Transcript - Interview on Sounds of the Mountains FM 96.3

DAVID EISENHAUER:

Mr Michael McCormack who has been in the region just recently, of course, with The Nationals’ candidate and Mr McCormack joins us on the line this morning. Deputy PM, thank you for your time today.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Any time at all, David.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

On a fairly foggy day, although it's not so much in Canberra this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

No, it's reasonably clear here in Canberra. But I was certainly there on Saturday at Tumut and it was quite a nice day, actually and it was a good day too, because we were announcing nearly $153,000 of funding for the Tumut Aerodrome there and it's a really good airport and used by recreational flying generally but certainly during the summer it became such a key part of the fight against the bushfires at Adelong and whilst Adelong was saved, certainly Tumbarumba and Batlow suffered the effects of the bushfire and are still rebuilding after those devastating, devastating blazes.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

Notice the council talking a budget, I think, there with about $12.5 million for a complete upgrade. This is, we can call this stage one?

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Indeed and council received what council asked for. Council asked for $152,984 to be precise and that is precisely what they received and I look forward to getting more applications. This was round one of this Regional Airports Program. There was $41.2 million of the $100 million expended in this first round. Applications will be open very, very shortly for the rest of the money and I look forward to receiving an application from Snowy Valleys Council for stage two because what stage one will do, it will extend aprons and provide a bitumen out to the Rural Fire Service there and I know Jon Gregory, the District Manager, was there on Saturday, on hand, very happy with what is being done in stage one and was proud to show me his shed and his quarters there. Got me up on the mezzanine level. It's a great view, actually, out over the airport. I'm not quite sure whether you've ever been down there, David, to have a look at that, but, you know, they've come a long way.

The Tumut Aerodrome has only been in its present location since the 1960s but it's a good little strip. About a kilometre long. About 18 metres or so wide. So you know, there are plans to widen the runway, to indeed lengthen the runway and to basically give it more of a refurb, more of a spruce up and look, in time that will certainly happen.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

And of course, it will enable, once we get some more dollars flowing through, the emergency services through bushfires planes were taking off half weight –

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

It's got a landing capacity of 5,700 kilograms. I'm all across the Tumut Aerodrome.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

I noticed that.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

I spent a lot of time reading about it and making sure that I was very updated on it because, look, it played such a pivotal role in enabling those bushfires with the Elvis and the other water bombers landing there. One of the things, too, is that they're actually going to put in fencing and not just for kangaroos but what they found was there are a lot of plane spotters who happen to be down there during the summer and unfortunately landing water bombers and people who are watching the proceedings, sometimes they get a bit too close and in this day and age where everybody loves to get that shot for their Instagram, sometimes when you've got emergency services needing to do what they do necessarily, the two don't mix very well. But the airport needs an upgrade, its getting stage one and onwards and upwards from here.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

Indeed, no, it's a good news story and of course, alongside you, as we've seen on the front page of the 'Tumut-Adelong Times', our wonderful local paper from the Wilkie Watson publications, of course –

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

It is a good little paper.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

It's a great paper. Look Michael, you know as well, you were editor of the Daily Advertiser for many years and the struggle that the local papers have had, particularly during COVID-19 to see our local papers like the 'Times' that Luke Watson's continuing on with front page stories like we see there. It is fantastic.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Yeah, Luke's a good guy and certainly I played a part in making sure that we did have the journalists kept in with JobKeeper but also the papers with that Regional Papers Publishers Program to enable them to get some money from the Government to keep going and to keep printing. You know, I know how important it is to have reporters on these stories and Emily was there on Saturday and you know, it was good to have that local contact with, you know, with the Tumut paper and good on them.

Of course, Trevor Hicks was there, our Nationals’ candidate, he was delighted to meet all the locals, reacquaint himself with all of them. So it was good and John Larter was there and of course James Hayes, the Mayor and his wife Karen. So it was a good little gathering on Saturday.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

Indeed, then, of course, we read the story there with Trevor growing up in Narooma and he's been fairly busy and he hasn't got a lot of time. What have we got there, 14 candidates coming up in this particular by-election. It's a big turnout this time.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

A Melbourne Cup field, in fact.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

It is.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

You expect that with a by-election because this is what happens and people, they want their day in the sun and you know, you get every little political party and many of the candidates don't even come from the area. That often happens in a by-election. At least our candidate, he's very much a local. He's very much ensconced in the community, has been for most of his life and he's around 54 years old. He understands the region, he's played footy there, he's been a civil engineer there, a farmer there, he's on council, he's on Queanbeyan-Palerang Council, been a former Deputy Mayor. So he understands the issues, whether it's Queanbeyan or indeed, whether it's in the Snowy Valleys. He will be getting out and about. I know he was at Adelong pub on Saturday night, which was good, so he met up with some locals there. So, yeah, we'll see how he goes and the by-election is not far away. July 4 is the date.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

Indeed it is.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

Pre-polling has already begun.

DAVID EISENHAUER:

I was going to say that started yesterday and of course in Tumut that's this Thursday and Friday, the first times for this side of the mountains. Mr McCormack, one thing that's coming out of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcement with infrastructure funding yesterday is the speeding up, can we call it that, of the Inland Rail project. This is a pretty exciting project.

MICHAEL McCORMACK:

It is and it's going to be able to get goods from Melbourne or Brisbane inland or vice versa, perhaps even more importantly vice versa because we need to get our wonderful produce, food and fibre, from our regional locations where it is either grown or, indeed, processed to port and then of course, to our markets within 24 hours. And this is the first – they've been talking about this project, well, since 1890, that's 130 years ago. We're actually getting on and building it.

So Inland Rail along with a number of other projects, including emergency town water projects in New South Wales, we're looking to fast track those through fast-tracking approvals, Commonwealth assessment and approval times for major projects, including Inland Rail and of course, we're building it section-by-section. What we want to do is make sure that we bring it forward from three and a half years to 21 months. And we're working with States.

If there's one thing that COVID-19 has taught us and I certainly had regular weekly, if not bi-weekly, sometimes daily catch ups with my State – sorry, with, well, State were there and indeed other Commonwealth Ministers but the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers from around the country met very, very regularly and it was they who said we need to cut through our planning and development times. The pressure's on Local Government to do the same because people want to see things getting done. They don't want to see them held up with bureaucracy, held up with red tape. We need to slash through that and just get on and build things. I've always recognised that. I've always done my best to make sure my Department knew that and since I've been the Minister in this regard and when I was Small Business Minister, red tape reduction was one of the big focuses of everything I did.

So we're moving into infrastructure now. The Prime Minister agrees, he made good announcements yesterday and we'll get on with that job.

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