Transcript - Sounds of the Mountains Radio Interview

DAVID EISENHAUER

On the line this morning, as we check from time to time, we catch up with the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the Nationals, Michael McCormack. He's joined us for a live chat today. Michael, thank you very much for your time on the station this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's a pleasure, Dave.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Always good to catch up with the Deputy PM on what has been a very busy time for leaders of the country around – so many different things happening around the region and this is the thing with politics, we see just a snapshot in our news services of what actually goes on in the offices of Parliament.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

They've been long days, they've been long weeks, long months, but everybody is pitching in. It's not just community leaders, it's not just the politicians, it's everybody right throughout the length and breadth of this nation are doing their part and thankfully most people have done the right thing as far as downloading the COVIDSafe app and working as hard as they can to help beat this virus.

Yesterday's job figures, Dave, were good. They say that the Australian economy is fighting back against the virus. There are 111,000 jobs created or I suppose you could say restored as well, in the month of August. The unemployment rate fell from 7.5 per cent to 6.8 per cent, so that shows that Australians are getting back to work and interestingly, the State of New South Wales was a particularly strong performance and of course that's because the restrictions in New South Wales aren't what they are in other States and Victoria of course, I know they eased restrictions, regional Victoria, their restrictions were eased yesterday and of course, particularly in Melbourne, they're now allowed out for two hours a day, the curfew has been put back a bit until 9:00pm, but those lockdowns are still affecting people's lives and livelihoods and the sooner we get those case rates down in Melbourne the sooner the nation really, gets back to being what it generally is.

DAVID EISENHAUER

One thing we've noticed is the border region, if you like, which affects our district, the Snowy Valleys Council area and of course, into obviously the Towong Shire and district as well. But one of the big issues that you've been looking at too, is the on-farm employment and the issues that the restrictions have placed on the fruit picking season which has been interesting, looking at how the developments have worked there and our seasonal workers in a bubble?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yes, it's going to be so difficult because we've got, you know, we just don't have the overseas labour force going to be able to come in and do the work. I spoke to Tom Eastlake the other day up at Young and they are going to require in the next five or so weeks, 3,500 cherry pickers. We've got Teys Abattoir at Wagga saying that we need to transition out of the assistance measures that have been provided for the coronavirus to get people off the couch and back to work and we've got 40,000 jobs in regional Australia as identified by the Regional Australia Institute, right throughout country, coastal areas of Australia and they're not just fruit picking, there are other jobs as well and I know even before coronavirus and before the drought had even really taken its toll, that Dubbo was on about 1.2 per cent or thereabouts, which is virtually full employment, they could not get people in. There were signs in many of the businesses in the main street there just saying "apply within". There are jobs in regional Australia but we don't, sadly, have a real mobile workforce in Australia and of course, it's going to be especially difficult, as you say, with these fruit picking operations just requiring the numbers of people as they do and they're going to be requiring them very soon.

DAVID EISENHAUER

One thing is too, Mr McCormack, when you look at the stats, talking to some of the employers here, one of them Harry's Tyres, one of our sponsors on the station, we were talking to Fred Feige about this the other day. He said he's been advertising for a gig there for a number of weeks. There's a couple of businesses saying the same things. There are jobs about, they're not being filled.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

That's correct. So what we're going to have to really look at – and the Prime Minister spoke about this yesterday – is people with their mutual obligations, they're going to have to make sure that if they can work, they've got the capacity to work and they've got the ability to do so then they're just going to have to go and find those jobs because we can't keep providing welfare and welfare at a rate that incentivises them in one sense not to work, to either do other things, watch, you know, movies streaming at their home computers or whatever the case might be. We need people to get back to work. At the end of the day the best form of welfare is a job. Everyone knows that. It gives you the capacity to make money to build a better life, to contribute to your community and it's just the right, proper thing to do.

DAVID EISENHAUER

And we look at the feeling that it gives, too. I mean it's a feeling of you've got a job. I mean, I've been out of work and there are so many Australians that have done that, to have been through that process and there's no better feeling than have that income coming in –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's self-fulfilment, it's purpose, it's having real meaning to your life and it also, you know, you can make more money and, of course, if you make more money you can do all the sorts of things that, you know, you should be able to do with your life and realise your full potential. That's what it's all about.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Absolutely. So, no, it's interesting to watch. It will be an interesting square to watch as we talk each fortnight with Snowy Hydro, the jobs that are being created with 2.0. There's jobs, we spoke with council, Snowy Valleys Council on Wednesday. There's jobs available on council at the moment. Individual employers are looking at getting people to come along and one thing that's driving some interest and this is quite an interesting story, this made the front page of the Times today, is the burnt timber being used to support – and this inside your portfolio, too – the heritage fleet, the trees that are unfortunately, the sugar pines which were burnt during the bushfires, heading off to a storage in Bathurst, being used to keep our heritage fleet, our vintage boats, can we call them that, our heritage ships afloat.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yes, that's a fantastic story and that's just practical and pragmatic use of a resource that of course, it was a great tourism resource, too. But, you know, best to make the most of a terrible situation and I know our timber industry is so hard hit. I say again to those people who are still feeling the effects of the bushfires and particularly Batlow and Tumbarumba and other parts, bushfirerecovery.gov.au, visit the website if you are in need of assistance. There are many, many measures there and people should avail themselves of it.

DAVID EISENHAUER

In a big way particularly when they look at – I just picked the paper up, actually, [inaudible] from the newsagency just dropped those in there, and that's a good – as you said. Obviously, it's a sad story to see the demise of those pines and the fires along with so much other but if it's going to maintain our heritage fleet and be put to good use like that, well that timber is going to live on for another 100 years.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Those fine sugar pines have been there 100 years or more. They were iconic in the area, so many people have had their Instagram stories and that, photographs there and so that's a tremendous story. I encourage the residents of Tumut and Adelong to pick up a copy of the Times today as they should every edition and listen to your station and keep up with the news of the day.

DAVID EISENHAUER

And, of course, from the Deputy Prime Minister's seat other issues affecting National Cabinet to wrap up for this morning's chat. Obviously it's going to be another busy few weeks ahead.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed it is and what National Cabinet will be discussing today are those quarantine caps which I lifted earlier in the week. We want more Australians to be able to return home so I've written to the Premiers of New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, asking them to take more Australians. We want to increase the numbers of Australians returning from 4,000 to 6,000 and then as we go towards Christmas even more still. It's time to get those Australians home. I appreciate that the integrity of quarantining has to be what it needs to be, but States need to be able to step up and do that. New South Wales has shouldered the responsibility of most of the returning Australians but it's time for the other States to do so as well. Can't keep their borders closed forever and whilst I appreciate that their popularity rates might be high, we've seen with Dan Andrews and other MPs in recent times, that it's only a small focus group in a small section of a town that won't give anyone – we need to forget that sort of thing. We need to get businesses back in work, we need to get people back reengaged with their employers and customers and we need those border restrictions eased so that we can get more planes flying interstate, because that's the only way we're going to get jobs on the ground, planes in the air means jobs on the ground and the tourism industry is so hard hit, it's going to need those travellers as well.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Indeed it will. Particularly as we come up to that season, that holiday season, these warmer months around the region. It's going to be an interesting summer ahead.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

People just want to be reunited with their loved ones at Christmas and that just makes good sense and why should people be stuck in – you look at a State like Western Australia and another one like Queensland, they've got really tight border restrictions and if you're living in a regional area in either of those States and there hasn't been a COVID case, indeed Perth and Brisbane have been pretty good, why should you not be able to, if you've got the capacity to be able to do so, visit your loved ones at Christmas, go on a holiday, all the things that we normally expect to do if the case rates are low and if the best medical experts, we've got the world's best in Australia, are saying that it should be safe.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Indeed, very good words indeed. Mr McCormack, thank you very much for your time joining us for an update on the station. Every couple of weeks we catch up and have a chat to you and appreciate you taking time out on this Friday morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

And of course, Tumut has got a pretty big game in the rugby league this weekend up against Young for hopefully a place in the grand final for the reigning premiers.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Absolutely. There's been some – I know the crowds are limited but they have been at maximum capacity under the COVID-19 restrictions for these last couple of weeks with Group 9, as you know, as a past editor of the DA it fills a lot of pages in papers this time of the year.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed. The Blues against the Cherry Pickers, they're both in my constituency but you know, for the purpose of being parochial, let's just say go the Blues.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Absolutely. Mr McCormack, appreciate your time.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good on you, Dave.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Of course we're talking there with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Leader of the Nationals, Michael McCormack.

ENDS 7:50AM

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