Transcript - Interview on the Today Show

KARL STEFANOVIC

Let's bring in Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in Canberra. Good morning to you, thank you for your time.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning, Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC

You said you don't have 10 minutes to meet with women's March 4 Justice protesters. Why not?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we will see how we go. I have a full book of appointments and I have had for some weeks. Parliament is a very busy time and sitting weeks are particularly so. I've had these appointments – people coming from all over Australia to see me – my day is usually in 15-minute increments. We will see how we go, it's an important march. These are important issues and I appreciate the cause and I appreciate very much the concern of those who obviously, are upset about workplaces, not just here but right across the country and we need to do better. We need to show more respect and that's why the Prime Minister has tasked Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins with a review into these matters and certainly a review into Commonwealth Parliamentary offices.

KARL STEFANOVIC

It makes me pine for the days of John Howard when he went out and addressed protesters with a flak jacket on and you guys can't even walk five minutes outside to talk with women who have marched on the Capital.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I have certainly been to protests, I have certainly been to those sorts of meetings. The Menindee fish situation, the PFAS situation in Williamtown, angry irrigators, I have been certainly fronted up always but I have got a full book of appointments and I was always told that if you make an appointment, you should keep it. So look, I’ll see how I go, I am not saying that I won’t go, I’ll just have to see how my day pans out.

KARL STEFANOVIC

I think it would be good and there's nothing more angry than angry irrigators.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Now, Singapore – let’s talk about the travel bubbles – Singapore and also Fiji, are they likely to happen and what is the timetable like?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, Singapore, we are looking at potentially July but I don't want to put any real dates on it because they're only in early discussions but productive talks. We need to get the students back into our country, our universities are crying out for students and many returning Australians need every option on the table. Fiji, well, as we roll out the vaccine and we will do it free – as a good neighbour would – to our South Pacific island friends and we will see how that situation –

KARL STEFANOVIC

That's unlikely though, isn’t it – Fiji?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We will play it by ear, it's a situation where we need of course, those workers and they like coming here too, of course, for the work that that do, the great work that they do, particularly in agriculture and the regions.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Okay, New Zealand?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

We have a travel bubble there at the moment, but it's just a one-way travel bubble so that's up to Jacinda Ardern to see what she thinks of that situation. We will continue to work with the New Zealand Government, as we do, great friends of ours.

KARL STEFANOVIC

More cities have been added to the half-priced flight program. Why weren't they there in the first place?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

As I said at the very outset, it was an initial roll-out. We had 13 destinations, we added Townsville, Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart after looking at figures and after looking at how they've also been hard hit by a lack of international travellers and certainly with Adelaide, we had Kangaroo Island on the list but most international travellers who go to that wonderful island to look at all the great things there, go through Adelaide so that just made good sense to put it in that situation. Townsville has been very hard hit with COVID and with the lockdown forced upon it by the far away Brisbane capital and the government there who have made decisions which have been very difficult for North Queensland when they haven't had too many coronavirus cases at all.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Even your own man – your main man – Barnaby Joyce, said a couple of minutes ago the scheme wasn't designed right. This is your scheme and even your own people aren’t happy.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it's designed to make sure that we get people to destinations which would otherwise at this stage, Karl, be awash with international tourists. For some of the areas that have been criticised by some people because they don't and aren't in the actual initial phase, they're not usually awash with international tourists. So we can't include every single destination on the list. This was designed for those areas hardest hit by the lack of international tourists but we will look at it. It is a great scheme and I’ll tell you what, whilst there might be a few people critical of it, the traffic through the website of Qantas and Virgin over the weekend and before that, was very good and many people are delighted with the program.

KARL STEFANOVIC

Okay and just finally, the Federal Government has sunk to one of its worse approval ratings. Why are you getting it so wrong?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I wouldn't say sunk to its lowest level of approval ratings, I think you might be referring to NSW Labor there and the leaked figures today but look, Newspolls are one thing, as we proved at the last election. It's not necessarily the Newspoll that you need to worry about, it is the Election Day poll. We are focusing on making sure that we get the vaccine rolled out. We’re focusing on making sure that we get the economy back to some sort of pre-COVID normality. We’re making sure that we get those 100,000 jobs out in the $110 billion of infrastructure that we’ve got, out and we are building a better Australia.

KARL STEFANOVIC

As Malcolm Turnbull once said, the polls don't really mean anything until you want to roll a leader. Thank you for your time, Deputy Prime Minister.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks, Karl.

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