Transcript Sky News on WIN interview

PETER GLEESON

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

Michael, thanks for joining us tonight and we'll get to COVID-19 shortly but I wanted to talk to you first up about this report that was released today by Mick Keelty into the Murray River Darling Basin. He has referred to the amount of water flowing into the Murray River over the past 20 years. It's halved. That's the most telling finding but he's also mentioned that there was an absence of leadership, transparency and a single point of truth across the Murray Darling Basin Plan. Where do we go from here? What's happening with this report? Will it be adopted lock, stock and barrel?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, the Water Minister Keith Pitt’s already made it clear that we will be adopting all five recommendations and I appreciate that he clearly has put in a lot of work with a lot of irrigators and a lot of environmentalists and stakeholders right throughout the Murray Darling system. So what he's come up with is a report. One of quite a few just about to land on the table of Minister Pitt. He said that he agrees with all five recommendations. Look, I've read what he has put down and I like the recommendations. I particularly like the one about education and making sure that we let those people know who perhaps are going to be the future holders, the future custodians of the Murray Darling system, know exactly what needs to be done. Yes, I appreciate and I acknowledge that. What he said about leadership that no doubt rings true. And I've said all along with the Murray Darling system needed a triple bottom line approach social, environmental and certainly economic implications put over it. Unfortunately, that hasn't always occurred. I was only just on the phone to John Bonetti a rice grower from Griffith and normally he'd like to grow about nine and a half thousand tonnes of rice. Because of zero allocations, he's only been able to grow 1500 tonnes this season. He and many others like him want to grow the food not only for ourselves, but to export to the world, Peter.

PETER GLEESON

Michael, you must be incredibly buoyed by today's figures, particularly the bigger states. One new case in Victoria. Zero in Queensland and of course six in New South Wales. I mean, this term that we're using flattening the curve, very relevant today, but of course, a lot of viewers at home thinking okay, well, that's great. When are we going to start lifting some of these restrictions? And I know, you know, no politician has pulled the trigger on this question yet. But, I mean, surely its incumbent upon politicians to now think about the economic impact, as well as the health impact.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

I think the health impact has to come first and foremost and we will continue, as we've done all the way through, to take the advice of Professor Brendan Murphy. The Australian Health Protection Principle Committee, made up of the state Chief Medical officers have been right so far. I think their advice needs to be heeded more than ever now.

PETER GLEESON

Okay, Virgin, voluntary administration tomorrow, we know how important Virgin is to regional and rural Australia. In fact, former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie came out today and said look, if Virgin falls away, if we don't have a duopoly aviation system in this country, he fears for regional towns like Mackay and Cairns and the Gold Coast. You've made it very clear thus far the Commonwealth, that you won't be involved in any bailout of Virgin.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, the statement is yet to be issued by Virgin and we'll wait to see what they actually announce in the morning. But, certainly Peter Beattie is right when he says that we need a two airline sector. We've said that right they way through. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Finance Minister and myself have been certainly saying that and that's what we believe in. We want there to be competition in the marketplace. That's why we've put down $1.28 billion of assistance and support and Virgin has benefited from a lot of those measures and certainly waiving the fees whether it's fuel excise, Airservices Australia fees, whether it's those regional routes, as you mentioned, whether it's indeed last week's package of $165 million to support a domestic network. Virgin has been a beneficiary of all of those measures. And we'll wait to see what transpires tomorrow but if it is voluntary administration, as has been reported on the news bulletins tonight, then those employees of Virgin and I know they've got 10,000 and even more of them and I know there's a lot of indirect jobs through supplies and the like, they will still be able to use that JobKeeper that $130 billion announcement that we made in recent weeks that has so supported Australia through this COVID-19 pandemic.

PETER GLEESON

Now you’re a former newspaper editor and I know how important newspapers, particularly in regional and rural Australia are the backbone of the community. No one knows that better than you. Today's announcement by Frydenberg that, which the tech giants, Google and Facebook, will have to pay for content accessed by mainstream media, has been widely welcomed by many. How are you going to enforce this mandated system that the Treasurer spoke about?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, it's ground-breaking and well done to the Government, particularly Josh Frydenberg and the Minister, Paul Fletcher, for pursuing and making sure that this is going to happen and we've got various ways and means of making sure that it will happen. And let me tell you, if those tech giants want to participate in our market, then they need to do the right thing they need to do the right thing by those news providers. Those, as you mentioned, people who write for their communities, making sure that there's local stories about local people, for other local people and they should be able to be recompense the media outlets and organizations and their owners should be recompense for that hard work that they do for and on behalf of Australia. Those sorts of fees and profits should not be going overseas and we'll be making sure that that doesn't happen.

PETER GLEESON

Now, I noticed that in Malcolm Turnbull's book, you got away virtually unscathed. You're probably one of the few politicians in the country that did.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

I haven't read it Peter.

PETER GLEESON

Well, I haven't seen your name. I’ve read a little bit of it, but I haven't seen your name so I'm assuming you've got away reasonably unscathed. But certainly, George Christensen he had a crack at George, the Member for Dawson. But you've gone in and you've defended George and some of his trips to the Philippines, so take us through that.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, when I found out that George had been spending a bit more time overseas than perhaps some might think he ought to be, we had a little quiet chat. And George curtailed his visits to the Philippines after that, but George's wife, April comes from the Philippines and I understand, you know, love will draw a man further than dynamite will blow him and certainly, April and George, they’ve since got married and that's fantastic. I mean George has spent a lot of time in his electorate since I've become the leader. And let me tell you, it's showed too because the work that he does, moreover, the delivery he does for Mackay and his Central Queensland electorate has reaped benefits for the people who live there and they endorsed him with more than an 11% swing towards him at the May election last year. So the proof is in the pudding. The people in the North they love George and so they should, he delivers for and on behalf of the Queenslanders he represents, Peter.

PETER GLEESON

He certainly does and I was actually in that part of the world before the last election and I did a bit of a vox pop, a bit of a social experiment and asked a few of the locals about George, they love George, they couldn't give a rat's about how much time he spends in the Philippines. But that's another story. Now, I noticed…

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

He fights for the North and he says so in his slogan.

PETER GLEESON

He does, he does indeed. Now the Liberals are talking about banning, actually suspending, Turnbull as a result of this book. If he was in the National Party, would you give him the boot?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Look, The National Party, we're a broad church. There's a lot of people in the National Party. They’re free thinkers, they say what they mean and they mean what they say. I mean, that's a matter for the Liberal Party. You know, there's plenty of people willing and able to express their views in the National Party, we don’t come down on them like a ton of bricks.

PETER GLEESON

Before we go, Michael, this virus tracking app. I see Barnaby Joyce is not going to download it. We just had Pauline Hanson on the show, she certainly won't be downloading it. Will you be downloading the app?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

I will be and I'll be telling my wife and advising our children to do the same. Well, I won’t be telling my wife, she does what she wants to do but I'm sure she will. We had a discussion over the dinner table last night about it actually and we’ll be downloading it. Look, even if it means the difference between saving your life and someone else's I think you'd download the app. You know, it's a no brainer, really. And look at the end of the day, I'd much sooner download an app on my phone and help save my own life and perhaps another Australian then be two months down the track lying in an ICU bed or lying in a palliative care bed wondering why I didn't.

PETER GLEESON

It’s funny you should say that Michael, I spoke to my teenage daughters tonight about it and they said brilliant idea. We'll be downloading and I think the millennials will be on board pretty quickly. Thanks for joining us tonight, Michael McCormack. Really appreciate your time as always.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Anytime at all Peter.

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