Transcript - Interview on First Edition, Sky News

7:42AM

PETER STEFANOVIC

The Federal Government is expected to unveil a $10 billion commitment to fast-track infrastructure projects across Australia. Let’s go live to Canberra now and joining us is the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack. Good morning, Michael, good to see you, thanks for joining us this morning. You’re not going to lose with infrastructure announcements but when are jobs going to begin?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Very soon and they’ve already begun. Indeed, 100,000 workers supported by our $110 billion infrastructure pipeline, another 30,000 jobs are going to be supported by this latest addition to what we’ve done for so many years since we’ve been in government supporting workers, particularly in the regions, supporting the necessary congestion-busting infrastructure and safer country roads.

PETER STEFANOVIC

A lot of cash being splashed at the moment. Is this a pre-election Budget?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Australians aren’t worried about elections. They’re not even talking about that at their barbeques, around their dinner tables and around the water cooler. They are talking about jobs, they are talking about their future and this Budget – this infrastructure Budget – indeed secures that recovery through coronavirus. We are certainly not out of the woods yet. Thankfully, no locally acquired cases yesterday, but we’re building a better future for Australians and that’s what Josh Frydenberg will announce at 7:30 tomorrow night.

PETER STEFANOVIC

I mean, a lot of people aren’t talking about it but a lot of people are still though, Michael, so is this going to be the last Budget before the next election?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, that’s entirely up to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He has the ability to go to Government House and talk to the Governor-General, but we’re not looking at an election. We’re looking at making sure that we secure Australia’s recovery. That’s our total focus.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Okay, a big part of that recovery is going to be travel and when to open up international borders. There seems to be some confusion in this space, though, because we had Simon Birmingham, we had Dan Tehan as well on this show last week as well, saying that international travel is not going to be able to resume in any significant capacity until the second half of next year. Is that the timeframe that you are working towards?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’m not putting a time line on it at all. We will resume international travel when it is safe to do so and when the medical experts advise accordingly. That’s what we’ve done the whole way through. There’s no textbook that you can pull down from the shelf, open it up and say, “Well, this is how we address this particular issue or that.” We followed the advice of Brendan Murphy, by Professor Paul Kelly all the way through. It has kept us in good stead. Yesterday, as I say, no locally acquired cases. We’ve worked with state public health authorities and officials, those wonderful first responders who have done a magnificent job right throughout the nation and we’ve kept Australia as COVID-free as we can. That’s why we are the envy of the world. That’s why tens of thousands of people got out to a sporting event on the weekend, went to their favourite restaurant, lived life as normally as they could be. Whereas overseas, tens of thousands of locally acquired cases, again, more deaths sadly, heartbreaking for so many families in other countries and we’re living life as normal as we can be and that’s because we followed that best possible medical advice.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Alan Joyce is working towards October, though. Is he going to need to change his plans?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I speak to Alan Joyce most weeks. Most weeks I speak to him and of course, he wants international travel as soon as possible but we’ll do that when it is safe to do so. Of course, we know that planes in the air means jobs on the ground and that is why we provided so much assistance to the aviation sector – hit first, hit hardest when coronavirus first came to our shores – but let me tell you that that has also supported many Qantas workers, that assistance we’ve provided, more than $3.2 billion and we’ll go on supporting those vital aviation networks right across the country and particularly to rural and remote Australia.

PETER STEFANOVIC

As we’ve already reported today, a plan is beginning – is already in place rather to return migration or try to return migration to pre-pandemic levels. When do you expect migrants to be allowed back in?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I sound like a broken record but when it’s safe to do so, because we have taken the best possible medical advice –

PETER STEFANOVIC

But it’s at zero at the moment. That is the problem here and that itself is key to our economic recovery.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I understand that. Peter, we’re 90,000 backpackers short of where we would normally be, so many farmers have had to plough their fruit and their harvest back into the ground. That is so, so sad. But we want to make sure that as soon as we can get migration happening again, we’ll do so, because migration has helped take some of those jobs that otherwise cannot be filled. The Regional Australia Institute has identified 66,000 jobs in regional Australia going at the moment that can’t be filled and we want to make sure that those positions are taken.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Well, why not build quarantine facilities and allow migrants to come back and enter quarantine through quarantine? That would speed things up, wouldn’t it?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Possibly but then again we’ve got to have the health services to be able to support those quarantine facilities. We’ve got to have the regional communities wanting to make sure that they also provide that support. I appreciate there was talk of one at Toowoomba and I know the Prime Minister spoke with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in regards to that and we’ll continue to have those discussions but also we’ll take the best possible medical advice, as we have done the whole way through.

PETER STEFANOVIC

Michael McCormack, appreciate your time in a busy week. Talk to you soon.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks, Peter.

ENDS 7:47AM

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