Transcript - Sounds of the Mountains Radio Interview

DAVID EISENHAUER

We continue with our local voices and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack joins us on the line this morning. Michael, very good morning to you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning, David.

DAVID EISENHAUER

On a very foggy morning in some parts of the region.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It is in Wagga Wagga as well.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Is it? Yes, you've got the river. Once we've got a river, we always have fog. But it turns into a beautiful day.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It always does.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Yes, now it’s been a couple of weeks since we spoke. Last time we were talking we had the by-election underway. Wasn't that a busy time around the region, Michael? So much on around the district. But times have changed since then and rapidly, day to day, things are completely different around the region and we're going to talk about the COVID restrictions and so forth but, as the Deputy PM, you must have been very proud to arrive into Gundagai the other day. We spoke with Abb McAlister yesterday and Abb was talking about the almost $1 million heading into town.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yes, well, there's $985,000 as part of the additional money that they're receiving. Every council is getting a similar sort of amount under our Local Roads and Community Infrastructure boost for COVID, as a stimulus to the economy so they can spend it on local roads, they can spend it on basically whatever they like, so long as it's within the confines of what they need to be able to do for local jobs and local procurement as much as possible. Because what we want to see is people getting that work and of course, they've already received that drought money both Cootamundra and Gundagai, they're a combined regional council of course. So, they're spending about half a million dollars each on Parker Street in Cootamundra and Sheridan Street in Gundagai. For Gundagai, that means that they can finish off the work they'd already done on the end of the street where they've got that magnificent Yarri statue and it's a great statue. And I tell you what, it's getting people on the Hume Highway to actually have a look at it – that Aboriginal warrior who saved so many, many lives in those floods in the 19th century. But the top end of the main street, where that magnificent war memorial is, well, that's being upgraded and it's going to make it more accessible, more appealing for businesses and shoppers alike. It'll be great.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Look, the work that's been done. The design work there and with the LED lighting in those handrails and the plaques on the walls, visitors come through and read those, Michael, it really is a special spot. It's one of those main street upgrades that are great. Cootamundra's looking forward to theirs as well. There's a lot happening in Gundagai. We talked to Abb yesterday for a good half-hour or so. It's a busy town, Gundagai –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Their sewerage system is actually getting completed too. That mightn't sound all that palatable around breakfast time but let me tell you, it's so important and it's so important for their town and there is a lot happening. You've got to drive to the treatment works there, around the back of ANZAC Oval. Of course, as many rugby league teams know, ANZAC Oval is a bit of a graveyard for visiting sides, but it looks great too. They've got the yellow-and-black sheds and all the fencing. They've really done it up well too. Of course, it's got an avenue of honour too, to their war veterans and those who, unfortunately, didn't come back. You know, it really is a pretty town and well worth a visit.

DAVID EISENHAUER

It sure is. One thing we've noticed is and last time we spoke, we talked about the border closures in and around the region and restrictions that we are seeing. I mean, just listening to Batlow Town News there, we're hearing more and more of these local, not-for-profit community groups kick-start again and get things happening in various forms. Our local business is starting to pick up again. And that's good news.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It is and that's why we've extended JobKeeper, that's why we've made measures along the way of assistance to help people stay engaged with the companies that they work for, to help those businesses to try as best as possible to keep their doors open. We've already rolled out somewhere in the order of about $300 billion worth of assistance but, you know, we will get through this. But we will get through it in regional Australia because we're a very resilient bunch. And these regional communities have a way, whether it's drought, whether it's bushfires, whether it's COVID-19. Yes, they need the Government assistance and yes, that Government assistance is being provided. But, by the same token, they seem to band together these communities and they get through thick or thin, no matter what the case might be and they come out stronger the other side. But it'll take a while. What's happening in Victoria is quite alarming at the moment. But then, 276 cases yesterday and you compare that to what's happening overseas and we're still tracking very well as far as the virus is concerned. But, of course, we still need to be our best selves and do all the right things, download the COVIDSafe app, practice those social-distancing measures, I know it's tough in country communities but we just have to do it.

DAVID EISENHAUER

In amongst that and we talk regularly about this, is the bushfire recovery and that continues. We catch up with the Bushfire Recovery Officer with Snowy Valleys and of course, they're working as best they can across the border, because the fire doesn't know – like the radio signal – it doesn't know boundaries and border closures and the fire didn't either, Michael. That recovery is a process that's seeing some of these fantastic demountable houses come through, these pods arrive and that's a good-news story that we're talking about. The Rotary Club and of course, Jo Murrell in Batlow, these are a great asset, temporary asset.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Everybody's pitching in and it's wonderful to see. You know, the bushfire recovery efforts go on. I know the National Bushfire Recovery Agency is certainly addressing the issues that get raised in individual communities. And of course, it's not just the Snowy Mountains, it's the Gippsland area, its Kangaroo Island, so many areas were affected by those dreadful bushfires. And of course, drought still affecting some communities, even though last weekend it was beautiful to see the drenching, that steady, soaking rain that we received. Of course, with COVID, well, everybody's got a little bit of increased anxiety about that. But again, as I say, we'll get through it. We'll get through it because we're Aussies and we band together in these tough times.

DAVID EISENHAUER

We sure do. And as you mentioned, it's terrific to see extra things happening in our town news, our smaller communities, our community groups and not-for-profit organisations –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

How good are they? How good are they? The heartbeat of the community.

DAVID EISENHAUER

And they didn't disappear. During COVID, when we had the first shutdown, they just stuck to their guns and they waited till we saw a few of the restrictions ease, particularly in the regional areas and our sporting groups, look at our kids heading back onto the sporting fields. Michael, that's something you're very passionate about, sporting in country areas.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I did manage to go and watch my eldest bloke play footy last week for Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes Goannas. They didn't get the chocolates on the day – they came a solid second – but they're playing Osborne this weekend. In fact, it's the first time the two clubs – only 40 minutes’ drive apart – have played in 87-years for premiership points. Quite amazing to think about that. But look, rugby league is continuing, Group 9's going on. We've got the Riverina Football Championship, of course. The netball and all the women's sport too, the girls are getting out there and playing their soccer, as are the boys. It's great to see those community sporting fields being used again and the parents lining up on the sideline and cheering them on – it's great.

DAVID EISENHAUER

It certainly is particularly in the regional areas where we haven't been able to do that for some time. The cricket season is not too far away – you, yourself, are a cricketer –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Not a good one, but I do try. The last time I played, I did have a 100-run partnership with my youngest son, Nicholas. So I probably should put that in the bank and retire now, David.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Possibly. As the Deputy PM, across the whole country, it's very easy to zone in onto certain areas. We're past the by-election. We're hearing the border closures. How's it affecting things as far as the general operations of the country are going, from the Deputy PM's point of view?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we're having not just morning hook-ups now, we're actually having morning and nightly hook-ups with this Victorian outbreak. The Federal Government will do whatever it needs to do to help our States. So far, there's been good collaboration. It's been a little bit difficult this week of course, with some outbreaks in aged care centres. That said, there's about 27 centres which have tested people with positive cases. There's about 3,000 aged care centres across the country. So, 27 out of 3,000 – yes, its 27 too many – but we need to do our best to ensure that that remains at 27. Our ADF personnel, of course, our Defence people, are helping out as much as they can. There are hundreds of them in Victoria doing what they can. Of course, the border closures are an issue. I know there's going to be more said today about seasonal workers and getting them to pick up the fruit, going from one side of the border to the other. That's been an issue that we're needing to work through. Going to be more said today about ensuring that transport operators can continue to do what they do with consistent protocols across the states. That has raised its head again in the last 24-48 hours. So, there are issues. They're requiring urgent attention. We're doing the best that we can and we're acting promptly with our state partners, as the Commonwealth Government, to do everything that we can. But we also need people to tell the truth. We also need people, if they are trying to cross the borders – to be able to – you know, if they don't have a permit, to be able to tell the truth with the reason that they either need to get there or the reason why they are going home. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case in all instances and it is concerning because what we've seen is some people – you know, you only need one. It only needs one person to do the wrong thing, and that can then go back and create a cluster. And those two teenage girls in Queensland who went down to Melbourne for a shoplifting mission to steal luxury bags, you only had to look at the photo of one of them, pouting, dolled up, selfish sort of people, one of those social media influencers, I mean, James Reyne had that song in, I think it was 1980, it was called Beautiful People. "They've got a Robert Palmer T-shirt in their travel bag." In this case, it was probably going to be a shoplifted bag. It's not good enough and it's now caused – they allege – a cluster in Queensland. And that's the last thing Queensland needed when they had done so well. Whether they're people who want to defy the law or flagrantly disregard the law – and that goes for the protesters too – they have to be their best selves and not just think of themselves. Think of others for a change. That would be the message.

DAVID EISENHAUER

It is a good message. And we've got that song, I was just having a look for that song, we're going to play that one fairly shortly. It goes to the same case of that young lady that went through the Victorian border and challenged the NSW Police. I mean, they're just doing their job, the Police. And she made herself to the point where she's been arrested. So, you know, it's not worth the risk.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

If she's found guilty, I hope they throw the book at her. Because the Police, they're the ones who run to disasters and emergencies. When everybody else is running the other way, they are protecting lives and livelihoods and they are, as you say, doing their job.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Yes, big time. Mr McCormack, we've run out of time. It's 8:30 but thank you very much for joining us.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Always a pleasure. You have great day.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Thanks very much, Michael. All the very best to you.

Media contacts:

Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860