Transcript Triple M Riverina interview

LEIGH RYAN

That was Castle on the Hill there and now joining us on the phone is Deputy Prime Minister, Member for the Riverina, Michael McCormack, good morning.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

From the Parliament on the Hill.

POPPY PENNY

In your own Castle on the Hill, Michael.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

It’s not a castle but it's a pleasure to work here and it's a real privilege to represent the people of Wagga Wagga and the wider Riverina.

POPPY PENNY

Well, you are very busy representing everybody at the moment. How is everything? We’ll start with, I guess, what is on everyone's mind still is COVID-19. Where are we sitting? Restrictions lessening on Friday for New South Wales?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, it’s good that New South Wales has eased restrictions for pubs and clubs so that they’re going to be able to reopen but with 10 customers only, 10 patrons seated with table service. So look, that's a real start and I know talking to David Barnhill of the William Farrer and other publicans as I have, you know, they've really been waiting for this day. They've really been waiting for the ability to reopen and to ensure that they can get some trade through the doors. Of course, they've been very happy with the JobKeeper program and that's kept them in business basically and it’s kept also, their employees engaged and on the books. But, of course, it’s just one step along a long path back to recovery. And the Prime Minister has lied down the roadmap for the full recovery and it's going to take a while. What we don't want to see is a second wave of outbreaks.

LEIGH RYAN

Yes, I think that's the big concern is that if everyone relaxes this takes off again.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Downloading the COVIDSafe App would be really handy, Leigh. I urge and encourage your listeners to do just that, it only takes a minute or two.

LEIGH RYAN

I got an email from Michael Gudinski from Frontier Touring, the other day asking me to do exactly that as well so that live music could get back. One thing that's been on everyone's lips is travel and obviously we've had such a hit to the tourism industry over the summer with the fires and then to have this on the back of it as well to take out all of the Easter holidays. Interstate travel obviously, international still away off, but interstate travel when is that on the agenda to open up?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well again, it is going to depend and be determined upon the cases and so the states will, of course, make that call through the National Cabinet process. That might be a little way away but as each of these restrictions are eased, as in pubs and clubs and each State I suppose is different night. There's always been some States which have been far more open than others and some States close their borders far quicker than others. That's fine. That's their call to make. But we will do it in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer. The whole way through, Brendan Murphy has made those calls and largely the States have complied but with a few nuances here and there but, you know, we want our airplanes of course, back in the sky. We want to see people being able to travel but at the moment, it's essential travel only. We don't want to see people traveling for holidays and the like. Yes, when the restrictions are fully eased, of course, we want to see travel particularly to those regions as you say hard hit by drought, by bushfires and now this. It has been so bad on their economies but we want to see them up and running as soon as we can.

POPPY PENNY

Off the back of the travel thing a little bit we've seen in the news sort of in the last 24 hours is the Virgin Australia situation, the Queensland Government are potentially looking to adopt an airline, which is a very, very big commitment both financially and administratively, I can imagine. What are your thoughts on the Virgin Australia situation as its standing and the Queensland Government's decision to look into that?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, tomorrow is the closing day for those interested investors and the Queensland Government may well be one of those but I would prefer to see a market led solution. The Government, whether it's Federal or whether it's State, I think we need to allow the market to take care of this. To follow the normal processes. There's a lot of interest is already – 20 interested bidders perhaps there might be another coming out in the next 48 hours and usually you find the serious bidders. It’s like any auction, you usually find the serious bidders put their hands up, right at the last moment. So, I think what we need to see is a market-led solution not a Government-led solution.

POPPY PENNY

Very quickly before we let you go, we know you're very, very busy. Do you have any inside knowledge of when we might see any footy back?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Well, local footy will, of course, be way after the AFL and the NRL. I know the NRL is wanting to get up and running by the end of the month. I know the AFL was looking for a timeline as well. Yes, we want to see footy back on our televisions but we also want to see it at a local level but even if – particularly at the regional level – they can't have crowds then it’s going to be very hard to pay for such things as the ground insurance, their watering, their rates and all those things that country footy clubs have to pay for, not to mention their players and that's footy players and netballers, many of the clubs pay their players and so it's going to be hard to actually pay those bills. If they actually don’t have crowds coming through and you know, going to the canteen, at the gate and buying programs and all those sorts of things. So look, I think footy is probably, at least a month away, that's for both codes. Given the fact that the NRL will start a little earlier, they’ve set a timeline already but let's wait and see.

LEIGH RYAN

14 days is the timeline for the NRL to see if they can get there. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack –

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Go the Eels.

POPPY PENNY

Snuck that in didn’t you.

LEIGH RYAN

– Go the Raiders and we’ll catch up with you next time.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Will do.

POPPY PENNY

Anyway, go the Storm.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Thanks Guys.

Media contacts:

Tess Salmon, 0467 740 017

Hannah Maguire, 0429 920 254