Transcript - ABC News Breakfast

MICHAEL ROWLAND

The Federal Government has announced an infrastructure boost ahead of tomorrow's budget. The Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack joins us now from Canberra. Good morning to you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

We're talking more than $7 billion. I just want to clarify firstly how much of that $7 billion plus is actually new money?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it's all new money inasmuch as we are investing heavily into infrastructure. Of course, we had a 10-year rolling plan of $100 billion. We want to add jobs to this sector. This is the recession we didn't need to have. We want to build and construct our way out of it. I know that agriculture and resources has been largely carrying the country, indeed as have regional areas through COVID-19. We want infrastructure, we need infrastructure. Our Australian people deserve the very best infrastructure and tomorrow's budget will deliver just that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

That $7 billion comes from that, as you say, already announced 10-year rolling $100 million infrastructure driver.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We're making sure we've got the right money for the right projects.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

You're fast tracking the money in other words?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Absolutely.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

How much of this will involve the participation of the State Governments?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It will really involve the State Governments. We want the State Governments and Territory Governments to invest as well. That's why I contacted each and every one of the State and Territory Governments last night to tell them about this approach. They absolutely know that we've brought forward money even from last year's mid-year economic fiscal outlook, $4.8 billion. We've invested billions of dollars in infrastructure since late last year and of course COVID-19 has shown us that we need very much our connectivity to be what it needs to be, to get that product from plate to port and to our markets. Whether it's in the resources or agriculture sector we need the best roads, we need the best rail and that's why we're investing heavily in it. It's all about jobs. It's all about the Bruce Highway, the Newell Highway, the Goldfields Highway in WA. Every State, every Territory is getting infrastructure that they so desperately need and we're building jobs. We're creating them.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Speaking of fast tracking them, there are very firm indications this morning that as part of the budget we'll see the fast tracking of those already legislated tax cuts, stage 2 and stage 3. Do you acknowledge though, Michael McCormack, there are serious concerns about stage 3 unduly favouring high income earners?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

What we want to make sure is Australians can be their best selves, whether they're high income earners, whether it's somebody who is a JobSeeker in Joondalup in WA. We want to make sure that we don't leave anybody behind. We want to make sure that if there's a job that Australians take it. The Regional Australia Institute last week identified 45,600 jobs in regional Australia. We want those people who are unemployed, who are seeking work, to take those positions. If you've got a job, then we want you to maximise the opportunities and benefits from having that job. The best form of welfare is a job and if you're in a job that is well paying and can improve yourself even further, then we want to make sure you have the ability to do just that.

We are a Government that has always been about lower taxes. At the moment small business are paying the lowest tax rate it has since 1940. So whether it's a small business, the backbone of the economy, whether it's an individual tax earner, we want you to pay less tax so that you can be your best self, so cash flow can flow throughout the economy. We've seen right throughout this COVID-19 that it's been very hard for small businesses because largely with the borders shut in many places, they haven't had that cash flow through their business. And as a former small business operator myself I know how tough it is. I know how difficult it is when you don't have that cash flow. We want to make sure that Australians have more of their own money, that they earn, in their back pocket so that when they do go out to the shops, when the borders do reopen that they can spend it.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the budget assumptions are based on a vaccine being available to Australians next year. That is a bit of a gamble, isn't it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we know that right across the world they're in the late developmental stage for the vaccine. We know how hard our Australian universities are working with other universities and other institutions around the world. The best medical advice and the experts are taking part in this process of getting a vaccine. We need it. We so desperately need it and of course, when it does become available, hopefully early next year, that will be very much freely available to each and every Australian and indeed our Pacific Island friends. We're good neighbours. We want the Pacific to be its best self. We're looking out for our Tongan and all our friends in Fiji and right across the Pacific. We'll do that. But we'll also of course put Australians first and we'll make sure that when a vaccine does become available, it is free and accessible and available to each and every Australian.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

It is interesting you praise the work of Australia's universities there, Michael McCormack. Does the Government – given the thousands of job losses across universities in Australia – does the Government have any regrets at all about not extending the JobKeeper program to the tertiary sector?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well it has been very tough for our university sector because they haven't had the international students, but we will continue to work with the universities –

MICHAEL ROWLAND

And no great help from the Federal Government it has to be said.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We've certainly made sure that for those going to university that when they come out that Job Ready Graduate Program and initiative that we've put in place – that Dan Tehan worked so hard in collaboration with universities – that there are jobs for those university students that they are ready to take on the world. Our university students are amongst the best in the world. Our universities are the best in the world. We want them of course to be even better and we're certainly backing them. We're making sure that no sector of the economy gets left behind, whether it's the tertiary sector, whether it's somebody in a job or indeed someone looking for a job.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Well the tertiary sector begs to differ but we can have this conversation on another day. Michael McCormack, thank you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks Michael.

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