Transcript - Interview with Murray Jones - 4AC Cairns

MURRAY JONES

Look, as we have heard just in the last 24 hours or so it’s been a fairly significant package that’s come through with respect to the Federal Government and their announcement of about 800,000 half price air fares to regional areas. And as we know from the visit just in the last few days from Josh Frydenberg, he was possibly a little bit cagey with respect to JobKeeper, which was certainly something that a lot of people in the tropical north were very, very keen to get that continued. I guess at the end of the day it’s possibly been just a little bit too successful and I think that is one of the reasons why things have, I guess, we’ve had so much support for it and I guess that concern for business owners to keep that continuing.

Now, look, I’m taking this on the fly, but I believe the Deputy Prime Minister has just called in. Michael McCormack, good morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning, Murray.

MURRAY JONES

Thank you for your time. I know you’ve been a busy lad this morning and obviously running a bit late. But you know what happened, is that Catherine King, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Regional Development called in, so I’ve had a chat to her.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

She would have been welcoming our aviation pack only, I’m sure. She would have been saying what a great job the Morrison-McCormack Government is doing for tourism, getting on the front foot and making sure that we keep those jobs in your area. I’m sure that’s what she would have said.

MURRAY JONES

You’re very optimistic, let’s just say that. But, at the end of the day – and I guess we got this suggestion from what I said a few minutes ago about Josh Frydenberg coming to town – I guess targeted and tailored packages was what the Government was looking at. And credit where credit’s due – I guess what’s been announced is very much the case for the tourism industry.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed. And look, we worked closely with tourism operators, with the airlines and we know how hard hit Townsville, Cairns, tropical North Queensland, Whitsundays, Mackay region has been. Indeed, even the Gold Coast. And that’s why they are very much part and parcel of this initial scheme. And when I say initial, we’ve got 13 destinations, 13 regions. We’ll look at those. We’ll revisit those if need be. And what we want to see is planes back in the air. And it’s not just for the airlines; it’s for tourism operators, it’s for the travel agents. I mean, we’ve put another $132 million on top of the $128 million we’d already provided for them. But it’s also the airports and it’s also for those holidaymakers. Because, Murray, I don’t know whether you know this, but for every dollar spent on an airline ticket to a holiday destination the visitor spends $10 in the destination. So, you know, they’re big numbers.

MURRAY JONES

Sure and I think that flow-on effect certainly can’t be denied as well. I guess moving forward it’s about certainty. And I think this is definitely a good start and I guess the Government will need to, you know, maybe change and tailor that particular package as time goes on.

Let’s just go a little bit to the loan guarantee. Obviously, that’s something that’s going to support tourism operators as well, but that certainty, you know, there’s going to be a lot of tourism operators that are uncertain about getting further into the debt until they get that long-term certainty.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Look, indeed. And like any one of these tailored sort of packages, I mean, you don’t have to go with it if you don’t want to. If you think you’re going along all right or if you’ve got other means to do so, it’s just another arrow in the quiver. It’s just another opportunity for businesses to help those small and medium enterprises. We know how hard hit they’ve been. We know they’re coming off JobKeeper. But there’s also a lot of small businesses which are doing okay, and we want to – for them to be even better.

So we’re expanding and we’re extending that SME loan guarantee scheme. It’s part of the commitment to support up to $40 billion in lending to small and medium enterprises. And look, you know I’ve run a small business. I ran one for eight years. I know it’s tough. But I know there was also great opportunities when you are, you know, looking after your own destiny and employing – there’s great sense of feeling when you’re employing people, when you’re growing. And those small businesses, they’re paying the lowest tax rate they’ve paid for around 80 years. So, we’re getting on with the job of making sure that they pay less tax. We’re incentivising them to put on apprentices. We’re giving them the opportunity to open their doors and to make sure that they get out of this COVID recession as best they can. We’re backing them all the way.

MURRAY JONES

Now, look, at the end of the day, as the Government has made right decisions with respect to international borders, something that’s come out in the last 24 hours or so is that it’s possibly a bit of a swipe on Annastacia Palaszczuk here in Queensland who, at the end of the day, love her or hate her, has actually garnered a lot of support here in Queensland by keeping us safe from COVID-19. Obviously with respect to this package of the half price air fares to regional areas and 800,000 of people in total, is there a bit of a political edge with respect to keeping the borders open here in Queensland, though?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, the Prime Minister was most clear this morning in the press conference at Sydney Airport to say he’s not playing politics with this. We’re not. Not at all. And we haven’t played the politics all the way through. Yes, we haven’t liked the fact that Premiers have made snap decisions to close borders. That’s been very hard on business. It’s been very hard particularly on those border regions. And I live near a border region. I live near the New South Wales-Victorian border and I know how hard it’s been for those businesses, particularly when they’ve been on the wrong side of the border, if you like, and the other state has actually closed its borders and indeed, they do a lot of work on the other side of the border. It’s been so tough. And for some of those regional areas which, you know, identify with the state capital in a state which is not the one in which they actually reside that’s also been very tough. I know I’ve – you know, any number of my colleagues are in that position.

MURRAY JONES

Sure.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

But we want those borders to stay open. We don’t want Premiers to make knee-jerk reactions. And as the vaccine rolls outs and as JobKeeper comes off I think the onus will be on those state Premiers to keep those borders as much as they can. I think, I hope, I know we’re potentially out of the worst of it. I’m using a lot of words there Murray, but, you know, I’m confident the vaccine and the take-up rate of it will be something that will change the way we’ve lived over the past 12 months, get us back to some sort of pre-COVID normality. Very hopeful of that. The signs are good in places where they’ve rolled out the vaccine elsewhere in the world.

MURRAY JONES

Sure.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I know we’ve – we’re through phase 1A or getting through it right now, and we’re making sure that those frontline medical personnel and hospital workers and aged care residents and their carers have the first jab. And of course, as phase 1B comes in and other people get it, it rolls out, hopefully we’ll get that what’s called herd immunity. And by September-October hopefully most Australians will have had the jab.

MURRAY JONES

And we’re pretty lucky. You read the news this morning, Joe Biden’s $2.5 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, which is just an eye-watering figure. Thankfully we haven’t been faced with that. But it has been interesting just I must comment on the last couple of days and just privately between you and I with quite –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And all your listeners.

MURRAY JONES

No, no –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

With your tens of thousands of listeners.

MURRAY JONES

No, no, I’m not talking about that. Because what I want to say to you is because we’ve had a flurry – my phone, it was going all night last night about talking to people like Catherine King who we had on a few minutes ago as well. There’s certainly been a flurry of activity. Just between you and I, do you think that there might be a bit of an air of a Federal Election maybe not too far away?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

The Prime Minister has been quite clear in saying he wants to run full term. And I would like to see that happen too. And I think Australians, they want us to continue to provide this stability and surety that we have. We’ve been a good Government. And yes, you mentioned an eye-watering figure by America, but when you look at what we’ve done also, and we went out very hard, very early with our stimulus measures, we’ve made sure that our health outcomes were what they needed to be – envy of the world. We’ve also made sure that the economy has been, quite frankly, one of the leaders in the world, certainly in Western democracies. And we haven’t had people dying at the rate of two per minute. We haven’t like some countries, including the US, been digging these graves in, you know, on Manhattan Island and elsewhere in New York and places where you just wouldn’t think that they would be building urgency and emergency cemeteries. I mean, we’ve done very, very well and it’s because of the policies of this Liberal-Nationals Federal Government.

MURRAY JONES

Certainly, lots of optimism and I recognise that, and I appreciate that as well. He’s the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, thank you so much for your time this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And I have to have a shout-out, too – thank you to all of your listeners for doing what they needed to do to keep their communities safe. That’s been a big plus too. Thank you, Murray. All the very best.

MURRAY JONES

We’ll talk soon. Cheers.

Media contacts:

Dean Shachar - 0418 202 860

Caitlin Donaldson - 0428 389 880