Transcript - Interview on Sky News

7.12PM

PETER GLEESON

Well, it's become very clear that the Government is sparing no expense to try to kick-start the economy and the regions will be benefactors of a large windfall of funds. There's a clear emphasis on regional infrastructure with roads projects getting the tick of approval, as well as a big spend on water projects.

Joining me now to discuss what the budget means for our regions is Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack. Deputy PM, thanks for joining us tonight. Take us through exactly what this means for the bush and country Australia.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's quite simple, Peter, it means jobs, jobs and more jobs for the regions. Jobs, jobs and more jobs for the economy. The regions have done very well through COVID-19 helping lead the way as we try to get out of this virus recession. Indeed, agriculture has grown by a billion dollars despite the drought and despite the bushfires and of course, despite the virus. The resources sector grew in the July quarter. So, what we've seen is regional Australia still defy the odds as they always have. They're very resilient, there's 45,600 jobs identified by the Regional Australia Institute in the regions right now. That's why I've been out there spruiking the benefits of the country lifestyle, spruiking the benefits for people to take those jobs in the regions because they should, under their mutual obligations, if they're sitting idle in a metropolitan city and they've got the ability and the means to get to one of those regions, make sure they do so.

The budget, of course, backed in the regions. The budget backed in farmers, it backed in regional jobs, so much money for roads. And I know that that money, a billion dollars for roads under the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, $2 billion for the Safer Roads Initiatives. I mean, these are big funding measures by which local councils are going to provide better roads through local procurement and it's going to mean so much benefit for the regions as people get to where they need to be sooner and safer to lead us out of the COVID recession.

PETER GLEESON

What about water infrastructure? What about dams?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Two billion dollars, Peter. Fantastic. Whether it's the Emu Swamp Dam with work to begin soon, whether it's the Scottsdale Dam, which is just about to come into full commission down in Tasmania, I want to build dams. I said it in my maiden speech 10 years ago, I committed myself and dedicated myself to that task of doing just that. Now, I'm in a position to be able to do just that. I've set up an eight-person panel, the National Water Grid Advisory Panel headed by Chris Lynch, there's some really good people on that panel from the CSIRO, right through to Murray Irrigation Area farmer, Elizabeth Stott. A young person who knows the benefit of growing agriculture, you can't grow agriculture without adding water. That's why we're doing it. $2 billion on top of the $1.5 billion that we've already got. So that's a massive commitment to build water infrastructure. We're going to take on board the very best advice. We're going to use that advice, work with states and build more dams. We're going to get those pipelines and the weirs in place for regional Australia to grow agriculture for that $100 billion 2030 plan.

PETER GLEESON

What did you make of Anthony Albanese, the Opposition Leader, today basically saying that we're in this recession because of Prime Minister Scott Morrison? The last time I looked, we were in this recession because it was a pandemic?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's a global pandemic gets a global downturn. This is just ridiculous. I mean, he's not alone, he's got the Member for Rankin, Jim Chalmers, who I think authored those terrible, awful budget speeches delivered by the former Member for Lilley, Wayne Swan, where he stood at the dispatch box and announced, “the four budget surpluses, I announce tonight.” I mean, these people are delusional. This recession has not been brought about by an individual. It's been brought about by a global pandemic and we're working our way through it and we'll do that. And we'll do that taking on board the best health medical advice, we'll do that by backing business.

That announcement last night by Josh Frydenberg, so that companies, so that businesses with under a $5 billion turnover and that's most of them, can write off any capital investment they make. I mean, that is going to be a game changer for business and we know and I know that certainly having run a small business for eight years, your biggest capital investment is your human capital. Businesses, they plough the money that they make back into their business to grow it. You only grow businesses by making money. We want more businesses to be more profitable.

PETER GLEESON

Michael, I've actually lost your audio but I am going to ask you about today's third case in New South Wales, the third coronavirus case and the clock basically restarting in Queensland on New South Welshmen coming to Queensland because of coronavirus. Are you disappointed that the borders will continue to remain closed?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Disappointed. Flabbergasted. Outraged. I mean, this is just ridiculous. I spoke to Cairns radio today and before I came on the show he was talking to businesses and he's out there – John MacKenzie –  talking to people for whom these closures – not getting the southern staters up to beautiful Far Tropical North Queensland is just ridiculous. If Annastacia Palaszczuk is committed to building a better Queensland, well she's not doing it by locking out New South Wales visitors. I mean, this is a nonsense. We're in the middle of a global pandemic and she wants there to be no cases forever in a day. I mean, an absolute outrage. An absolute outrage for those businesses on the Gold Coast, let alone up in Central Queensland and North Queensland who rely so heavily on tourism. And we've put hundreds of millions of dollars into tourism and regional infrastructure projects and programs but what good is this going to be if you've got an obstinate Premier who won't allow people into a state.

PETER GLEESON

Alright, Michael McCormack, thanks for that.

I didn't hear that last answer, but I really appreciate your time.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It was a good one, Peter, you can ask me tomorrow.

PETER GLEESON

Now I've got you back! I've actually got you back!

Michael McCormack, I've got you back. I think we've just about covered everything off so, I'm going to farewell you and thank you very much for your time tonight.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

All right, all the best, talk soon.

PETER GLEESON

All the best mate, thank you.

ENDS 7.19PM.

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