Transcript - Interview on 4CA 846 AM Cairns

10:45AM

JOHN MACKENZIE

We've got on the line the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, calling in from somewhere. I'm not sure where he is. We're about to find out. Michael, good morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I'm in Canberra, John.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Okay, just for a change. Michael, I've got to say you've been more than energised in recent weeks. You're on television screens, radio shows all over the place and lots of spreads in newspapers. What's going on?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I like to talk about the regions. Why wouldn't you want to talk about the regions? They have led the way through COVID-19 because our regional people have been their best selves. They've done largely the right thing as far as COVID-19 is concerned and I know in your sunny part of the world they have been hard hit because of decisions made by a Brisbane-centric government to close the borders right down near Tweed Heads on the New South Wales side, the borders have been closed. But I tell you what, for the good folk of Cairns who are further away from Brisbane than indeed Melburnians are, that's been very hard, so hard for your tourism and I know that a couple of Sundays ago when I announced a $50 million tourism package with Simon Birmingham, the Trade and Tourism Minister, how well that was received, it was very much welcomed. And then of course, as part of last night's budget there's $200 million as round five of the Building Better Regions program. It's been so popular, that fund. And as part of that there's a $100 million component for tourism-related projects. You could almost argue that the whole lot is going to tourism and getting people to destinations because any money that you spend on regional infrastructure ultimately is used by visitors and tourists and of course, Cairns – beautiful part of the world that it is – needs every visitor it can get at the moment.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Does it what. Let me ask you this, this is an interesting one to me, I mean, the Queensland Government's required now to get road projects shovel-ready after you've unveiled as a government this use-it-or-lose-it funding to drive jobs. What are the timelines here?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we're going to make sure that they do it within six-month allotments. We want to make sure that if we're spending money – big money – and we've got $2 billion for road safety upgrades, now we want to make sure that whether it's a part of the $7.5 billion, you identified the $1.3 billion that's being spent in Queensland, we've also got money going out the door, a billion dollars for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure and for Cairns, that's going to mean – Cairns Regional Council –  that's going to mean an additional $7.4 million so there's a lot of money sloshing around particularly for roads as you've quite correctly pointed out, John. Now, if the states – and we work through the States for many of these major upgrades – if they can't spend the money in the time allotted then it will go to a state which can and I know that's putting the pressure on them but we want action on the ground not stalling in the bureaucracy. We want shovels in the ground not being held up in Brisbane for whatever reason. Now, it's been all too easy in the past for State Governments to come back at us and say, "Well, there was weather implications, we couldn't get the workforce." I mean, there was, "The email went to the wrong account", all this sort of thing. No, we want to get workers on the ground. We want to get excavators pushing dirt around and the only way to do it is to perhaps put the fear of God into these States that if they don't lose the money they'll lose it.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Let's talk about this $1 billion more in funding for Queensland this year. Were you equally generous with the other states?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it's proportionate, yes, every state and every territory has benefitted from this budget. We want to create a million jobs. We want to help – well, we don't create them, business creates them. That's why perhaps, John, the measure that I'm perhaps most excited by and I think a lot of people are, as a small business owner I know that measure by which a business and – that's most of them because up to $5 billion turnover – can deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value in the year they are installed. Write it off instantly. I mean, that means a trucking company – one of your good local trucking companies in Cairns – can actually just refresh their fleet. Can buy five new trucks or whatever the case might be, as long as they've got the cash flow, they write it off in the year of investment, the year they purchased it and go forward. I mean, that is an amazing investment in an amazing cash boost for small business and given the fact that it's up to $5 million turnovers, I mean, that's just about every business in Cairns and surrounds.

So that's a great initiative and of course, there's money there to hire young people. There's money there too for skills and apprentices, to upgrades the skills of those people, young and some not so young. We want to get people reconnected with their places of employment. Our JobKeeper has done that so far and done it very well but for Cairns, which is of course, the engine room of the tropical Far North, we want it to be its best self and that's what the Budget provides for.

JOHN MACKENZIE

So, $20 million committed to extend the National Drought North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency for another year, specifically this – I don't know about this particular work that's being done by this agency, the specific importance here, is it to do with the fact that we might have a particularly big wet this year or more cyclones or –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, you never can tell can you and I know that the Emergency Management Minister, David Littleproud, amongst his other portfolio responsibilities, not least of which of course, is Agriculture, he's been working hard to make sure that we've got the right response methods, to make sure that we've got the people on the ground to help whenever there's a Tropical Cyclone or a flood or whatever the case might be, bushfire, we've got money out the door. I know how hard Stuart Robert, the Minister, has worked to get that money out the door when an emergency has hit and that's been good because people have been able to return to work, get their houses cleaned up, everything as soon as they could. But, we don't know what the weather is going to be from one day to the next, but rest assured if it's nasty then we will have the right response and the right preparation in place.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Now, the terminology, we've got JobSeeker, we've got JobKeeper, now JobMaker. Can you expand on that one?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, JobMaker is the overall government's response to the virus, to ensure that we've got the right measures in place to enable businesses to employ more people. So whether it's a wage subsidy for those apprentices, young people in particular, whether it's in fact assistance for women for childcare arrangements, whether it's in fact to get more women back to work. Whether it's indeed, for the extra home care places, thousands of them, to enable older people to have that care and support. Whether it's indeed, tweaking the Regional Investment Corporation to enable farmers to get easier access to loans, whatever the case might be, we're putting the measure in place to support job creation. So, we want small businesses and there are thousands of them in Cairns that are going to take advantage of that instant asset write-off, we're supersizing that particular initiative. The roads, as you quite correctly identify, there's millions upon millions of dollars just being spent on Cairns Regional Council roads and that is going to create so many jobs. Not just in the council, not just in and around the construction companies but indeed, the little cafe nearby the work site which will be making more egg and bacon rolls, for the motel which is going to accommodate those workers who might be called in from nearby and might need to be put up for the night. You know, there are so many businesses going to benefit from this upsurge in roads activity.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Good on you, Michael. Appreciate this call today. I must say Warren Entsch is, I noticed on my screen, is due in in about 45 minutes or so.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

He is a great man and I tell you what, I was talking to him last night about the measures, about the water infrastructure in particular. And Warren's a very, very hard-working advocate for the Far North, for Cairns in particular. I mean, the bloke just doesn't shut up when he comes to Canberra. He wears the carpet out into my office and it works, so people should know that they've got a fighter and a campaigner in good old Warren.

JOHN MACKENZIE

Alright, Michael, appreciate this call. Thank you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

All the best, thank you.

ENDS 10:55AM

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