Transcript - 5AA Radio Adelaide

LEON BYNER

The Federal Liberal and National Government are going to deliver a $1.8 billion boost for road and community projects through councils – local governments – across Australia. Now the package of support is going to help local councils support jobs and businesses by delivering priority projects focused on infrastructure upgrades, maintenance, $500 million on local road and community infrastructure and the bringing forward to $1.3 billion of the 2021 Financial Assistance Grant payment. So what will this mean for SA? Of course, we've got 69 councils in our state. Let's ask the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.

Michael, thanks for coming on.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Good morning, Leon.

LEON BYNER

What will it mean for our state?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

What it will mean will be that roads will be rolled out and community infrastructure based on community needs will be built. It's an infrastructure package exclusively for local councils and Leon, you and I both know, that if you want to get a job started quickly, if you want to get shovel ready projects up and off the ground and you want to have local procurement, which is a criteria mind you – I made sure of that – it is going to happen through local government and the Commonwealth directly funding local government is going to help that stimulus package. I've just got off the phone actually, from Stephan Knoll who I know, amongst other things, is the Local Government State Minister. He’s delighted and as you say, the 69 councils throughout South Australia, are going to benefit – each and every one of them – from this stimulus package.

LEON BYNER

Now, one very important question. Is the Federal Government giving councils the money direct or does it go via the State who sometimes are known for taking a little bit of cut off the top?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

It goes direct, from July 1, the money will start flowing to councils. They're going to have to spend the money within 12 months because it is a COVID-19 stimulus. So we want it spent quickly and easily and readily. We want local community input of course and that’s why on March 6 I wrote to each and every one of the 537 councils across Australia and received hundreds of responses of course. So, we’ll take on board what they told me in their responses – what the more than 400 councils said in their responses to that initial letter. And of course, as I say, each and every one of the 70 or so councils throughout South Australia will receive what will be the equivalent of the Roads to Recovery package. So just for a few examples, the city of Charles Sturt, they get about $1.2 million from Roads to Recovery, Hindmarsh, Woodville, Henley and Grange, they’ll get that. An area like Yorke Peninsula Council – one of my favourite papers there, Michael Ellis with the Country Times – they'll get $903,000. So, that's the sort of breakdown, whatever they get for Roads to Recovery is what they’ll get as part of this stimulus package. And then of course, as you mentioned, they'll get that bring forward of the of the Financial Assistance Grants money, totalling $1.3 billion across the nation because South Australia will be a big beneficiary of that.

LEON BYNER

Good stuff. Now, I'm going to ask you, as you've got your very heavy ministerial finger in aviation, I'm watching the papers very, very closely because tourism and flying from one place to another is a big issue. What's the latest on Virgin and what's been in the Fin Review is that there's now an opinion that they should relocate to Melbourne and there's an interest in the Melbourne Airport and maybe the Victorian Government. It's clear to me that whoever gets it, there's going to be some state money, maybe federal. What's the latest?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, the latest is that the voluntary administration process is going well, we're taking our advice from Nicholas Moore who's working with Deloitte, the voluntary administrator. Of course, they've reduced the number of potential bidders down to just a select few. Those non-binding bids, they'll look at those, determined as to who might then have to put in binding bids and then a decision will be taken and made. What I am doing, I know it has been taking up my entire weekends for the last few weeks, is writing to each and every one of the Virgin employees who've written to me. Some of them have been formal letters yes, but some of them have written really personal accounts to me and to those I have personalised them back to them. I understand that for those Virgin employees, there’s 10,000 of them. There's 6,000 subcontractors who work with Virgin and their jobs are important, we want to see Virgin come out of this in whatever which way, shape or form. But we need, want, require and desire two commercially viable airlines. I’m confident as is Paul Scurrah, the CEO of Virgin and the board that we can have that and so we just have to let the process take its course.

LEON BYNER

What are you saying in the letters to people that you're personalising? Are you saying, look, we're over it, we want to try and save your job, what's in there?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Yes, we’re not saying we’re over it, I am saying that we appreciate, we empathise, we hear you, your jobs are important. Having a competitive aviation sector is important. That is why we have put more than $1.2 billion on the table, of course, I’ve listed the things that we have done – keeping the domestic essential air services frequency up, making sure that regional centres have been serviced. The international airfreight mechanism which, you know, the airlines have been able to participate in. And of course, making sure that we have all of those things available, including JobKeeper, which has helped, of course, not only the aviation sector but indeed many industries and businesses right across the country. So there's been a number of initiatives that we've put in place, but any assistance that we've provided in aviation has been sector-wide and look, I understand, I appreciate that the letters that people from Virgin have written to me, have come from the heart. And they obviously, want to have a job going forward. They love what they do, the red uniform proudly worn by so many and we want to see Virgin, or a form of Virgin continue to fly for Australians.

LEON BYNER

One final question, have you got a sense as to when interstate travel might recommence from the aviation perspective?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Nationwide that's in the lap of the Gods I suppose, you could say the lap of the Premiers, you know. Each state has a different sort of take on this. Of course, they work through the framework of the National Cabinet – that's been important. But from one side of the country to the other, it is different. I am glad that in South Australia all the cases of COVID-19 have recovered. All of those who did contract the virus apart from of course, the sad and unfortunate deaths and our sympathies go to those families. They've lost loved ones in South Australia and elsewhere of course, but it will be determined largely by Premiers. But the sooner they ease restrictions and lift the border closures, the sooner we can get our domestic air services back up and running or flying, I should say.

LEON BYNER

Deputy Prime Minister, if there is a bubble, a flight bubble between Canberra and Adelaide as is being requested – although, it has been ruled out at this stage – you can come in and say hello to us.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

I’d like to do that.

LEON BYNER

All right, that's Michael McCormack, Deputy PM, just giving you some good news. First of all about some shovel ready projects, which will mean a lot of work. I did want to know whether the money was going direct because it is the case that sometimes when the Feds provide money, if it goes via the state, they do take their cut.

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