Transcript - ABC News Breakfast Interview

7:33AM

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Let's get more now on that infrastructure funding to be announced in tomorrow's Federal Budget and bring in the Deputy Prime Minister. Michael McCormack, good morning to you. Why is this spending, in your view, so important?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning, Michael, because it supports jobs and indeed the more than the $10 billion that we're pumping additionally into infrastructure is going to support 30,000 extra jobs, that's on top of the 100,000 workers who are already engaged actively in the $110 billion 10-year pipeline of investment that we're putting into infrastructure – roads, rail – right across the country. Each and every state, both the territories, I messaged or spoke to all of the Transport Ministers right throughout the country last night – the State Ministers – and they were very delighted with what Josh Frydenberg will announce tomorrow night at 7:30.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

We are talking this morning about what is an acute worker shortage in hospitality, also tourism. Are you confident, given migration is now off the agenda until at least next year, we'll find the workers to help build these projects?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, indeed, we're banking on that. I mentioned a short while ago it was 43,000 workers, in fact, the Regional Australia Institute has messaged me to say it's actually 66,000, so it was 43,000 just a few weeks ago. That number in regional Australia is now 66,000 workers. They're the jobs in law firms, in accountancy practises, indeed orchards and meat processing plants, but every facet of every livelihood across Australia, there's jobs in the regions going right now. But we're confident that we'll find those people to build those roads, to build that infrastructure, I'm very, very confident in Australia's future and this Budget is backing Australia's security. It's backing Australia's ability to recover from what has been a very, very crippling and heartbreaking global pandemic.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Confirmation over the weekend that the international border will stay shut until next year. We had your colleague, the Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, saying it's going to be well into 2022. So what are we talking about, middle next year, the latter part of 2022?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well again, it will be the best possible medical advice from the medical experts. We’ve followed that the whole way through. There's no textbook that you can take from the shelf to see how to address this global pandemic. But we have taken what we thought is right and that is the best possible medical advice from the likes of Professors Brendan Murphy, from Paul Kelly and we’ve followed that advice and that's why yesterday, there were no locally-acquired cases. That's why we have kept our case rates and our death rates to the point where they are, indeed, the envy of the world. That's why tens of thousands of people are going to sporting events, are going to restaurants and are living their lives as much as they can in a normal pre-COVID way. Whereas the rest of the world, they're getting tens of thousands of cases and sadly many, many deaths each and every day.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Okay, borders shut until next year, Alan Joyce the Qantas boss was planning to have international flights resume in October. He's gone as far as saying the Government is turning Australia into a hermit state.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We're taking the best possible medical advice. I speak to Alan most weeks, he understands that it's important to keep Australia as COVID-safe and free as we can and that's what we're doing as a Government.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Speaking of assumptions, we had that assumption of travel foreshadowed by the Treasurer yesterday. We are expecting assumptions as we have in the last couple of Budgets or the mid-year update on last year’s Budget, on the vaccination roll out. In December, it was going to be all Australians vaccinated by the end of this year, but of course that is off the table. Are we expecting another assumption tomorrow night pushing that into, what, 2022?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We'll absolutely get that vaccination program rolled out. We're doing that at the moment. Nearly three million vaccinations so far and we urge Australians obviously to line up and to get that vaccine –

MICHAEL ROWLAND

When are you hoping to get that done by realistically? We're talking about 2022?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

As soon as practicably possible. It's a big country. It's the largest logistical exercise in Australia's peace-time history as Brendan Murphy has said on any number of occasions and so we're making sure that we get that vaccination rolled out. We're working very cooperatively and collaboratively with public state officials and we'll continue to do that and we ask Australians to continue to be their best selves. Australians have been magnificent. They’ve exercised social distancing, they have worn masks when asked to do so even though in some cases, in regional Australia, they were many hundreds of kilometres from the nearest coronavirus case. I thank Australians on behalf of the Government for doing just that, that's why we kept our country largely COVID-safe and free.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Very quickly, I know you have to go, given the semi-trailers' worth of cash being thrown about in this Budget, this is clearly an election Budget, isn't it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it's a convoy of semi-trailers but it's good money being spent in good areas, whether it's women's health, mental health, whether it's the regional areas with the Building Better Regions Fund – such a good program to build that vital community infrastructure right across the nation, right across our regions. It's a good Budget. It’s securing Australia’s recovery.

MICHAEL ROWLAND

Michael McCormack in Canberra, thank you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks, Michael, any time.

ENDS 7:38AM

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