Paul Murray Live - Sky News on WIN

PAUL MURRAY:

Let's get right now to our guest that is the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack who is joining us now. There is plenty to talk about with him and I'm pleased to say he joins us now from, is this the parliamentary office, the home office? What is behind us here, Michael?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It's my home study, Paul. 

PAUL MURRAY:

Good. From my man cave to yours. Alright, is there anything embarrassing back there that somebody on Twitter will try to screen cap and investigate whether you have appropriate literature behind you?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, there are photos – actually a lot of horse racing books but there are photos of my three children and my dog when they were all very young. My kids are all in their 20s now so they are photos of when they were very, very small children. 

PAUL MURRAY:

Good stuff. Now, look, let's talk about some of the nonsense that is happening, particularly some profiteering that is happening around here. Be it whether that’s stuff coming into the country or stuff that is going up because people are trying to send it out of the country. How do we deal with this stuff? Literally, you guys have closed the borders and are now going to make it an offence to be sending things like medical supplies out of Australia and back to China. What are your thoughts on that? 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well it’s appropriate, it’s needed and it's necessary. It's contraband really. If we start sending hand sanitiser and indeed medical supplies out of the country, well that's not then going to be therefore in use for Australians. And we need to be our best selves. And look, most people are Paul. Most people, if they are having to self-isolate, are doing it. Most people are social distancing and we thank them for that but we need people to continue to be their best selves and if people want to send stuff through Australia Post or indeed in large containers and try to ship it out, well it will be stopped at the border. Australia Post, they’ll stop it, our Border Force officials, they’ll stop it and it will then be redistributed in Australia where it is most needed.

PAUL MURRAY:

What about the stuff when we have seen people and I won't try to tie you to our previous guest because I know that causes troubles but this issue where this week we learnt that there were hundreds of thousands of products that were sent into Australia that were defective. How are we making sure that what is coming in at this time is up to scratch? 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well indeed and we don't want people to be ripped off with the false view that they might be getting these face masks or indeed personal protection equipment that is supposed to be ridgy-didge but we all know is not quite right. So it needs to meet Australian standards of course and well, it’ll be sent home. If those people who are importing it, whether in good faith or not, they’ll have to bear the cost.

PAUL MURRAY:

Now a lot of people have had concerns about the Foreign Investment Review Board at this particular point in time, when literally borders between nations are iron-clad. Should foreign investment borders also be iron-clad until we are on top of this?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Indeed. That's why Josh Frydenberg acted very quickly to ensure that Foreign Investment Review Board rules were very much tightened. Such that we don't want to see huge foreign investment in already debt distressed companies in Australia, particularly in agriculture. We need those to remain where they are at the moment. Mainly in Australian hands if they are, they need to stay in Australian hands. Indeed, if they are owned by foreign entities, then they stay in those hands so long as those companies, those people are not debt distressed. We want to make sure that ownership stays where it is at the moment, for this six months and indeed beyond because of course the recovery period, as the Prime Minister talked about today, it's not just about getting through the six months that we have set a timeline for, hopefully it will be sooner but for COVID-19, it is also beyond that as companies and business and industry recovers. There are going to be a lot of businesses and industry which, they are going to need to get liquidity in their firm, they are going to need to get finance, they are going to need to get capital. We don't want them seeking that overseas and then becoming, well, fire sale items for foreigners. 

PAUL MURRAY:

Right now, we are on Sky News on Win which means an awful lot of people in regional Australia are watching us. Something that I’m sure you will appreciate being able to talk directly to them about. Two elements that are the same question; are regional hospitals able to cope with regional consequences of this virus and also what I mentioned at the start of the show, about because drug production is essentially an import business, how do we make sure that EpiPens, Epi Junior Pens, these things are available in regional Australia?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Greg Hunt has worked tirelessly with his State Health Ministers in a similar situation as the National Cabinet but for Health Ministers. I know they have gone out of their way to make sure that regional areas, regional hospital services through the primary health networks are geared up to cope for a potential influx or outbreak of COVID-19. But what people in capital cities could do to help regional Australia, is stay home. Easter is a time when a lot of people travel, they go camping, they go to regional areas to have that holiday, have that break. This year they need to stay in their homes and leave regional Australia be. It is so vital that people follow those rules, so vital that people stay at home and stay out of regional Australia. Unfortunately we have seen two deaths from COVID-19, one at the Orange Base Hospital and one today at Albury. That's very, very sad. We don't want to see anymore and so far regional Australia … the number of cases have been limited, have been contained, have been minimised. Of course we have had some people come off cruise vessels and go home to regional areas, you know, we just need those people to self-isolate, we just need regional Australia to remain with a low number of cases because we don't have the health facilities that are sometimes taken for granted, I think in city areas or at a moment's notice. We have a tyranny of distance in regional Australia, our health systems can cope because of the measures we have put into place, our health systems will cope, because we have made sure that as best we can, PPE and face masks have been distributed to where they need to be through the great work of Greg Hunt and others and Karen Andrews, the Industry Minister but we can't afford any outbreaks.

PAUL MURRAY:

Two quick ones before I let you go here. Price gauging – how is it going at the bowser in regional Australia? It is always that little bit more but is it a whole lot more right now?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well in some areas it is. Middlemount in Queensland, George Christensen reported they were selling petrol for $1.64. That's outrageous. I know that any price over $1.30 at the moment is outrageous and people should call that out. Likewise they should also perhaps get on social media and praise those petrol stations that are doing the right thing. I know I was given a report today in Goulburn, there was a price there today for $94. 9 cents per litre, for unleaded. That is probably about where it could and should be given the fact that the price per barrel is at a bit of a low at the moment, so that price should be passed on to people at the bowser and certainly people in regional Australia. 

PAUL MURRAY:

We want people to shop around but I hope people don't drive from North Queensland to go to Goulburn to get a cheap tank. They are the only ones that will get back over the border. Finally, look, I want as many airlines in the sky as possible because competition is good. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

As we all do. 

PAUL MURRAY:

Yesterday we had Tony Shepherd, one on the board members of Virgin on this show. I am a big fan of his and he said they are talking about a loan, the bailout concept is a loan. I've heard of all sorts of different signals being sent. As the Transport Minister, what is your position about loaning money to a company that can on day one of recovery turn back on, 8,000 people walk in. We don't have to wait for another one to replace and rebuild the infrastructure and all that palava. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

We’ve already put a billion dollars down on the table for aviation health, Paul. We have also made sure that as part of the regional assistance, both underwriting $100 million and also the subsidising of fares and Virgin can take part in that because they fly regionally, $198 billion to the 138 or so centres that have an airline flying in. In fact, Virgin can take part in this and of course, the JobKeeper.  Those employees, that is going to help the thousands of employees that Virgin has on its books from March 1. They can take part in that JobKeeper announcement. So that’s important. I will continue to have talks with Paul Scurrah and others to make sure we can do what we can as far as the Federal Government is concerned. But we have already spent $320 billion. Yes, I appreciate people are saying a loan. We want to make sure there are two airline situations coming out of this. We want to have that competitiveness. We want to have that assistance that we have already provided utilised and let's see where we go from there. 

PAUL MURRAY:

Alright Macca, thank you very much. All the best. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Good on you, Paul.

PAUL MURRAY:

Michael McCormack there in Wagga Wagga.

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