Transcript Triple M Riverina

POPPY PENNY:

Yesterday we saw another update from the National Cabinet in terms of the COVID-19 situation and with an update for us, Deputy Prime Minister and Member for the Riverina, Michael McCormack. Good morning. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Good morning Poppy. 

POPPY PENNY:

Firstly, can you give us a bit of a rundown of what came out of yesterday's National Cabinet meeting?  

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, National Cabinet agreed with the medical expert advice, with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, that's the committee headed up by Professor Brendan Murphy who's been so much in the news lately, that schools can be open and they agreed that schools would be progressively re-opening to face-to-face learning at the choosing of each State and Territory, relevant to their health advice. 

Now, the New South Wales Education Minister and this is most important for the people in the Riverina of course, Sarah Mitchell said it would be up to schools to implement the staggered return. She said that we want them to make sure that they're having about a quarter of the students from each grade at each campus, each school, each day, she said. But what I would suggest to people would be to check with their local school. Give their local school a call. You know, we want, we want kids at school. That's the best place for learning. I know my daughter, who's a school teacher in Victoria, said that there's no learning like face-to-face learning and she would much prefer to have the kids in the classroom, to be talking with them and to them and learning that way, than trying to do it via Skype. 

POPPY PENNY:

We're also looking at seeing the return of things like elective surgeries and IVF treatments. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Yes, National Cabinet further agreed that the following procedures can recommence from next Monday, the 27th. So, that's IVF, screening programs such as cancer and other diseases, post-cancer reconstruction such as breast reconstruction for those people who've had a mastectomy, procedures for children under 18, joint replacements, that's including knees and hips and all those other things, shoulders, which can sometimes go wrong particularly in older people, cataracts and eye procedures and endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures. So, that's important for those people who are in pain. They should be comforted by the fact that those sorts of procedures can recommence from next Monday, Poppy. 

POPPY PENNY:

Now, I'm not sure if you've seen it in the news but Virgin Australia have gone, basically gone into voluntary administration. What does this mean for regional areas?  

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, what it means is that there is a flightpath forward and yes, I have seen it Poppy, in fact, that's taken every waking moment of my every waking day for many, many weeks now and as well as doing all the local stuff, of course, that a good local member has to do, I am the Transport Minister Federally and Virgin, of course, just like the whole aviation sector, has been hit hard by COVID-19. So Paul Scurrah, the CEO of Virgin, has taken the courageous step of putting Virgin into voluntary administration. That's important because it does give them a path forward now to get Deloitte in, working with Nicholas Moore who the Government’s put in there to work with and engage with the administrators to see how we can best and how they can best moreover, get those 10,000 workers to maintain, to continue in their jobs. 

Of course, we've got the JobKeeper arrangements. We've put those in place. We've put in place the regional air routes which of course, REX and QantasLink are taking advantage of to ensure that flights still remain to Wagga Wagga and Parkes and other areas around the Riverina and Central West and elsewhere, of course. You know, we've done a lot in the aviation space but of course, with flights grounded by and large across the country apart from the essential and minimal service that the Federal Government has set up, it is very difficult for Virgin. It is very difficult for Qantas. Now, Virgin came in to COVID-19 with an unhealthy balance sheet as opposed to Qantas and so it's been particularly hard for them. They will get through this I'm sure and they might come out a little bit different out the other side, but at least we will hopefully have a viable second airline in Australia and that's what we all need. 

POPPY PENNY:

What do you expect to happen from here?  Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer, said he's in favour of a market-led solution. What will that look like, do you think?  

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, that's been my stance right throughout and Virgin is owned by, you know, some people with very, very deep pockets. Sir Richard Branson, he lives on a Caribbean island. We've got Etihad, we've got Chinese consortium, we've got Singapore Airlines. You know, it is incumbent on them to look at their own cash reserves and to bail out their own airline and whilst I appreciate these are Australian workers, I mean, it is almost entirely foreign-owned and so many taxpayers have been telling me, "why should we stump up and prop up an airline which is almost entirely foreign-owned?" 

Look, we will come out the other side of this. There are already 10 potential investors who've signalled a very big interest in Virgin and its future and I know that coming out of this, I know that there's a now clear flightpath forward for their future to have a second commercially viable airline in Australia and that's the important thing. 

POPPY PENNY:

That was a very punny use of "flightpath", by the way. Now, I want to talk about something close to your heart … 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I am an ex-journalist.  

POPPY PENNY:

I love it! Now, something that's close to your heart that's happening this Saturday is ANZAC Day and I'll get you very quickly to outline – people have been finding their booklets around the Riverina in their letterboxes. They look fantastic. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thank you.

POPPY PENNY:

Give us a rundown of what ANZAC Day means to you and what it's going to mean this year. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Oh it's so important and of course, Wagga Wagga being a military service town with all three arms of the defence, from 5am at the Australian War Memorial, the service will be live-streamed, although nobody will be there. So I encourage people to get up pre-dawn to maybe go to the end of their driveways to perhaps shine a torch to stand for a minute's silence to observe ANZAC Day as they perhaps would normally do. Yes, it's going to be very different without an ANZAC march but we still need to reflect and commemorate what is Australia's most important national day and not just for those who have gone before us and who offered such selfless sacrifice and lost their lives for and on behalf of our nation but, indeed, those people who still serve and wear their uniform proudly. They're the ones we need to remember as well. Lest we forget. 

POPPY PENNY:

I think it will be an ANZAC Day like no other. Michael McCormack, you're a very busy man and I'll let you go. Deputy Prime Minister and Member for the Riverina. 

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thanks, Poppy. Have a great day. 

POPPY PENNY:

You too. Have a fantastic day. 

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