Transcript - Dubbo Doorstop

MARK COULTON

It is great to be here today to have my friend and colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, in my electorate here in Dubbo. I’m also here with Mayor Ben Shields. We've just been having a discussion about the $42,500 Building Better Regions grant that the Council are going to use to come up with a plan to improve events for the city, but we had a discussion on other things as well.

Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the Council here in Dubbo, as it does elsewhere around Australia. But I was very pleased to have Michael in town to obviously talk to the locals. So I think Michael is here more to listen than to talk. We caught up with the Council and we'll be out to look at the Flying Doctor base later on this afternoon and meeting with some people in town this morning just to have a yarn and remain connected.

Michael has been doing a sterling job over the last five or six months with the Prime Minister, with the Federal Government's response to coronavirus. I think what we've done has really helped a lot of local businesses, certainly what I'm hearing here. And it is important for Michael to see what's happening on the ground. And obviously as we're formulating policy going forward, he is armed with local knowledge.

So, great to have him here. And I might ask Michael to say a few words and then Ben can finish up.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, thank you to my friend and colleague, Minister Mark Coulton, the Member for Parkes, the hard-working Member for Parkes who knows full-well that when the regions are strong so too is our nation. Great to be here, too, with Mayor Ben Shields from Dubbo.

I said this morning it is a can-do council. We want to see these local government areas be their best selves through COVID-19. We want to make sure we are putting the money into these local government areas to ensure that they provide jobs and opportunity for regional Australians and that is why we increased the amount of money for Roads to Recovery funding for each and every one of the 537 councils, Dubbo included, right across the nation.

That's why we put in that community infrastructure funding and that is why of course, the Building Better Regions Fund is so successful, particularly for regional councils and regional areas such as Dubbo. This is a great regional hub, a great regional capital. Ben Shields knows that. Mark Coulton always fights hard for Dubbo and for the wider-Parkes electorate. It is a massive, massive electorate. I neighbour the Parkes electorate and I know how big it is. I know its output. I know that here, as Mark tells me often, they grow the world's best food and fibre and indeed, they do it.

We want to have markets for that. That's why we're working so hard through Minister Simon Birmingham, Andrew Gee and others to ensure that we've got markets for our produce. That's why we're working so hard. We've put JobKeeper in place to ensure that we connect workers with businesses which are doing it tough. We appreciate in government, Mark and I, everybody does, just how tough businesses are doing it at the moment, particularly in regional Australia, but we will get through COVID-19 and we'll get through it thanks to the hard work of Australians, thanks to Australians, particularly those in the regions who are doing the right thing, who are downloading the COVIDSafe app, who are making sure that they exercise social distancing and all the rest. And that's why yesterday, of course, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, announced JobTrainer, so that we can connect those young people and some not so young, who want to have an apprenticeship, want to have a trade skill, we're going to back them, we're going to back the businesses for which they work.

So we want to make sure that there is hope and opportunity and most importantly, jobs through the back of COVID-19. And that is why I was so delighted that the Federal Government have partnered up with the Dubbo Council for this $42,500 Building Better Regions grant, which is going to provide a blueprint, a vision, a plan for events and for how we attract more tourists, how we attract more business people. At the moment, Dubbo Council has determined that people stay on average about 1.7 nights when they come here. Whether they're business people or whatever. And we want to make sure that's up around three, so they stay longer, they visit longer, they get to realise the beauty of this area, the potential of this area and just how this area can benefit them and their families.

We want to get people out of the cities. I know that Andrew Gee at the moment, the Minister responsible for Decentralisation, is trying to get more businesses relocated to these regional areas. There's great potential here. Great potential to set up a business, great potential to relocate a business. And as a Federal Government that's what we are endeavouring to do through JobTrainer, through JobKeeper, connect people with their employment, keep those business doors open and make sure that, as best we can, we can get these people through, get these businesses through.

They've endured drought, they're enduring COVID-19, they're very resilient people, but let me tell you, these regional communities also have great foresight and that's why I commend Ben Shields for all that he's doing. I commend Mark Coulton for the hard work that he's doing for and on behalf of the Parkes electorate and especially Dubbo. And it is only onwards and upwards from here.

BEN SHIELDS

Well, what can I say? There's no doubt that Michael McCormack is a friend of Dubbo. He clearly understands what we need and the sort of research, the blueprint, as he says, that we need in order to get the data to get extra tourists to Dubbo.

There's no doubt we have a bit of a gap in our market when it comes to a long-term event. There is no doubt that we do need probably some of those extra facilities in the long-term to have bigger, larger events here in Dubbo. This extra cash, it is certainly going to get our business case ready so we can start moving in that direction in the long-term of getting extra people to Dubbo. Look, the Deputy Prime Minister is absolutely right, we do tend to have visitors stay on average 1.7 nights here in Dubbo. If we can expand that by extra events, by those extra offerings, if we can get our strategic direction right using that data, we can increase that to three nights a week. An extra night staying in Dubbo means extra money going to our restaurants, our clubs, our pubs, our accommodation providers. The flow-on effects of that is huge, but you can only do it with data, you can only do it with a blueprint as the Deputy Prime Minister says.

So, incredibly thankful for this sort of seed funding in order to get our business case right and to get our strategic direction right. It really does go to show Michael McCormack is a friend of Dubbo. He understands it. And look, this is a great news for Dubbo in our long-term. So thank you Deputy Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST

Does this mean festivals like the Lantern Festival, which you're trying to – 

BEN SHIELDS

Dream festival, things like that. It is more long-term. We need that data in to show what we can and can't attract. But also I'm excited about the idea that once we get that data order in, well, that's when we can do the next phase, work out what sort of facilities we need to provide here in Dubbo. Long-term we do need a bigger convention centre here. We have a bit of a goal in our showground, for example, for a large flat floor convention centre, up to 1,500 people. You can only do that, you can only start pushing that barrow once you have the data and once you got your business case together. Now, this sort of funding is going to dramatically help that. So you've got to line your ducks up first before you can start getting that sort of business case together.

JOURNALIST

Just on potential restrictions with, you know, COVID, have certain regions, wherever it is, you know, here for example closed off from – 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, look, what's happened with Victoria is certainly Premier Daniel Andrews there has closed off those hot spot postcodes, as he should. And whilst the Chief Medical Officer and indeed, the Federal Government has not been in favour of border closures, we fully respect the decision of the Premiers to take whatever precautions they need to keep people safe. But I would urge and encourage those people who have not downloaded the COVIDSafe app to indeed do so, because it does help. And I would urge and encourage those Australians to make sure that they continue the social distancing and obey the rules. It is pretty simple, obey the rules. If everyone can band together we are protecting those who are in the most vulnerable category, they are our elderly, they are those loved ones who are in aged care facilities, but as COVID-19 has shown it does not discriminate, there are a lot of young people, too, who have contracted the virus and who are now feeling its ill effects. We have lost 113 Australians through this COVID-19 situation. And we mourn and we offer condolences and sympathies to those families who've lost loved ones, to those families who won't have those loved ones at Christmas dinner this year. And that's very, very sad and very, very unfortunate. But, when you compare our situation with any country that you would like to name overseas, we've done very, very well. We've managed the virus as best we can. We've kept the case rates and the mortality rates at world-best levels, if that's possibly the term to use and we've done well to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on our economy. We can't shut down the economy, we can't shut down every business and hope that COVID-19 is eradicated. What we need is a vaccine, of course, but that may be many months, indeed many years away, so what we need to do is act sensibly, listen to the advice of the chief medical experts and just look after each other.

JOURNALIST

Is there a scenario where, you know, is it on the Premiers of each individual state then to close off those kind of areas that they see as hot spots?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is a state decision, of course, but the National Cabinet is meeting regularly and they're discussing these things. The Chief Medical Officer is part of the National Health Protection Principal Committee, meeting on a daily basis and of course, as a Federal Cabinet we're also meeting regularly. And the Health Minister, the Prime Minister and myself, as well as the Treasurer and the Finance Minister are meeting on a daily basis to ensure that we get the right measures in place to protect all Australians.

That's the first order of government business, to protect Australians. This is a global pandemic. Let's not forget it has its effects right across the world. And when you see states in America with, you know, 16,000 cases a day, that's more than Australia's had all over. You know, it is a worrying situation, of course, that there are hundreds of cases coming out of Victoria in recent days, but we'll get through this, we'll get through this, provided Australians follow the best medical advice. And that's what the Federal Government has done, right the way through.

MARK COULTON

Can I just add to that as Regional Health Minister, one of the important things that we can do as individuals is to get tested, so we've got 140 federally-funded respiratory clinics around Australia. There's one a hundred metres from where we are now. So if you have the slightest respiratory issue, go, book in and get yourself tested.

We had a small number of cases in the regions here at the start of the pandemic. Activities have picked up. We've got a lot of visitors coming in and we welcome those visitors because they're getting our economy going, but that means we need to be even more vigilant. And so as the Deputy Prime Minister said, download the app, get tested and maintain the basic rules that are put in place and then we'll be able to operate as a normal economy. But those clinics are there to be used and it is important that we take advantage of what's in place.

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