Transcript - Interview on 1494 2AY Radio

KEV POULTON

Well, we promised and we’re about to deliver, as we are joined by the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Michael McCormack, good morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Morning, Kev.

KYLIE KING

Deputy PM, heading to our part of the world. Can you please explain why you’re here?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going to be at the opening of the $13.5 million Wangaratta Aquatic Centre with Senator Bridget McKenzie and Tim McCurdy, the State Member there. I know how important this is for the Wangaratta community. Also the North East Rail Line upgrade, now of course, those works have been completed and that’s a $235 million commitment, that’s such an important rail line and I know that brings the rail line there – the passenger rail – up to Victorian Class 2 track performance standard. I know that sounds to a lot of people like something they wouldn’t get, but what it means is its faster rail. It means people are going to get to where they need to be sooner and safer.

KEV POULTON

And that’s ahead of the Victorian Government popping some new rolling stock on there fairly soon, I believe.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, look, I work with the Victorian Government. I’m happy to work with any government of any political persuasion because, at the end of the day, it’s about getting things done. It’s about outcomes. It’s about delivery. And look, I’m really looking forward to coming down to that part of the world. It’s my neighbouring electorate, I of course, come from up the road at Wagga Wagga. I know it’s a pretty big day down there today, you’ve got the Albury Cup on. There’s lots of things happening in the region.

KYLIE KING

Well, Kev did wonder whether you coincided this visit to wander in and join us –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, I’m not going to the Albury Cup. I haven’t been to the Albury Cup for some time. But there’s a few good runners in that Albury Cup today. I was having a look at the form earlier, Entente from the Gai Waterhouse stable, well that’s got to give it a shake, she doesn’t bring horses down to Albury for a float ride. And Kevin Mack, of course, will probably be on The Lord Mayor. But it’s a good field and it’s good that racing and footy and all that community sport is getting crowds back to it.

KEV POULTON

I notice you mentioned Albury Mayor Kevin Mack. I believe he has been up irritating you this week? Has he been up there in Canberra?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Kevin never irritates me, but I do have a good relationship with the good mayor. And he was up there to push for all things regional capitals, not just Albury but other regional capitals as well. But also for the Move to More campaign for the Regional Australia Institute. And even today 60,000 jobs – there’s a news report – just in New South Wales. Now, I appreciate that’s not just regional New South Wales but I know a lot of Albury and Wodonga hospitality and other – you know, law firms, accountancy practices, they’re just crying out to get workers. As identified by the RAI, 54,000 jobs right across the regions, right across our nation at the moment. We need those jobs filled and we need people to move to the regions. In the September quarter last year 7,782 Sydneysiders did just that – they saw that the best living, the best lifestyle was out in the regions and they made the move and well done to them.

KEV POULTON

Is it the fact that you’re the pin-up for regional Australia? Locations like Wagga and Albury-Wodonga, Deputy PM?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, I think if I’m the pin-up, that’s probably not the campaign we need. But I’ll tell you what, I always say these communities are big enough in which to get a good cup of coffee, yet small enough to still care. And whether it’s you know, anywhere in your listening area or anywhere indeed, in the regions, you can go there, you can visit these nice little unique boutique stores, you can get a good cup of coffee. There’s knick-knack antique stores. They’re open on a Saturday, but we just need to get workers into them. Kev and Kylie, it is a bit of an issue. And, you know, we need to keep those borders open and I don’t need to tell you and your listeners that because you’re affected more than probably anybody right across the nation by those border closures.

KYLIE KING

Look, we had your Senator, Bridget McKenzie, in the studio. She’s a regular visitor to us talking about issues that she’s hearing when she’s out and about and one of the issues was definitely about the fruit picking and getting the labour force in. And it was such an issue and it looks like it’s still a bit of an issue in many ways.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is and look, there are plans underway and as soon as this vaccine – well, it is rolling out – but as soon as it’s rolling out too in other centres and certainly in the Pacific and indeed, in the countries north of Australia and we can get some of those travel bubbles established. So we’re working on a travel bubble at the moment, a two-way travel bubble with Singapore. Hopefully that will be, you know, mid-year, July-ish. But it is difficult and, you know, we’re 90,000 backpackers short and you can’t just replace 90,000 people with Aussies and expect them to just go out into those orchards and into those agricultural endeavours and just fill the void. Backpackers do such a great job. They have a holiday. They then tell their friends to come over here. They usually leave most of their money here because they have a great time and it’s a wonderful life experience. So, we’ve tweaked the measures, we’ve made it’s more possible for people who then want to stay to get permanent residency, but when you’re 90,000 backpackers short, it does make it difficult.

KEV POULTON

Sure does. Now, we are speaking with the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Michael McCormack at the moment. And, Michael, we’re talking about that fruit picking. I know around probably six months ago you made headlines when you sort of kicked off that match-making campaign. You promised the country they might even find love if they went out on to a farm. Any success stories to report back on yet, Michael?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Anecdotally, yes. You know, it’s amazing, I got absolutely hammered by the metropolitan media and then it was amazing how many people then rang my office to say, “I met the love of my life there and we’ve been married 30 years. We’ve got five kids.” I had those stories bobbing up and then of course, we gave that to some of the media, they ran with it and it is true. I mean, why wouldn’t you come to the regions? But it’s not just in those agriculture endeavours. You just don’t find love, you know, in a packing shed or in an orchard. So many people come to Albury-Wodonga in health and education and fall in love with not just the region but someone else. But they also realise there’s good money to be made and they can live like a king or queen because even for those people who pack up and leave earlier or indeed, they’re just established or just starting a family, they can sell their $1.2 million box in Sydney, move to a place like Albury and have a four-bedroom, three-car lockup garage, swimming pool, big backyard, be seven minutes from the school, you know, 10 minutes from the shops. It is such an ideal way to leave. I don’t know why people want to get in a car and just look at the brake lights for an hour and a half to and from work every day – I don’t get that.

KYLIE KING

Well, you certainly are a great ambassador for the National Party and obviously for regional living and lifestyle. It’s great to have you in the Wangaratta and North East region for some announcements today. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, thanks for your time and enjoy your visit.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Any time at all. Thanks, Kylie. Thanks, Kev. Have a great day.

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