Transcript - Interview with ABC Riverina

7:53AM

SALLY BRYANT

Now to get a local perspective, the Member for Riverina Michael McCormack is the Leader of the National Party, he's the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. He spoke to Mollie Gorman and he said this is a jobs, jobs, jobs budget.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We want to make sure that if people have a job then they get an even greater take of the money that they earn through the tax cuts. If they don't have a job, we want to make sure that we can help small business generate a job for them. That's why from 7.30 tonight, when the Treasurer went to the dispatch to do the budget, to announce the budget, businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion – so that's just about every business in the Riverina and Central West – are able to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value in the year they are installed. This is super sizing the instant asset write off. So, a truck company could regenerate, refresh their entire fleet. A farmer can buy that very, very expensive header harvester, no matter what the cost. Of course, they have to have cash flow, but they then just write it off in the year it was purchased. This is going to be such a windfall for business and when business makes money, makes more money, they reinvest it in their business. They reinvest by hiring their most important capital asset and that is the people they employ.

I'm really delighted that there's an additional $2 billion for new water infrastructure projects. I fought hard for this. I am the Minister responsible for this. This demonstrates the Government's ongoing commitment to supporting and investing in our regional economies. Despite the drought, despite the bushfires, the floods, the COVID-19, we want to build our way out of this recession and that's why the additional funding for water infrastructure is building on the Government's existing $1.5 billion investment.

MOLLIE GORMAN

This $2 billion fund, what sort of projects do you envisage it going towards? Is it going to be like Dungowan and Wyangala, is it going to be whole new dam projects?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Dams, pipelines, we've got the National Water Grid set up, the advisory panel that's headed by Chris Lynch. The Riverina has a representative there in Elizabeth Stott, she's a farmer from the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. She's going to be on that eight-person panel. She's going to be providing valuable input to me, along with the State Governments. We want to get them on board. We want to make sure that we convert those business cases into dams.

MOLLIE GORMAN

The seasonal worker or harvest labour shortage has been well documented in this sort of part of the world. I noted in the budget there's sort of two measures that come up are the partner visa scheme which will encourage people hopefully to bring their partners over if they're working on those sort of seasonal labour things and also an incentive if young people earn $15,000 in the next couple of months they'll be able to get youth allowance. Are you confident those measures will be enough to meet the shortage?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I am, but we're also doing so much more in that space too. It's not just a Budget measure, it's also we're looking at doing other steps and measures to make sure that we've got the right labour workforce for such things as the Young cherry harvest, which is only weeks away but they need 3,500 workers. It's to provide workers for the grape harvest in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Coleambally Irrigation Area. It's those backpackers who went home when COVID first hit. Of course, they find it difficult to return and so that's why we've put incentives in place for those overseas labourers, the backpackers, the holiday visa holders whose visa arrangements might be near conclusion, they can extend those. They can work for longer for the one employer, they can earn more money. We're doing work in the Pacific Island regard. We're making sure that if we can get those labourers from even coastal areas and capital cities out, we'll provide incentives for them to do so.

MOLLIE GORMAN

Over the last couple of weeks the ICAC has heard about a cash-for-visa scheme a number of businessmen in Wagga and surrounds said they were involved in, with some accepting tens of thousands of dollars in cash for their involvement in the regional migration scheme even though the workers didn't turn up. Are you disappointed the scheme was rorted in this way?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Very disappointed to see what I've read through the ICAC inquiry. But given the fact the inquiry continues, given the fact that it needs to run its full course and that's for, as I understand five weeks, we're in the third week. I think before anybody rushes to judgment or anything else, let's let the inquiry run its full course. Let's allow the investigators to make their recommendations and their decisions with all the evidence before them with everything that they need from the people who will give evidence at that inquiry, and when they make those recommendations then I think more people will have more to say about what's actually transpired.

MOLLIE GORMAN

Do any changes need to be made or you won't comment on that yet?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I think it's probably fair to those people who are yet to give evidence, to those people who have already given evidence and to those people to whom ICAC has called to let the inquiry run its course before we make any further comment. That's the fair and proper process.

MOLLIE GORMAN

ICAC is still investigating however these aren't allegations, these are what the businessmen have actually admitted to. Why can't you act on it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it's not for me to act on it. This is a State-based organisation inquiring into a State Member, a former State Member of Parliament and so as a Federal Member of Parliament and as a citizen who believes in upholding the right for everybody to have a fair say and a fair trial, then let's let ICAC run its course. Let's let ICAC ask the necessary questions of the people it has called before it and let the process take it its proper course.

SALLY BRYANT

That's the member for Riverina Michael McCormack, he's the leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister as well as the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. He was speaking there to Mollie Gorman.

END 7:59AM

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