Interview with Jonathon Kendall ABC Gippsland

Jonathon Kendall: What's the Deputy Prime Minister doing in Gippsland today? Well let's find out. Michael McCormack is the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals. Good morning.

Michael McCormackl: Good morning.

Jonathon Kendall: What brings you to our neck of the woods?

Michael McCormackl: Well Darren Chester invited me down and he's got a couple of really important announcements that I'm looking forward to standing alongside him and announcing the Lindenow Valley Water Storage Project which is a $10 million investment by the Federal Government, by the Liberal Nationals Government into making sure we get better water security on farm, several storages to enable, well the growth of potentially more than $55 million of agricultural output. Now we already know that seven out of 10 of the biggest vegetable producers in Australia are in this area and we want to make sure that they have the right water security, particularly during the high flows in Spring so that they can have it during the dry times, when they need it most so they're able to store it.

And also we're announcing the Giles Street extension project which is now complete, linking Giles Street to the Saleyard Road in Bairnsdale. So that industrial of livestock area, which is going to be so vital for our transport industries here and also for our farmers.

Jonathon Kendall: I want to ask you about that bridge in a moment, but just firstly to farms and farm invasions—we had the situation yesterday in Melbourne where there were animal activists protesting and closed down one intersection and caused some headaches for commuters through the middle of Melbourne. And also on Sunday, this Gippy Goat Farm café made an announcement on Facebook that it would be closing the cafe side of its business because of what it called relentless harassment from animal activists. Do you think laws need to be strengthened to stop that?

Michael McCormackl: Oh look, absolutely I agree that laws need to be strengthened and the states have a real role to play there, not only laws strengthened but penalties increased. And these, you know this little café, you know the relentless pressure that they were put under, there's only so much that you should have to put up with. And of course, they've pulled a pin on that operation which was so good to be able to teach youngsters how our animals are there for use, for farms and well looked after—our farmers are the best animal welfare people, they are the best environmentalists and they're getting a rap by these people who, quite frankly, these greens activists, these vegan activists who just want to stop these processors and these farms from doing what they've always done.

Jonathon Kendall: Righto. So what should be done?

Michael McCormackl: Well the states need to strengthen up the laws, they need to make it—I mean this is trespass. At the end of the day they're breaking, they're entering and animal welfare is being placed at risk, biosecurity is being placed in jeopardy. And these people need to be locked away and for a long time to teach a lesson—serve as a lesson to others that this is not at all acceptable. And of course, federally, Aussie Farms—we're working towards making sure that that's a privacy breach as well. How would the people who are running these websites, they like if their Newtown terraces were—the addresses were put online and people𔃀farmers broke in and stole their tofu. I mean, they wouldn't like it, so why should our farmers who are working hard and who are already putting up with drought and other measures against them, why should they have to put up with this? They shouldn't.

Jonathon Kendall: And moving on to that bridge that you were talking about—you're opening the Giles Street Bridge in Bairnsdale linking Giles Street to the Saleyard Road industrial area which is a new three span, steel reinforced concrete bridge over McGee's Gully in Bairnsdale. Are you trying to build a bridge between your party and the Liberals on energy policy?

Michael McCormackl: [Laughs] That's a great Segway. Well look, there's no need to build a bridge. We're very much united in making sure that we have reliable affordable power. That's the bridge that we are very much united on Jono.

Jonathon Kendall: Alright. Are you though? I mean is there a consistent policy on energy within the Nationals and within the Liberals?

Michael McCormackl: Well there's always going to be people who argue the point more forcefully than others, but I say again, we're very, very, very committed to making sure that there's reliable affordable power and that's our number one commitment. Under Labor, you can guarantee 45 per cent emissions reduction plans and 50 per cent renewables under the Greens. Well it's 100 per cent renewables. Power will always be cheaper under the Liberals and Nationals.

Jonathon Kendall: So do you support a new brown coal-fired power station in the La Trobe Valley?

Michael McCormackl: Well look, anything that's going to create jobs and create more baseload power has got to be said to be a good thing. So𔃀but we need to make sure that the business case stacks up, we need to make sure that these sorts of operations are in the right place, that they are going to provide more power for the grid, that they are going to ensure that we are able to use our resources. But at the same time our government is also committed to such things as Snowy Hydro 2.0. At the same time our government has got a plan to make sure that those power stations which need upgrading, well there's money there for them to be able to do those sorts of upgrades. And we need to make sure that we use our resources well, that we also rely on renewables and in a way that is cognisant with our traditional power sources. We're doing that. We're getting the right mix. But of course, a re-elected Liberals Nationals Government will make sure that we put more pressure on power prices in a downward way. We need to make sure that our industries stay open and we need to make sure that our businesses can turn the lights and we need to make sure that our households can turn the lights on, the heat is on in winter and the air-conditioners on in summer. That's what it's all about.

Jonathon Kendall: 9.25 and you're listening to ABC Gippsland. Michael McCormack is the Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader and visiting Gippsland today. And you mentioned earlier, you're visiting Bulmer Farms in Lindenow, that some stages of the year produces one-fifth of the lettuce that McDonald's requires, and you talked about the off farm storage there. But in the Federal Budget, there were some disappointed farmers in Gippsland that there wasn't a specific drought policy announced. Why wasn't that in there?

Michael McCormackl: Well, we've got a $3.9 billion Drought Future Fund. That was announced late last year. That's going to build up to $5 billion. Labor opposed that. So, we've got a plan to help drought communities. That's an ongoing assistance through various measures. So we're providing the sort of assistance that farmers need, want and expect. But of course, we will and we must do more. We just𔃀we can't make it rain unfortunately. And I know, I've been to Victoria a number of times lately and whether they're dairy farmers at Cohuna or whether they're vegetable growers here, they are hurting. There's no question. So that's why today's investment for Lindenow Valley is a good investment. I know East Gippsland Shire which will manage the delivery of this project is absolutely delighted, and that's why also the infrastructure spending that we're doing—nearly $2.5 million for the Bairnsdale Bridge today. 1700 vehicles go across that a day including 770 heavy vehicles. So, these sorts of things –reducing pinch points in transport—that puts more money in farmers' pockets, that puts greater efficiencies in the supply chain. That's what we're all about. And look, we will get through this drought. We'll do it together with the farmers. And the fact is we have provided a valuable assistance in the past and we'll continue to do it in the future.

Jonathon Kendall: Righto. May 18 or 25?

Michael McCormackl: Look, I reckon it'll be the 18th. But then again, Scott Morrison, he's the one who decides that. That's his call to make. Hasn't made it quite yet. A bit to do a little bit before then, but at the end of the day, it's his call to make and whatever, we'll be ready.

Jonathon Kendall: Righto. And why is he holding off on calling an election?

Michael McCormackl: Well, he's holding off because we want to get out and sell what was a great budget last week. We want to get out and make sure that people understand and know that they're going to pay less tax under the Liberals and Nationals. We want to get out and make sure that people understand that this was a Budget for infrastructure and for the regions. So, we want to get out and sell that and that's an important thing to do. And he's out and about today and I know that Josh Frydenberg is in South Australia. He did a great job on Q&A last night. And we're out there selling there selling our Budget and as soon as the Prime Minister feels it's the right time, I'm sure he'll call the election date then.

Jonathon Kendall: Yeah, righto. And your position within the Nationals, I think Barnaby Joyce has said that he would have a tilt at leading the Nationals again if that opportunity came up. Will you be leading the Nationals if the Coalition loses the upcoming federal election?

Michael McCormackl: Well, we don't plan on losing the election so that's very much a hypothetical Jono.

Jonathon Kendall: [Laughs] So it's a win at all costs mentality?

Michael McCormackl: Well, politics is about delivery. Politics is about turning up and politics is about people. It's not power. It's about people. That's what I'm concentrating on. That's what I'm out doing, delivering, making sure that the regions know that the infrastructure is there to build a better future and that's what I'm all about.

Jonathon Kendall: Yeah. Alright. Look, thank you for your time this morning.

Michael McCormackl: Any time at all. Thanks, Jono. Cheers.

Jonathon Kendall: Michael McCormack is the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Nationals, in Gippsland today visiting Bairnsdale and Lindenow.