Transcript - Interview on Tasmania Talks

9:18AM

ALLAN MILLER

We’re talking Budget and we’ve put the call through. Do we have Michael McCormack?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

You have me. Is this Allan?

ALLAN MILLER

It is, it is. You answer your own phone.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

My favourite radio presenter.

ALLAN MILLER

Isn’t that nice, isn’t that nice. You answer your own telephone. Don’t you have a swarm of people about you to do all your —

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, I don’t have a swarm of people. This is a one-man show here. You know, I do it all myself. I don’t have a security detail. I’ve got the best people in the business, but I only answer the phone when important people ring –

ALLAN MILLER

So who peels your grapes? Who peels your grapes?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

– my wife and that’s about it.

ALLAN MILLER

Does your wife peel your grapes?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

She just feeds them to me, one by one, while she has a palm frond. I hope this isn’t live, is it?

ALLAN MILLER

Well, I tell you what, we are here to talk about something serious, its Budget day. There must be an election coming up because everyone is saying that it’s going to be an absolute cash splash – that’s what they’re telling us. I don’t think the Prime Minister likes that term, but is that how it’s shaping up? Is there anyone in the world that’s not going to like this Budget?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It’s a responsible, fiscally-measured Budget.

ALLAN MILLER

That’s selling it. Give us some more. Make it more exciting.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, there is going to be $322.6 million for major new projects in Tasmania. How good is that? This Budget is going to support, just in Tassie, 1,000 direct and indirect jobs. How good is that?

ALLAN MILLER

What sectors are we talking? I’m guessing we’re talking aged care because everybody is talking about aged care. The waiting list is –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

There will be more money for aged care, absolutely there will be. There’ll be more money for women’s health, as well, as there needs to be. There’ll be more money for all sectors of life in Australia, as well there should be. So, no one will miss out. We don’t leave anybody behind in our Budget.

ALLAN MILLER

What about people in the travel industry? They seem to have been left behind just a little bit in the last little while. What’s in store for them?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We have provided a quarter of a billion dollars of assistance to travel agents. We continue to tweak what we’ve done with the aviation support package. There was a front-page story in the NT News and of course, they had their usual crocodile on the cover, but they also had the fact that accommodation is booked out. And I was in Cairns just a few weeks ago and indeed, ditto. Every motel, every restaurant – booked out. In fact, I couldn’t get in to one of the restaurants that we wanted to go to and you can’t even pull rank when you’d like to have a meal and sometimes you endure and go through a drive-through and that’s all well and good. You wait in the queue, you wait your turn and that’s the Australian way, no matter whether you’re the Prime Minister or not –

ALLAN MILLER

That’s how it works. That’s fair.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Or indeed Deputy Prime Minister. It’s great this Budget – if you go through the projects in Tassie, there’s so, so many jobs, there’s so many investments, the Huon Link Road, the Port of Burnie ship-loader upgrade.

ALLAN MILLER

Lots of roads but just quickly, going back to the airline one, some of the figures last week, they showed that of the 125,000 discounted flights sold to Tasmania, about two-thirds were to Hobart, 80,000 and a third to Launceston, 41,000 and Burnie and Devonport only got 4,000 airfares. Is there a way that you can even that out more so? Can you make them cheaper in one area than in another area?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, look, I’d like to think that some of those people who go to Hobart would then drive up the Midland and go to some of those places in the north, make sure that they take advantage of the wineries and the wonderful sites to see in Launceston, in Burnie, in Devonport, in all of those wonderful areas. Look, I go to Tassie regularly. I mean, my electorate of the Riverina, back before the redistribution in 2016 was, in fact, the same size as Tasmania, so I understand that it’s probably more accessible as a State than most of the jurisdictions, it being the smallest and you know, it’s nothing for me to jump in the car as I did yesterday and drive about 500 kilometres. I’m sure that the tourists of Tassie do the same. I went down to Tassie. One of the first holidays I ever went on with my wife was down to Tasmania and we drove around the Apple Isle. It was beautiful. We still talk about it and we’ve been back there since and I urge and encourage Australians to do the same, mainlanders, to do the same.

ALLAN MILLER

Would it be worth maybe making it a little bit cheaper to go to Burnie or Devonport airport?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, look, we’ve tweaked what we’ve done all the way through as far as our assistance measures. So, if travel agents or if the airlines or indeed tourist organisations come back and suggest that, then maybe that’s something that we can look at, but for the here and now we’ve provided the assistance. It’s working well and we’ll look at how it’s affecting different markets in different ways.

ALLAN MILLER

Bring your car for free – the promotion on the Spirit, which was so successful it sold out. Is that going to continue?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Again, let’s see. We’ve provided so much assistance, I’ve lost count of the about $253 billion of assistance that we’ve provided through freight, through JobKeeper, through aviation assistance, JobSeeker, JobMaker, HomeBuilder. You look at the measures that we’ve put in place and this Budget will do just the same. It is about securing Australia’s recovery. That’s what the Budget is about – 7.30 tomorrow night. It’s a good Budget for Tasmania. It’s a good Budget for all of those communities throughout the Apple Isle and I encourage and urge Australians, mainlanders, to actually get on a plane, take advantage of one of those half-price tickets and go and see what Tasmania has to offer.

ALLAN MILLER

Now, can we somehow support tourism – you said a while ago in regards to tourism that the travel agents have had payouts and all sorts of things. Why do we hear – where’s the money stopping? Because we hear of people who worked previously as travel agents being laid off, having to pick fruit – which is probably fine, I suppose, if you like picking fruit, but if you’re a travel agent you don’t want to be picking fruit because you’ve got no money to live on. What’s happened there?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Not necessarily –

ALLAN MILLER

Is it the travel agents and not giving it to the staff or is it some other problem somewhere?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, travel agents work hard for and on behalf of, those people who want to go and have a tourist experience. They do and I appreciate that certainly they are reliant on a strong and viable aviation sector and the aviation industry was hit first and hit hardest by the state lockdowns, hit first and hit hardest by the international borders closing. It’s been very devastating for those many tens of thousands of workers across, of course, all sectors but indeed especially aviation. Now –

ALLAN MILLER

It would have been so easy, though, to keep the JobKeeper going a bit longer for some industries, like travel agents?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, indeed we’ve taken the practical and sensible and responsible way. There are 66,000 jobs going at the moment in regional Australia in all sorts of sectors. So, for those people who are looking for work, I urge and encourage them to look at one of those jobs. Look, sometimes you need –

ALLAN MILLER

So we’re just washing our hands of the tourist industry? We’re just saying, “Look, you’re a travel agent. Sorry. There’s nothing for you to do. You’ll have to do something else.” It seems a bit mean.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We have given a quarter of a billion dollars of support to the travel agent sector. That’s how much support and we continue to give that aviation –

ALLAN MILLER

So why are people picking fruit?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we need Australians to pick fruit. My goodness, we’re 90,000 backpackers short at the moment.

ALLAN MILLER

But we shouldn’t starve them into it, though. They should be making a choice to pick fruit, not being starved into doing it.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

There are jobs in law firms, accountancy practices, there are jobs in all sectors, education, health. If you want a job in Australia at the moment, there is a job there waiting for you. Now, Allan, it may not be your forever job, but we all know, the figures show, the anecdotal evidence is there, that you’ll probably have seven different jobs in your working career. They may be in different sectors of the economy. You know, it makes you a better person. It’s character building. I’ve had a few different iterations in my career.

ALLAN MILLER

Yes, it’s a good thing to do.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

You can’t always have the job that you want, can you?

ALLAN MILLER

But if you’re forced out of a job because there’s no industry anymore, when the industry returns, there’s no one to do the job anymore. There’s no one qualified to do it because they’ve all gone off to find something else to do.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’m more confident in our travel sector and indeed at the moment more Australians are taking a holiday in Australia than ever before and so they should. Get out and see the Great Ocean Road, Uluru –

ALLAN MILLER

Unless you’re left behind and you’re having to pick fruit to feed your family.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

– Tasmania, get down to that wonderful museum.

ALLAN MILLER

Unless you’re left behind and you’ve got to pick fruit to feed your family, you’re probably not having a holiday at that rate.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

There’s more jobs than just picking fruit. There are jobs in every sector of every economic endeavour in this country right now and including in Tasmania.

ALLAN MILLER

Alright, we will wait for the Budget. Michael McCormack, I hope you enjoy your grapes this morning. How many more interviews have you got? Have you got a bunch more to go?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

About half a dozen more. I’ve done half a dozen already but yours was the most entertaining, Allan.

ALLAN MILLER

I don’t know if that’s good or bad! Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister, thank you very much. You have an exciting day.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We’ll talk soon.

ENDS 9:28AM

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