Triple M Riverina

LEIGH RYAN

Poppy and Leigh with you this morning and great to be joined by this man, Deputy Prime Minister and Member for the Riverina, Michael McCormack. Good morning. 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good morning, Leigh. Good morning, Poppy.  I think that was Bon Scott rather than Brian Johnson, wasn't it?

LEIGH RYAN

No, that one was Brian Johnson from their Back in Black album.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

That is with Angus Young.

LEIGH RYAN

I remember going to see them on their Black Ice Tour, I think it was and Angus Young ripping out a 25-minute guitar solo – it was just epic. 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

The crowd would have just went off. 

POPPY PENNY

Your hand would cramp up after that much guitar, wouldn't it?

LEIGH RYAN

Well that was at the end of a couple hours of show. It was so good, so good. 

POPPY PENNY

A lot of hand strength. 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

They're still going. I mean they started in 1973 and they're actually still performing. 

LEIGH RYAN

They played at [Inaudible] back in the '70s and they're now playing slightly bigger venues. 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

My wife reminds me of going to [Inaudible] and watching The Cockroaches many, many years ago and you're both too young to know that they are now The Wiggles.

LEIGH RYAN

Yes, I was in a show where they did a Cockroaches song on stage.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

They're pretty good The Cockroaches – YouTube them – they were actually not too bad but of course they're much better as The Wiggles. 

POPPY PENNY

Yes, and much better known as The Wiggles, I would say. 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Romp-bomp-a-stomp. Anyway, we should get into some issues. 

LEIGH RYAN

Let's have a chat of course, a huge announcement yesterday from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg about the budget and what's happening with that.  What's happening with JobKeeper and JobSeeker has been spoken about through the week with Prime Minister Scott Morrison making some announcements about that. Can you give us a little bit of a run down on where we're at?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well look, we're in debt to – as the Treasurer said – eye-watering levels but when you compare our debt to GDP and compare that to other nations, we are the world's envy.  When you compare our case rates for COVID-19 and indeed, sadly, the mortality rate, again, other countries look at Australia and think what a great job we've done and we thank Australians again for what they've done. Yes, we've extended JobKeeper and made changes to JobSeeker and we've done those things whilst saying to people, yes, eventually we're going to need to wean the economy off these assistance measures but we'll do it in a measured and considered way. We'll do it when the economy is ready, we'll do it when the pandemic suggests that now is the time to ease off the assistance to the levels of pre-COVID. But we're not going to pull the rug out from underneath businesses. We're not going to pull the rug out from underneath those people who have lost their jobs and may be on welfare for the very first time in their lives. Look, it is difficult. The debt is huge but, we'll pay it off and that's what good Governments do and that's what economies like ours does. 

I mean, agriculture and regional Australia and our resources sector, is holding up and you know, there's a lot of infrastructure going on around the nation. I brought forward $3.8 billion of infrastructure right across the nation, regionally and in metropolitan cities. I opened the runway at Brisbane Airport the other day and that was built out of private equity funds. So we're getting on with it job of building a better Australia. It's difficult because yes, Victoria has got an outbreak and everybody understands and everybody is concerned about border closures and the like but we'll get through it. 

POPPY PENNY

Do we have an idea of when the Government expects this to sort of start ticking back the other way and how do you plan to, I guess, fast-track that recovery because it is an absolutely eye-watering debt, as you say?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it is and look, I'm in Canberra today, I had meetings yesterday. I'm just about to head back to Wagga Wagga very shortly. We're meeting on a daily basis. I talk to the Prime Minister almost on an hourly basis these days and we've been doing that right the way through COVID. We've been meeting, we've been listening to stakeholders, we've had the nation's top people in to tell us and help us about what we can do and what we should do.  We've done it very, very quickly but we've done it in a considered and measured and practical way and everywhere I go – I was in regional Queensland and regional New South Wales all last week.  It was good to actually to resume a bit of travelling but people told us, businesses told us, that but for JobKeeper their businesses would have shut. But for JobKeeper, they wouldn't have been able to continue to engage with their workers and keep them on their books. Even throughout Wagga Wagga, Riverina, Central West of course, many, many people have told me the same thing.  I was in Parkes and Forbes the other day, of course I get around Wagga Wagga very regularly, that's where I live. People are telling me that but for the assistance that we have provided things would be far worse. 

LEIGH RYAN

You've mentioned a bit of travel there. Josh Frydenberg flagged a little bit of travel from January 1 internationally with the quarantine periods and so on. Locally, has there been any discussion about how, when, what re-opening the borders will look like across Australia?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Of course, that's determined by the Premiers and State Governments but National Cabinet is sitting again today. There will be more, of course about that.  There are great concerns, of course and I talk with Anna Speedie, Wodonga Mayor and her counterpart over the border, Albury's Kevin Mack, almost every other day about what needs to be done and I know the ADF has been down there. I know a lot of police officers have been manning those 57 points across the border. It's difficult because of course there's a lot of anxiety. You get many people who want borders shut and shut fast and then you've got other people who need to of course, go across to and from for work and to do all sorts of things. So, it's difficult at the moment. It's being monitored and we just look and hope and pray that what's happening in Melbourne and now in little spots at Colac and Batemans Bay and elsewhere. I appreciate Batemans Bay is very much in New South Wales but we look and see those little hot spots and hope that people do the right thing, stay at home and self-isolate and get better. 

POPPY PENNY

With international travel there's been talk earlier in the year about a bubble, I guess, with New Zealand. There's been a bit of talk as well about that bubble perhaps extending to some countries in Asia. Do we have an idea of when we might actually look at that happening or are we just too far from that with what's going on in Victoria?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Too far from that, Poppy. I'm responsible for travel, of course as the Minister for Transport and it's just too early to determine. I mean yes, there are still some repatriation flights going on. Yes, there are some international flights where we're ferrying food and fibre to our markets but it's just too early to suggest that international travel – and I was just speaking to Alan Joyce the other day, the Qantas CEO, he doesn't expect international travel to be resuming as it was pre-COVID until 2022 and I think he's probably pretty right there. Yes, it will resume and it will resume next year on limited flights and limited routes but it's a long way off given what's happening and of course, Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, yes, she and Scott Morrison flagged the fact that there could be a New Zealand bubble but let's wait and see on that. 

LEIGH RYAN

Off COVID for a moment, earlier in the year of course, the sports grant saga reared its ugly head.  Reading during the week that Maurice Blackburn Lawyers are going to be heading to court on behalf of the Beechworth Lawn Tennis Club to challenge a couple of those grants. What are your thoughts on this?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Many, many communities benefitted from those sports grants. There was $950,000 spent across the Riverina on just those rounds and of course many more over the years that I've been the Member.  You know, sport plays such an important part in our regional communities. Yes, look, there has been legal challenge. I will leave commentary to that to the courts given the fact that it is now a legal matter. But, you know, so many communities benefitted and look, you roll out any program, it's always oversubscribed six to one as to the number of people who want grants. We've said all along that we'll continue to roll out sports funding, we'll continue to roll out infrastructure funding, it’s what good Governments do. 

I know that those communities which were beneficiaries of the funding have really welcomed the new upgrades that they've got and many of those upgrades were in fact to help support the women, particularly with change rooms. Why is it fair that women get changed in cars or behind trees or that sort of thing when their male counterparts in League Tag and netball and other things across our area and others besides, enjoy good facilities? The males enjoy good change rooms and shower facilities whereas the poor women have to play their sport, jump back in the car, get changed again and then either stay at the ground or go home and have a shower. It's just not right. So that was the whole purpose of the actual funding. 

POPPY PENNY

We know you're a very, very busy man and we will let you go but before we let you go without it be 40 years since the Back in Black album, do you have a favourite AC/DC song?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Look, I really liked It's a Long Way to the Top, that was my favourite. I think they played it on the back of the bus going through London. A long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll – I think that was the theme song for the early '70’s, so that's the one I like. 

LEIGH RYAN

Thank you so much for your time this morning. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack on the Riverina's Triple M, we'll catch up with you again shortly. 

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Good man. Okay, thanks.

Media contact:

Dean Shachar, 0418 202 860