Transcript - Five AA Adelaide Interview

LEON BYNER

The Federal Government plans to raise the number of Australians returning from overseas. The Deputy Prime Minister has said he wants to see the number of Australian citizens and permanent residents lifted from 4,000 to 6,000. Well, I caught up with the Deputy PM a little earlier this morning.

Deputy Prime Minister, thanks for joining us today. Tell us about the fact that you would like to lift the number of people coming back into Australia. What we understand is a registered 23,000 Australians with DFAT, want to come home.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Pleasure. Australians want to come home. They were encouraged and implored upon to do so back in February-March by the Prime Minister, by myself and many Australians took the opportunity to do just that. And I appreciate, as you would, that many Australian stayed overseas, but now with the situation in some countries indeed worsening, they want to come home and I appreciate that for whatever reason, they have either decided to stay over there or indeed, went over there and they still want to return. We need to be able to lift those quarantine caps, those international arrival caps in the motels, in the hotels, in the capital cities to get Australians home. So I spoke to Steven Marshall yesterday, as I often do, he warmly welcomed the offer because he said it's a win-win situation. More Australians returning to Adelaide means more freight they can get on the outgoing planes, so this is important. South Australia has been taking 500 passenger arrivals per week. They're going to increase that by 360 perhaps potentially even more but we need to – right across the country, whether it's Sydney where they've done much of the heavy lifting with a limit of 350 passenger arrivals per day. They’re increasing that by 500 per week, Queensland has been told to do the same, as has WA. Of course, we will work with the other States and Territories to ensure that they also do their share of the quarantining of Australians that are returning.

LEON BYNER

Deputy PM, now people are registered, we know of 23,000 that want to get on an aircraft. Now, there is a problem where, one we understand a lot of people have even been prepared to pay the very high business class cost of the fair and yet they've had their flights cancelled and of course, many of those who will want to come home can't afford the expensive fear. So where does that leave them?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, the Australian Government has announced support to those most vulnerable through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We've put in place a hardship program providing loans to help cover the cost of temporary accommodation and daily living expenses. And loans are also being made available to help those most vulnerable purchase tickets for commercial flights. I appreciate it’s a difficult situation – the flights available get cancelled, tickets at a high price, unaffordable for some. That's why we've put in place these measures to help as many Australians as we can. But what we want to also see is the state's doing their part too. We've put up $314 billion of assistance so far. It’s been something that of course, has the hurt the economy. We’ve made sure that as best we can, we've propped up the economy to ensure that as many people stayed engaged with their employers, stayed in work. But the most important thing is, we've addressed the health pandemic issues and we've kept the case and mortality rates at a world’s best level.

LEON BYNER

Now, I want to ask you about the aviation sector because they're in a world of pain at the moment, probably more, I think everybody might have expected even you that things might have loosened up somewhat by now, but they haven't. We're going to need to do more for the aviation sector because they're in a terrible parlous state aren't they at the moment?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I’ll tell you what will be good start would be the Premiers lift their border restrictions. When they lift those border restrictions. We'll get more interstate flights, we'll get more planes in the air, as you know and I know and most other people would know – planes in the air means jobs on the ground. So this is crucial. This is vital and it needs to happen.

LEON BYNER

Is there no leverage? The PM has got even the gravitas of being the PM. It seems the states are still playing their own game.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we know that the federation was set up there in the late 1890’s – it came into effect in 1901 – the states have to have certain jurisdictional responsibility over certain things. I appreciate the states have wanted to keep their states free of coronavirus. Of course, when we've had the outbreak and the second wave in Victoria, that’s exacerbated the situation. A lot of regional Australians, as you would well know as your listeners would be probably experiencing the discomfort that have been unfairly disadvantaged because they've been in very tight restrictions and conditions yet they haven't had a coronavirus case for many weeks, in some cases not at all. And yet they've still been unable to cross borders. They've been unable to do what they normally do as part of everyday life. So that's been very difficult particularly for regional Australians and regional Australians have really lead right the way through, making sure that the resources sector, the transport industry, the supermarket shelves were stocked with the best fruit and veg and meat available. It comes from regional Australia. They don’t grow it in the middle of capital cities.

LEON BYNER

Deputy PM thank you for joining us this morning.

Media Contact:

Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860