Transcript - Triple M Riverina

LEIGH RYAN

It's Poppy and Leigh with you this morning saying a very good morning to Deputy Prime Minister and our local Member, Michael McCormack. Good morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning to my favourite radio duo – and everyone else's.

POPPY PENNY

So we will be cutting that straight out of the log and pinning that to our résumé.

LEIGH RYAN

That's the promo.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Mightn't do you any good, but anyway –

LEIGH RYAN

Look, we'll take what we can get at this point. Michael, it has been a busy couple of weeks for you. We haven't had a chance to catch up for a little while. But yesterday, you had a bit to say about border restrictions and getting Aussies home from overseas – 26,000 Australians still stuck overseas for various reasons. Can you just recap roughly, what you've been saying?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, what we've asked the States to do is increase their international arrivals. So by increasing the caps we get more than 2,000 Australians home other than what have already been coming home. So about 4,000 Aussies have been returning each week. We're going to increase that number to around 6,000, potentially more if the States are capable and if their quarantine capacity has the ability to do so. We need as many Australians to return home as possible.

Now, I know back in February-March Australians abroad were urged and encouraged and implored even, to return home. Many of them did that, but a lot of them didn't for various reasons and we understand why people are abroad, for work and family reasons. But many, of course, as you've just said, want to come home and their capacity to do so has been limited by the fact that the states haven't been able to take them. They asked us to put international caps in, we did. So we complied, as the Federal Government, we adhered to the states' requests but it's time now for the states to open up their hotels, open up their arms and take Australians home.

POPPY PENNY

What has the response been from the State governments to that request?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

It's been pretty good but I tell you who it has been good from, the Australian hotels, the tourism industry. I mean, we need to get the economy back up and running. And look, all the States and the Territories understood full well through the National Cabinet process, through the meetings that I've been having on a regular basis, in fact a weekly basis, with all the Transport Ministers. They were well aware that this was going to happen; well aware that the caps needed to be increased. So it should have come as no great surprise. In fact, it was very much a theme at the last National Cabinet meeting. Now, I appreciate the National Cabinet is meeting again tomorrow and a topic of the discussion will be, of course this, the hot spot definition and restricting those border measures that have been put in place because what they are doing is they're stopping the economy. They've not been put in place for any great health reasons, I have to say. I appreciate the Premiers have responsibility over their jurisdictions but we need to get planes flying interstate and the only way we'll do that is with the borders eased and everything else. And we need planes back in the air because that means jobs on the ground.

LEIGH RYAN

One thing that has been a bit of a topic, particularly around this area, is trying to get people to pick fruit, which is traditionally overseas backpackers who have had a huge role to play, I mean around Young, obviously with the cherry harvest, up around Batlow with the apples – 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, there's three and a half thousand pickers needed for the cherries in about five-and-a-half weeks’ time. I was speaking to Tom Eastlake about this very topic just the other day.

LEIGH RYAN

Have you had discussions – what plans have been put in place? What assistance is going to be able to be provided for those farmers?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, we're doing everything that we can to enable that to happen and farms and farmers need to look towards going on to that Farm Hub website to register their interest to tell us exactly how many people they're going to need, exactly where they're going to need them and exactly when they're going to need them. That will be of big assistance. But of course, the Agriculture Minister and I are working very closely and hard with our farming sectors and regions to make sure that we don't have fruit left rotting on the ground or in the trees or whatever the case might be.

There's not only that, there's not only fruit picking. I just said on Sky News a moment ago, there's 40,000 jobs in regional Australia at the moment. They're not all fruit picking, they're not all meat processing, they're not all in agriculture or resources. They are in every walk of life. And I know it's easy for the national media to, you know, sort of portray regional Australia as though it's some sort of – in bad shape. But regional Australia is actually leading the way through COVID. Regional Australia, through resources, through agriculture, through infrastructure and everything else, we've been pretty good and we've actually propped the economy up, as some might argue, we always do.

POPPY PENNY

And coming into a beautiful harvest season, there's a lot of yellow canola which is a very, very good sign going forward.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Yeah, the crops are the best I have ever seen and let me tell you, generational farming families tell me it's the best crops they have ever seen. So we're going to have a bumper harvest. We're going to need people to work for GrainCorp, we're going to need people to work at silos, do all the sorts of things. And, you know, there's good money to be made out in regional Australia.

LEIGH RYAN

Now, just very quickly on that as well, you opened a section of Inland Rail. Can you talk to us a bit about that and what that is going to mean for the Riverina when that rolls through?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed. So that was the Parkes to Narromine section. That was the first of 13 sections to be completed. Of course we have got Inland Rail coming to a city near us, Wagga Wagga, in the not-too-distant future. Of course, there's the planning and the processes. So we finished the Parkes to Narromine and Narromine to North Star is the next section. So the first 106 kilometres of the Inland Rail, 1,862 people worked on that. 760 of them were locals. So from Forbes or Parkes, which is actually in my Riverina electorate. It's a long way north but it's in my electorate. I represent that area. But, more importantly perhaps, 110 or thereabouts million dollars pumped into about 99 local small businesses. That's the impact Inland Rail is having in the construction phase and of course, when the thing is built and when the thing is completed, that's going to be able to get our finest food and fibre produce to those ports and obviously to markets but within 24 hours. So, from regional Australia by rail to the capital city ports within 24 hours. So they've been talking about this since the 1890s. We're getting on and building it.

POPPY PENNY

There has been a lot of money pumped around the region for bushfire recovery. We're just wondering where all of that is up to. We've seen a fair bit of money go into it and we've seen the Celeste Barber funds being talked about a heck of a lot. Where are we at with bushfire recovery money?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, just on the donations money and I noticed the story in one of the papers the other day about one of the larger charitable organisations just starting to get money out the door. I mean, we've had money out the door right from the word go. Right from the time when people actually requested it, we had money in their bank accounts, in their pockets, within 24 hours. But I would urge and encourage people, if they are needing and requiring assistance, go on to the website, bushfirerecovery.gov.au.

There's all sorts of assistance there, you name it. It is there and they need to avail themselves of it. Don't be too shy to ask. The assistance is there. But the charities also, I know they really need to do more to get money out the door quicker. People donate money in good faith and they are very good organisations, I appreciate. But that money needs to get to where it's needed, not be bogged down in bureaucracy and administration. People need the assistance and I appreciate there are still people requiring a lot of assistance. Now, even though it's been many months since the bushfires, they're still front of mind as far as the Government's concerned and that assistance is available.

LEIGH RYAN

Yes, interesting chatting with the Red Cross back when all the fundraising was going on and talking about their experiences that they'd had with the Black Saturday fires and the need for ongoing assistance with that as well. So they were really thankful for that as well.

Footy finals around the Riverina as well. Did you manage to score yourself a ticket to the AFL Riverina Championship Final, because I know Mango's rolling around in reserves and you've got the A-grade netballers in there – 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Indeed, well, my son Alexander is playing for Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes Goannas against the Wagga Tigers this Saturday at Robertson Oval at about midday. So, yes, I've actually donated the trophy for the first grade, the Riverina Championship because they're not playing for the usual cup that they play for and I thought, they've got to be able to play for something. So I said to Marc Geppert and Mike Lyons who run Riverina AFL, I said, "Look, if you're not going to play for the cup, I'll get a nice cup for you so that they have something to hold up – they won't be able to drink out of it like they normally do because of COVID restrictions but at least they'll be able to hoist the silverware in the air. So you've got Troy Maiden of course, coaching Wagga Tigers and Daniel Muir leading the Leeton-Whitton Crows. It should be a cracker of a game. Leeton are still smarting at the fact that they lost the 2016 Grand Final by four points. My other son, Nicholas, played in that Grand Final for the Tigers. So it's going to be on for young and old at Robertson Oval and for those lucky enough to have scored a ticket the other day – I think they sold out in about half an hour flat. With good weather, it's going to be a great game and isn't it good that we've got community sport. We've got Group 9, we've got juniors playing. Aren't we lucky that regional Australians have, by and large, complied with the health requests, done the right thing and now, because of that, we're getting to play sport when it matters, in the spring time. That one day in September, go the Goannas.

POPPY PENNY

Did you pull rank and manage to score yourself a ticket?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

No, no. I just did it like everybody else does every week, I went online and got the tickets. So, I'm very much looking forward to it. It's going to be a great afternoon, a great day, actually. I mean, it has got the netball of course, the Aussie Rules Group 9 are running around too with the finals on. So it's a great time of year.

LEIGH RYAN

It certainly is. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack thank you for your time this morning. Really appreciate it.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Any time all.

Media contact:

Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860