Transcript - Sounds of the Mountains Radio Interview

DAVID EISENHAUER

The Member for Riverina and Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, our mate from Wagga Wagga. Good morning, Michael, how are you?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning, Dave, very well, thanks and very good advice there from Peter Bathgate from the Tumut Police about the need to exercise care on the water and for people not to drink and drive. Of course, our friends in blue will be all over the roads this Christmas and New Year holiday period, as they always are. So if you do the wrong thing, you will be caught. We need people to exercise their very best control, drive to the conditions, don't drink and drive, don’t speed, do all the normal things that people should be doing. Road safety is so, so important. We can have better cars and we can have better roads – and we're spending $110 billion on infrastructure, much of which is on roads – but it does come down as well to driver behaviour. So Peter and his crew, they won't be just on the water, they'll also be on the roads and they'll be looking out for people who are doing the wrong thing. Of course, with the camera cars these days, they don’t have to warn you in advance, they can just sit them out on the road and if you're going too quick, you can expect a little letter in the mail with a fine attached.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Isn't that true? Well, I know we were speaking with the inspector there through last week and they've even got mobile phone camera trailers now. The trailers just pull up on the side of the road and they engineered to spot people using their mobile phones. It's not just the gantries across the highway –

MICHAEL McCORMACK

From any angle and day or night. So if you use your phone, you'll get caught. It's a massive fine and it's half your licence as far as demerit points and so it should be.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Well, it's double demerits from tomorrow night at midnight and that almost means you are going to lose your licence.

As the Deputy PM, what a year it's been for our Federal Government. It's been a busy year and state governments are working hard at the moment with the latest COVID cases in the region. But from a local perspective, Michael McCormack, our funding for forestry, that's been a big spotlight all through the year and it's something that's been talked about pretty much every single week.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It has and those workers who rely on the timber industry and the indirect workers, of course, make up much of their workforce and the gross Shire product of Snowy Valleys Council and elsewhere and yesterday the Forestry Recovery Development Fund announcements were made. So there is three businesses within the Snowy Valleys Council area. Hyne & Son are receiving three and a half million for an optimisation project to deliver better resource management practices, through better efficiencies and new technology. AKD New South Wales proprietary limited, Tumut Mill investment proposal will adopt the latest technology and equipment, it’s getting five and a half million dollars and Visy Industries – such a big employer, such a good company – their Fiberline modernisation project is getting $3.1 million to upgrade various parts of Tumut’s mill – the Visy mill there – to maintain and secure those operations in the face of future deficits. So they are good announcements, they are part of that Forestry Recovery Development Fund and of course, we will and must do more as well. Of course, they've got that regional economic funding that is going to be around $10 million for that area. I announced that back, just prior to the Budget. Those partnerships are going to be very important to pull the timber industry and for other industries as well as they bounce back from the bushfires. I understand that the Council has done a very good video to commemorate the start of the Dunns Road Fire and what happened there back on the 28th [of December] last year.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Yes, only a couple of days to go until that anniversary, 12 months ago. We were all looking forward to New Year's and that came obviously but with slightly different coloured lights and so forth. We were only talking to Brian and Di about that this morning, some of the members of the Batlow Rural Fire Service there and yes, it was a tough time. But that's a good announcement, particularly for jobs in the region, Michael.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Look, yes it is, there is a bit over $12 million worth of funding going straight into the region and that combined with the other assistance that has been given, yes, of course, we need to continue to monitor it. It's not just going to be a 12 month set and forget. We will continue as a Federal Government, as we always do, to make sure that we continue to provide that assistance because many people are still hurting and of course the fires last year were devastating. They were also fatal. And of course, there will be many families around the nation – particularly around New South Wales – who will not have a loved one at the table this Christmas luncheon or dinner and that is very, very sad.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Isn't that the truth, quite a lot of people and even just the effect of the fires that still rings very true to home 12 months – almost to the date.

What about from a Council perspective, they're still working very hard and they're still operating clean-up operations. We talk to Andrew Rae on a Friday, Michael, he's the Bushfire Recovery Officer, those clean-up operations, I mean, we're only halfway through the repairs with the wonderful, wonderful work done by BlazeAid, the volunteers there. So we've got a fair bit to go in 2021.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

They are fantastic people. Those people who volunteer. I know Andrew Colvin, who heads up our Disaster Recovery Unit there, I know he's very, very conscious of the fact that there's so many people who do so much good in the community. And that work goes on, as you say, Council of course, they do it because they’re our local government people and they do it because that's necessary and because they’re paid to do it and because they love their area as much as anybody who comes into the area as a volunteer with BlazeAid or those other fantastic organisations and we should be mindful of those people and their efforts this year as well.

DAVID EISENHAUER

My word, that is just so true. So that's a good announcement towards the industry in the region, which is so much a primary industry focused on the timber, it's going to be a tough few years ahead.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed.

DAVID EISENHAUER

One issue that we must mention with the Deputy PM, it has been making news this morning – and still is – from a state level, we're waiting on the Premier to make some announcements for the residents of North Sydney but we did have a positive case travel through the Gundagai region which was the talk of the town over the last 24 hours or so. What's the latest there, Michael?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

A 15-year-old girl who had been in the some of the hotspot areas in the Northern Beaches was being driven home to Victoria by a parent, stopped at a restaurant in Gundagai, The Dog on the Tucker Box, Oliver’s restaurant, Real Food, on Annie Pyers Drive on December 18. She stopped there for about 35 minutes, 5:30pm to 6:05pm on that date, December 18. And of course, anybody who was at that restaurant at that time, is urged to get tested. Is urged to seek that treatment to ensure that they haven't got it. Now of course, if they have got the COVIDsafe app, that's going to help them, they will be contacted but if they haven't or for any reason that they've got the symptoms, but any reason at all, they should just go and get tested if they've been at that restaurant or afterwards. So they've set up a testing station at Carberry Park, the car park there near the Visitor Information Centre in Gundagai and that's going to be open for a little while. So anybody who is in Gundagai – and look anybody who is feeling symptoms and stopped by The Dog on the Tucker Box or stopped by any of those centres, make sure that you just go and get tested. It's really quite a simple procedure and it'll give you peace of mind and also, you'll be doing the right thing by your loved ones and others.

DAVID EISENHAUER

I know with the social media, people were chatting away about that, I mean it hits close to home for our local region. We have a transmitter there on Mount Parnassus that the listeners of Gundagai are tuning into. I mean, this is the thing with the Hume Highway, a big thoroughfare and I think we've done a pretty good job throughout the year, the Snowy Valleys and the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council area we’ve been very fortunate thus far. And it's been a very tough road but this particular instance, that fantastic team there, the wonderful Council staff that work in that Visitor Centre, it's just set up there, I did see it there, so it is all set to go.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Absolutely and look there’s also the Gundagai Respiratory Clinic at 134 Mount Street, South Gundagai, so look, it is open too. People can call 1800 831 099, I'll repeat that 1-800-831-099 and book with the Murrumbidgee Local Health District but just do the right thing and look, anybody with any symptom at any rate should go and get themselves tested. There is free testing, it's available, it’s there, please avail yourself of it.

DAVID EISENHAUER

What a year, from the Deputy Prime Minister's point of view, there's been a lot of sleepless nights, it's been a big job, particularly National Cabinet. There's been a lot happening this year. Your thoughts on the New Year, let's say we have a clean slate and rolling through, what have we got to look forward to?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I appreciate that and I appreciate you indicating that I have worked hard but I have still got a job and there are plenty of those who don't and I really feel for those and our Government will be working very, very hard to ensure that we get as many of those people who've lost their job back reconnected with their employer or another employer. We've put any number of hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy through JobKeeper and through all those sorts of measures, through wage subsidies for apprentices to increasing business incentives, such as the Instant Asset Write-Off and other measures to ensure that we get those businesses ticking along and people back in work. We're very lucky in one sense, yes, we've lost 908 people and that is so, so sad. We've had 21 new cases yesterday, taking the total to 28,219. But I was looking online just before coming on your show, Dave and 201,723 new cases in the United States just yesterday.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Just one day?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Just one day! They’re dying at two a minute and that is so tragic that is just the United States, of course, there's been 1.71 million deaths worldwide, this is a global pandemic, as a nation, we've done very well and that is because Australians have largely done the right thing. And I say to those Australians, thank you so much. Stay positive, test negative. Please go and get tested if you do have any symptoms. But as you say, 2021, let's hope that it offers a much better year. A much better year medically. A much better year economically, hopefully that vaccine, which is now being rolled out in the UK and Canada and I appreciate that there's been a couple of people who've had a bit of an allergic reaction, but that's always the case with one of these mass roll-outs. But we’re making sure that we're going to provide that vaccine free of charge to all Australians who want to take that opportunity, hopefully in the first quarter, but certainly in the first half of next year. That's the roll-out plan so far. And of course, we'll also provide it to those right throughout the South Pacific. So our island friends can also get that vaccine because of course, many of them come here to work in Australia, many of them come here and do very valuable jobs, particularly in regional Australia and particularly in our Riverina region. So, that's what next year promises, it's been a difficult year and I very much say thank you to all Australians. I know a lot of families have been split this year, I know a lot of families won't be reunited this Christmas because of what's happened in the Northern Beaches but New South Wales Cabinet is meeting today. Premier Gladys Berejiklian will be standing up and doing a media interview and making various announcements after that. I'm sure that if you tune into any radio, or television, you'll be able to hear the latest information about what that means for each and every one of us, after that Cabinet meeting takes place this morning.

DAVID EISENHAUER

And of course, with our political hats off, Michael and Catherine McCormack, how to they spend Christmas?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

At home. We've got our daughter back with us, our son of course lives in Wagga Wagga but we've got another son who we don't know whether he'll be able to join us this year, he might have to do a virtual Christmas lunch and we might have to catch up in the New Year but hopefully we will be able to get the family together but like many, if we can’t, well that’s just unfortunate. But, of course, we are able to contact one another via all the wonderful modern technology and despite COVID-19, despite the bushfires, despite the drought, everything else, no one can break – no one can break – Australian spirit. It's a wonderful thing. We saw it at its best during the bushfires. Of course, we then had this dreadful global pandemic but Australians are a resilient bunch and let’s hope that 2021 brings much more cheer, sunny days and brighter skies to all Australians because we need it.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Indeed and look, all the very best to you and Catherine and the family and a big thank you to you for making yourself available through the year – like we were talking during the bushfires and pretty much every fortnight there after all through the year – from a Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of The Nationals and of course, the family as well, I mean, it's a big balancing act, juggling the politics, there's a lot to do and to find the time to talk to a little old station up in the mountains is very much appreciated. Thank you very much.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, what you did too, David, is very important. The work that you did in the bushfires actually saved lives – I told Parliament that. You actually saved lives with your announcements, your updates. And Sounds of the Mountains is a great way for people to get messages and to get those public announcements and to here the information that will mean a difference to their lives. I know that it's very much appreciated through Walwa, Cooryong and all the way through to Gundagai, Tumut and Tumbarumba, Batlow, all those places, Talbingo, all those wonderful areas. They love your show. They love how you run it and they're very appreciative of the role that you've played too, over the past 12 months which has been difficult, challenging but let's hope that we have better days ahead.

DAVID EISENHAUER

Indeed, we will. Michael, all the very best for Christmas and we look forward to catching up with you for another chat in 2021.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’ll look forward to it. All the very best.

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