we were at yesterday in Trangie in north-west New South Wales, they're in their third or fourth year where they've had a really dry spell. And many farmers, they're the most resilient people in Australia they've sown their crops dry and just hoping and praying and looking for skies every day, hoping that there's a thunder cloud that's going to pour down some of that rain but it hasn't materialised yet and they're still waiting and hoping.

Eddie McGuire: What agriculture is being affected Michael?

Michael McCormack: Look all agriculture—livestock; of course cropping, they haven't got a crop and it's very very brown, it's very very dry. But of course they're paying a lot for feed. They're paying a lot for grain. The amount of national grain is dropping by the day because they're paying exorbitant prices for it, then they're freighting it and then they're feeding it to their sheep and their cattle and of course it's just a very dry time and of course the price of hay is extraordinarily high too.

Eddie McGuire: Okay, Michael, turning your attention down to Victorian politics. Infrastructure, the other portfolio you have, infrastructure and transport is a major focus for us down here. What's your next plan down here for major infrastructure plays in Victoria and in Melbourne?

Michael McCormack: Well of course we've announced just recently the Melbourne Airport Rail Link—Tullamarine to the CBD. Now we've got $5 billion there. We're developing up a strategy with the Victorian Government and there's a few different routes that have been looked at. And of course it's that nation-building transformational infrastructure that has been talked about for decades. Malcolm Turnbull wants to build it in conjunction with the Victorian Government and of course there's rail lines up and down regional Victoria, there's a lot going on at the moment and Victoria has been one of the big recipients, big recipients, of the recent infrastructure budget.

Luke Darcy: Hey, Michael, you have taken over the role from Barnaby Joyce in recent times and high profile interview on Sunday night, which I'm sure that you are aware of. There was one part I think that has sparked the interest of a lot of people. Can I just play it back to you now. We'd be interested to get your response. This is Barnaby Joyce on Channel 7 Sunday Night.


Vikki Campion: People within the Parliament too. So they came to me they said—they said you're pregnant and, you have to get an abortion and they said if you don't they're going to come after you.

Alex Cullen: Who is they?

Vikki Campion: Can I just say conservative? You know people who are supposed to be Conservatives.

Alex Cullen: God fearing Conservatives?

Vikki Campion: Yeah. I wouldn't want to tar the brush of everyone in the National Party as like that.

[End of excerpt]

Luke Darcy: Of course that was Vikki Campion, Barnaby Joyce's partner. My apologies for that.

But it's interesting Deputy Prime Minister isn't that allegation to people within your party that someone would be standing over the former Deputy's partner to have an abortion. It's quite an extraordinary claim. Is that something that's being investigated within the party?

Michael McCormack: Well look yes, it's pretty disturbing. But I think Barnaby and Vikki really should take that up with the person who they allege made those remarks. I know of no such allegations. I know of no such person who would do that. The people I stand there with within the National Party, they're the finest people. I said this yesterday. There to represent regional Australia, they do a fine job and it was the first I'd heard of those allegations and certainly I'd like to think that nobody who's in the actual party would have ever ever said something like that.

Eddie McGuire: Michael, you'd like to think that but the bloke who was actually the Leader of your party is Barnaby Joyce. Now, either the immediate past Leader of the National Party is lying on television, and with his partner, or it would appear that you're turning a blind eye to someone in your organisation who's attempting to strongarm a woman into an abortion for political expediency. You can hope and wish as much as you like, you better ask a few questions, Michael. I'm sorry, mate, but if that was a football club, we'd all be strung up.

Michael McCormack: Again I say, it probably should be taken up with the person to whom the allegations …

Eddie McGuire: No, I wouldn't have thought so, Michael. And I don't think Vikki Campion's going to go and take it up with anybody at the moment, she's not in a position to. I would have thought the Parliament of Australia would want to take this up.

Michael McCormack: Well, you know, and perhaps names should be named, perhaps they should be…

Eddie McGuire: That's why we have parliamentary privilege.

Michael McCormack: …As would probably happen in a football club, perhaps the names should be outed, otherwise it tars the whole football club or the whole parliament with that allegation.

Eddie McGuire: And that's a key point, there's a lot of innocent people who might be at risk here. So, would you encourage Barnaby to stand up when he returns to the Parliament, and name names under parliamentary privilege?

Michael McCormack: That might be an option open to him. And that might be, well, something he should think about.

Eddie McGuire: Michael, you understand that we, the people out in the community, look at this and while there's all the salacious nature and things, that jarred people here on our radio program yesterday. That one was the one that really drove to the hub of the issue here, that this has all been about dancing around the niceties of politics, as opposed to what really needs to happen here.

Michael McCormack: Sure, and I appreciate that too. But look, as I go out and about in the regional communities people are not talking about this whole incident, this whole episode. They are talking about the cost of living, they're talking about whether they're going to get rain across the Mallee and northern Victoria, and they're talking about infrastructure. Jobs. They're the things that people are talking to me about, they're not talking about this unfortunate episode.

Eddie McGuire: Alright. Well, Michael, what they're talking to me about is the standard of people who are running our country, and who are running the political parties and the machinations behind the scenes. So, somewhere along the line I suppose we'll get to that point. But we appreciate you coming in this morning.

Just to finish on, are you coming down this way, Michael, at any stage? We look forward to getting you come into the studio and have a chat about everything that's happening in the infrastructure down in Melbourne.

Michael McCormack: I'd love to do that, Eddie. I have a daughter who teaches down in Melbourne.

Eddie McGuire: Oh yeah, whereabouts?

Michael McCormack: Caulfield Grammar.

Eddie McGuire: Oh, fantastic.

Michael McCormack: So, love coming down to Melbourne, in fact I come there quite often. So, I'd love to come into the studio and chat a bit more about footy and regional Victoria.

And even regional Victoria, as we've mentioned, it is also dry from Albury through to Shepparton, out to Bendigo, and even through the Mallee—Andrew Broad's territory—through to Swan Hill on to Mildura, they're doing it tough at the moment with the lack of rain.

Eddie McGuire: Alright. Michael, from our point of view down here, though, I don't think this is one that's going to disappear that quickly. So, as they say in the stock market: best loss, first loss. And I just think that there's still a lot of people reeling from that situation. And as much as the good folk of the National Party are out there thinking about the crops at the moment, there are a lot of people who aren't thinking about that, they're thinking about the strongarm tactics that have been used against Vikki…

Luke Darcy: Or alleged to have been used, yeah.

Eddie McGuire: Or alleged to be used. One way or the other.

Michael McCormack: Yep, I understand that.

Luke Darcy: Michael, appreciate your time.

Michael McCormack: Pleasure, thanks Luke and Eddie.

Luke Darcy: Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Michael McCormack, good enough to join on us this morning, on Triple M and answer that question.