Transcript - ABC News Breakfast Interview

7:40AM

LISA MILLAR

I believe that we've got the Deputy Prime Minister in Canberra standing by. Mr McCormack, are you there?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I am, Lisa.

LISA MILLAR

You turned up early, we always like that but I was just thrown for a moment. But I do want to say that we've got you on this morning because the Federal Government is setting its sights on boosting jobs with some new hubs in regional Australia. What have you got planned?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, indeed. We've extended the Building Better Regions Fund to $250 million and $50 million of that is going to incentivise councils and other organisations to apply for those competitive grants, to get local businesses, small businesses indeed, private businesses, to move to the regions and you know, those businesses that make that move never look back and there are so many examples of that. Of course, we know that there 66,000 jobs in regional Australia out there right now –

LISA MILLAR

Yes, job vacancies, but you know where there aren’t vacancies, there aren’t vacancies in homes and rentals and that's a massive problem and you had the opportunity in the Budget to try to get some social housing done and you didn't. So what do you say to people –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We work states to do that and those businesses that do move, they are going to have people who actually are in employment, they actually are going to have people looking for well-paying jobs –

LISA MILLAR

But they can't even get rentals though? That’s the trouble, isn’t it? It's all well and good to say, “Move to the regions, it's great,” but if you can't get a home and if the infrastructure isn't there yet, isn't that a problem?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed and we're working with the states to do just that and I know that the Minister for Housing, Michael Sukkar, is certainly, as part of the Budget, under the HomeBuilder scheme and the Building Better Regions Fund adds to those sorts of things and we want to make sure that people have the capacity to make that move should they choose to. In fact, 43,000 actually chose to do just that according to the ABS last year. It was the biggest move by Metropolitan people into the regions and the regions have proven that they are the safest place in all of the world in which to be during this global pandemic. Indeed, they're big enough in which to get a good cup of coffee, they’re small enough to still care and we want people to know that there are good and well-paying jobs in the regions. We want businesses to move to the regions. We want those regions to be able to be their best selves. Indeed, the situation with housing, we have certainly addressed that and we continue to work with states to do even more.

LISA MILLAR

How have you addressed it? Have you addressed it because it is a problem? You talk about getting a cup of coffee, we were talking to a cafe owner in Mount Isa who can't open on the weekend because she can't get staff because people don't want to go there because they know that they're not going to be able to get accommodation.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, as the economy opens up and as the Premiers don't have those emergency lockdowns, the country opens up again, it is going to get back to some sort of pre-COVID normality. It's a difficult situation. COVID has affected a lot of situations and regional Australia, as I say, has been the safest place in all of the world in which to live in. That's why the Federal Government will continue to work with states. States have the responsibility for housing, for those areas that you mentioned. But, of course, if you do want to build your own home, there are very much incentives to be able to do that as part of Budget and the Budget was very good in addressing all of those issues and indeed, many of those issues in regional Australia – certainly with mental health, certainly with health services provision and we're getting those investments and those incentives for those people to be able to encourage them to be able to move to the regions.

LISA MILLAR

You know I'm a big supporter of regional Australia.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed, you are.

LISA MILLAR

I want to talk about the situation in Melbourne. There are so many people waking up this morning, quite anxious. Would they be that way if we had managed to get this vaccination roll out happening a whole lot quicker?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, as I understand too, it's the contact tracking and tracing that has been a bit of a situation here. Of course, we're making sure that many Australians, as many as possible, are getting vaccinated. 100,000 a day – 3.5 million have already got a jab. We want to make sure that all of Australians get not only their first jab, but also their second, of course.

LISA MILLAR

Does it need to be extended?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It is the largest logistical exercise in Australia’s peacetime history, that’s what Professor Paul Kelly and Brendan Murphy have both described it as. I know DHL, who are responsible for getting the vaccination out to regional areas, they've already covered 17.5 million kilometres according to Saul Resnick – I speak to him almost on a daily basis. This is a massive logistical exercise, but I do encourage Australians to get vaccinated.

LISA MILLAR

So, here's a proposal this morning, Bill Shorten says that you need to open it up and the under 50s need to be able to get the vaccination as well. That we just need to make it broader and get it done quicker – that the tier system isn't working. Does he have a point?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I appreciate that South Australia and Queensland are indeed, encouraging younger people to get their jab and putting provisions in place to do so. And we'll continue to work –

LISA MILLAR

Yes, that's not Federal policy, so should the Federal Government say, “Yes, let's open this up, the tier system hasn't worked as we thought it would?”

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We're making sure, every step of the way, every day and every way, that we get people to get vaccinated. Of course, we've got a roll out program. Of course, we've got a strategy that's important. But we're making sure that we encourage Australians. The important thing is that Australians get their jab when they'll eligible to do so and that they do get down to their local GP and to their pharmacy. I was pleased that 56 locations in Queensland last week were opened up too – pharmacies. Of course, pharmacies in many country communities are people's best friend in making sure that the health provision are there.

LISA MILLAR

What do you think about lottery tickets or merchandise? Paul Kelly was musing on that yesterday?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we will consider all of these things, I know that there're TikToks and rap dances out there and all those sorts of things. Who knows what might happen in the future but the important thing is that people get the jab in the arm. Do it for yourself, do it for your family but do it for that stranger you'll perhaps never meet. But it's so important that we get Australia vaccinated so that we can get back to some sort of pre-COVID normality.

LISA MILLAR

Just to clarify, though, you think that the system, the way that the vaccinations are rolling out with the tiered system is working. So, you don't think that on a Federal level – the Feds don't need to follow what the states have started doing which is opening it up to under 50-year-olds and 16-year-olds in South Australia?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We're looking at these things all the time. We have daily meetings about what we need to do and how we need to do it, the important thing is that we've tweaked and altered the way we've done things, based on what the states have asked us, based on what the community expected us to do. There's no manual for COVID-19. That's why we've been able to put in place the measures and adapt the measures to ensure that – just take JobSeeker for example, we extended it, we did the right thing in that regard and that's what we've done the whole way through. We've met community expectations and I say again, I reiterate again, to those people, make sure that you get your jab.

LISA MILLAR

Alright, Michael McCormack, thank you for joining us this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thank you so much.

ENDS 7:48AM

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