Transcript Radio Interview 2PK ROK FM Parkes

John Daskey: 1404 2PK, special guest joining me in the studio on the program this afternoon, the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, g’day.

Michael McCormack: G’day John.

John Daskey: Great to have you along with us for a bit of chat on the program today. Now, I guess the topic of conversation at the moment would certainly be the drought and I understand as- you were earlier on today had a bit of a chat on [inaudible], ABC National and you put a bit of a cat amongst the pigeons, mate?

Michael McCormack: Oh, it just annoys me when you get people like Adam Bandt, the only Green member of the House of Representatives who come out and start playing the blame game when we’ve got fires ravaging the countryside. And when people have lost their homes- indeed, some family members have lost loved ones, for him to come out and then start blaming and saying that the Prime Minister or the Government is somehow responsible partly for these deaths and for this tragedy because we haven’t acted on climate change, I just think the timing is so totally inappropriate. It shows callous indifference to what’s actually happened. And the fact is we have been very responsible with our climate measures. But the fact is we’ve got people now volunteering and full-time firefighters trying to put out these blazes and the last thing they want to hear is from some bloke living in a far-off capital city telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. And the fact is I don’t often see these Greens actually getting out and actually helping put out the fires. They just want to comment from way away and make, you know, terrible comments at that.

John Daskey: Are your colleagues doing everything they possibly can to assist and I’m- you know, I mean, with the current fire situation? I mean, in the areas that you can?

Michael McCormack: Oh, absolutely indeed, and you know, and I was there yesterday with Llew O'Brien, Ted O'Brien,Andrew Wallace, Deb Frecklington, the LNP Opposition Leader in Queensland, yesterday. I went to see the Queensland fires, appreciating the fact that the fires in Port Macquarie, Kempsey, up in theNew England are terrible but I didn't want to get in the way there. I know the Prime Minister wentthere, the Premier went there. That was important, that they were there and certainly getting appraised of the situation, but I went to Queensland because it's important as Deputy Prime Minister that, you know, you turn up, you see what the situation is and then render any assistance available. Now obviously when states call upon the Government, the Federal Government, for that Commonwealth assistance then there's $1000 and- for each adult, $400 for each child who have lost- have had a- lost a home, had it severely damaged or been injured or that sort of thing and of course there are other payments available for people who are going to lose income as a result of a fire. So that assistance will be made available, the defence will be made available. We just need the states to call upon for that assistance- to that assistance request and the Commonwealth always stands ready to do what it needs to do in these difficult times.

John Daskey: Now, if the current fire situation wasn't enough, we've got this this drought that just won't let up

Michael?

Michael McCormack: It won't, and that's why we last week announced the latest raft of measures and they include, but not limited to, a dedicated drought round of the Building Better Regions Fund, so $200 million will be available and Parkes Shire will be one of those able to again apply for that, bearing in mind that other regional communities that are not in drought will not be taking part in this round. It's only for those areas which are drought affected. And so for those 128 councils as well there’s another $1 million top-up, so Parkes Shire and Forbes as well will receive another $1 million to spend around the town on whatever they choose to do, so that we keep money generating around shops, we keep employment in the town. There's also a to- up of their Roads to Recovery funding, so to seal an unsealed road perhaps, to maintain the roads we've already got in and around Parkes. I know Ken Keith was delighted with these measures. We're also providing assistance for drought affected businesses that are ag-related, that rely on agriculture, rely on agriculture production to avail themselves of loans up to $0.5 million, interest-free for two years. Now, we’re not saying to people don’t get in over your heads, don't take on a debt that you can't service, but what we are saying is that that will be available. Farmers already know there's loans up to $2 million through the Regional Investment Corporation, that's located at Orange. But the fact is, what we're urging and encouraging those shops, those stores, those businesses, those farmers, talk with your rural financial counsellor, talk with your bank, talk with your loved ones and see if you want to take on those loans, and feel that's what you need to do to get through this drought. And then of course if we're still in drought two years from now, well we'll re-examine the interest-free period and perhaps extend it. But we don't want people to get in over their heads, but what we want to do is provide cash for those farmers looking to just- and businesses looking to get through this dire situation.

John Daskey: Well, certainly is dire and certainly something that won't go away in a hurry unfortunately. But look, on a less- a light-hearted, a more light-hearted note if we can to be- or not so serious for a moment or two, the last time you and I caught up was down at Pioneer Oval when you famously – and we used it as a news grab all week – said get stuck into the froggies down at the …

Michael McCormack: [Laughs] Well, I'll tell you what, they did get stuck into the froggies. My goodness, the end of that game there were three Western Division players put in the bin. Know what they feel like, I've been sent out of Parliament once or twice.

[Laughter]

There was a couple of Frenchmen, and one even got his marching orders for the rest of the game, so I think that both teams found themselves rather short at the end. But what a great contest.

John Daskey: I think they were listening to your halftime interview with Geoff Mann and I think that was inspiration enough to, you know, the boys to bring it on.

Michael McCormack: But you know what I really liked? At the end of the game, we were getting a photo with the winning team and I asked the Western Division boys to get in and they said oh, we’ll get on the outside. I said oh no, immerse yourselves amongst the French. And you know, and there was a Frenchman, then a local, and a Frenchman, then a local, and you know they all got on. They all went into each other's sheds, they all had a beer afterwards, and apart from the French five-eight who came up to me and he said, are you the Deputy Prime Minister? He said I really wanted to knock the head off the bloke who tried to elbow me in the face. I say that's okay. It's all good. The game's over, it’s full time. Move on. And anyway, we had a bit of a laugh and he had a bit of skin off of the bridge of his nose. But look, it was fine, and it just goes- went to show how good local rugby league is. I mean, a goal right there after the siren would have drawn the game. Could have potentially won the game had there been a few things go our way during the course of the match. And, you know, it was a great contest, and it really did show the quality of rugby league in the Western Division. And the fact is, what a great exhibition. And what a great showcase for local rugby league, but to have an international team play here at Parkes.

John Daskey: Yes, it certainly was, no doubt about that. Now, you’ve got a busy schedule, I understand, whilst you're in town. I’m being advised that you're just about to go to one of the public schools in …

Michael McCormack: [Talks over] I have to leave the studio and go to Parkes East Public and been invited there by a little boy, but I'm talking to the Year Two and Three kids, so that'll be fantastic. Went to the …

John Daskey: Hey, that will be like being in Parliament.

Michael McCormack: [Laughter] They’ll probably be a bit more mature than we are sometimes. But no, look, it's probably one of the favourite parts of the job is going to school kids. And anybody who ever despairs about kids these days hasn't probably been to a school for a long time because, gee, the kids, they're all knowing. They actually understand government, they're interested and they’re genuinely excited about the future. And you know, drought notwithstanding, and I know it’s tough and their families are probably doing it really hard around here. But kids are delightful, they always are. And of course this morning I went to the Remembrance Day service, you know, where everyone stood and remembered those who gave their lives, the service and sacrifice of so many which enables us to have the freedoms we enjoy today.

John Daskey: Absolutely. And of course, we're ever so thankful for what they did back then. Michael, thank you very much for coming.

Michael McCormack: Always a pleasure.

John Daskey: And having a chat with us on the program today. We’d best let you go. You don't want to keep the young fellas- the boys and girls waiting down at the Parkes School there. Thank you for popping in with us.

Michael McCormack: Any time at all.

John Daskey: On the program today, that’s the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Michael McCormack, joining us here on 2PK.