Transcript - First Edition, Sky News

PETER STEFANOVIC

Joining me now is the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, live from Canberra. Good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks, Peter.

PETER STEFANOVIC

So first of all, when would you expect these jobs and these projects to begin?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Straight away. Absolutely straight away. I made sure that I contacted each and every one of the Ministers right throughout the States – our Transport and Infrastructure Ministers. I have been working well with them through COVID-19. They want to see the money, of course, they want to actually also support our Government’s efforts to create more jobs. There are so many projects right across the nation and I call on the states to play their part, to do even a little bit more. We’re going to make sure that this seven and a half billion dollars of new spending on of what we’re already spending – a record $100 billion over of course, the 10-year period, for existing projects and for new projects. We get them built, we get those workers on site and it also benefits right throughout those local economies. It means that we’re backing people’s jobs, we’re backing people’s livelihoods.

PETER STEFANOVIC

As you mentioned there you’re going to need the states to play ball. Do you have any doubt that they will?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, the expectation is that they will come on board. They want to of course move people more freely around their own states. They want to get their product from paddock to port and to an overseas plate. They want to make sure that whether it’s mining, whether it’s resources, agriculture, that it actually happens quicker. People getting to where they need to be sooner and safer. And they should also know that for those regional areas we’re backing them all the way. We don’t want people to be staring at their brake lights in front of them for an hour and a half. That’s why we’re busting through congestion in capital cities. But it’s also why we’re backing infrastructure, both in metropolitan areas and across Australia in regional and rural and remote areas too.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Is it mostly roads and highways and et cetera that this applies to?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And rail, indeed, Shepparton Rail, Waurn Ponds Rail in Victoria. I know that the Inland Rail is continuing at a pace. It’s been one of the big job creators through COVID-19. We’re investing heavily in rail. We’re investing in airport infrastructure. We’re investing right across the economy in infrastructure because it’s not just the hi-vis workers on site, it’s that little café that’s selling the egg and bacon roll nearby. It’s the motel accommodation that’s filled up because of people working on site. They’re the ones we’re backing. We don’t want to leave any Australian behind, Peter.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Josh Frydenberg says the budget tomorrow is based on the fact that there will be or the presumption that there will be a vaccine by the early part of next year. Are you that confident?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We’re very much hoping that that is the case. I know how hard Australian universities are working in tandem and conjunction with other institutions around the world. I know we’re taking on board the best world medical advice in this area. We need a vaccine and when it does become available – hopefully in the first part of next year – it will be freely available and accessible to each and every Australian and indeed, our Pacific friends.

PETER STEFANOVIC

If it doesn’t come that early, though, does that throw out the numbers?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Let’s see what happens. We’re very confident that every effort is being made by the world’s experts to bring about this vaccine. It’s not just Australia, it’s right across the world. We’ve got the best people available doing the right thing. Let’s hope that it happens.

PETER STEFANOVIC

There is a danger, though, that the numbers will be out of date very quickly if there is another state-wide shutdown, like there was in Victoria recently.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We’ve made sure all the way through that we’ve backed our economy whilst of course, putting first and foremost the health outcomes. We’ve done that all the way through. We’ve put $314 billion of assistance on the table to make sure that we got the right health outcomes, to make sure that we cushioned the economy as best we could. We’ve done very well so far. Our debt to GDP ratio is the envy of many countries throughout the world. But, of course, there’s more to be done and tomorrow’s budget is going to be a jobs and infrastructure budget and I look forward to it.

PETER STEFANOVIC

It’s looking likely the total debt, though, is going to exceed $1 trillion. In all likelihood, is this ever going to –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

This is the recession we didn’t need to have. This is a recession we did not need to have.

PETER STEFANOVIC

But are we ever going to pay that off?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we came to the recession and we came to COVID-19 with strength, with economic outcomes. We were just about to produce the first budget surplus for a dozen years and of course COVID-19, a global pandemic, hit. I think every reasonable Australian knows why this recession is in place. So I think every reasonable Australian understands that and we’re doing our utmost to protect lives and livelihoods. So that’s what we’ve done the whole way through. That’s what we’ll continue to do, Peter.

PETER STEFANOVIC

You just would have heard Andrew Clennell’s interview with Josh Frydenberg playing later on. He did tell Andrew that, we’re looking at net zero even negative migration for the next couple of years. Dick Smith will be happy about that. He’s argued about that for a long time. Bob Carr makes some interesting comments this morning. He says maybe that’s a good thing, because sometimes infrastructure doesn’t keep up with population growth and then you’ve got the obvious problems with traffic congestion. Does he have a point there?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Our infrastructure is keeping up and it has kept up right the way through since we were re-elected in 2013. We’ve put on the table record amounts of funding each year building more on the last to make sure that we’ve got the infrastructure in place, to make sure that we get people to where they need to be sooner and safer, to spend more time are their loved ones, spend more time at home and spend less time in traffic congestion.

With the net migration, yes, that’s of course going to be difficult, particularly for those rural and regional areas which rely so heavily on foreign people filling those workplaces, but there are 45,600 jobs available right now for Australians to take them. So if you are unemployed, you are seeking a new start, there’s a regional area which will welcome you.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Well, Josh Frydenberg’s encouraging more births. You’re encouraging people to go and pick fruit out in regions and fall in love. You two are definitely singing off the same song sheet.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We always are, Josh and I. We always are and that’s a united Coalition Government. Here to help you.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Just finally, it looks like Annastacia Palaszczuk’s looking to keep that Virgin headquarters in Brisbane, stumping up about $200 million for that. Do you support it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I support Virgin making sure it can be its best self. I’m so pleased that through this when everybody else was saying that we would only have one airline coming out the back end that we’ve made sure that all our assistance was sector wide. And I know that assistance through the Domestic Aviation Network Support, that we have provided, through every measure that we’ve done – $1.13 billion – that we’ve ended up with a viable two-airline sector going forward for aviation. What we now need to do and what Annastacia Palaszczuk – her best thing would be to reopen her borders so that we can get tourists back to Cairns so that we don’t just have intrastate tourism, so that we have interstate tourism. Because there’s plenty of people from the southern states who want to visit Queensland right now. Annastacia, the challenge is there. She needs to open up her borders and very soon.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister too, Michael McCormack. Appreciate your time as always. Thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks, Peter.

Media contact:

Jo Williamson, 0418 475 668

Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860