Transcript - Interview with ABC Riverina

12:03PM

SIMON WALLACE

So, what are we announcing today?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

$150 million right across the state for 90 local government areas for Fixing Local Roads and partnering with Paul Toole, the New South Wales Regional Roads Minister, to make sure that we get that sealing done and make sure that we get that bitumen down. And for Wagga Wagga, it’s about $4.2 million for Dobney Avenue and Pearson Street in the west of Wagga industrial area. I tell you what, all the tradies and truck drivers who use that very busy thoroughfare are going to be very pleased that that work is being done.

SIMON WALLACE

How big an issue is that going to be after the recent rain?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, that’s why we are spending the amount of money that we’re spending – indeed, $20 million right throughout the 12 local government areas I represent in the Riverina and Central West. But indeed, that’s why we have a continuous rolling infrastructure funding of $110 billion across the nation but importantly for those local roads, for those local governments, they’re getting the money that they need out of the Federal Government to update, rehabilitate, enhance the roadworks, which is so important in regional areas. And we know that agriculture has held up right through the pandemic. We know that the recent rainfall, yes, has taken its toll on local roads and that’s why we’ve got a continuing and rolling funding mechanism by which we spend money for local councils which know where they’re best placed to put the money to fix these local roads, to fix these blackspot programs.

SIMON WALLACE

Councils often find it difficult saying, roads are State Government issues, yet they’re getting federal funding to do this local one. How much of a quagmire is it in relation to roads and transport?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, it’s not a quagmire at all. In fact, 537 councils across Australia are taking part in the $1.5 billion of money that we’re actually spending direct from the Commonwealth straight to local councils because we know that’s the easiest way to get money out the door. Hi-vis workers – making sure that we get the excavators on the ground, the shovels in the ground. We’ve seen it. Wherever you go, you see a hi-vis worker with a stop-go sign or a shovel in their hand or on a grader, you probably know that that’s indeed, federal money and in this case, it’s actually partnering with the New South Wales Government, $150 million, as I say. I’ve got a very good relationship with New South Wales as I have with all states right across the country.

SIMON WALLACE

It doesn’t mean State Governments are in the road?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

State Governments are doing their fair share as well. I only just spoke to the Roads Ministers from throughout the Commonwealth last night on a call. Indeed, we’re partnering with them on a lot of programs. This particular program – Fixing Local Roads – is a State-Commonwealth initiative. Many of the programs that we do, the Local Roads Community Infrastructure, is indeed a Commonwealth-Local Government initiative. I spoke to Linda Scott yesterday in Sydney, she’s the president of ALGA and we spoke about what we needed to do as far as road upgrades, what we needed to do as part of community infrastructure. So it’s all about partnering, making sure that we do, whether its local councils, State Governments, get things done. And people don’t care about the political persuasion of who’s in power or who’s not. They just want to see their local road fixed and that’s what I’m getting on and doing.

SIMON WALLACE

How is the feeling in Canberra at the moment? The things people are hearing are pretty colourful.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

They’re awful. They’re truly awful, Simon. And you know, people expect when they send their representatives to Canberra that they’re going to be working for and on behalf of them and that they’re going to be working respectfully, doing everything that they need to do to get infrastructure built, to get jobs, to make sure that the services are there whatever the case might be and that’s what I’ve always done. In my 11 years – nearly 11 years – as a parliamentarian, I’ve always made sure that respect is number one. And that’s why I have a good relationship with politicians of all political persuasions at a state level and that’s why we’re able to get the national freight transport code to get those supermarket shelves stocked at the height of the global pandemic and at the height of the nervousness when everybody thought they needed 10 toilet rolls when they perhaps only needed one. Last year, when it looked as though many of those country supermarket shelves were not going to be stocked, I got together with mainly Labor Ministers round the country – because we’ve got a lot of state Labor Governments – and put that national freight code together in a matter of hours. It didn’t take day or weeks, it only took hours and that’s because of the good relationships I have with my parliamentary colleagues across the divide.

SIMON WALLACE

What would you say to young people, especially females, interested in going into politics?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Have trust, have faith in the system. We need to do better and certainly we will. It’s an absolute commitment that I’ve made. I’ve certainly gone out of my way to make sure that my staff felt they knew that there’s processes in place. We’ve always had them in place for some years now in The Nationals. I was proud of the fact that under my leadership the number of female politicians in the federal party – elected to the federal party – were tripled under my leadership. And, indeed, at the last election in May 2019, 80% of the successful candidates in the National Party were female and I’m proud of that fact. I’ve always treated my staff with dignity and respect. I’ll continue to do that obviously. But my main focus at the moment is on making sure that we get the infrastructure and the services that people need. Yes, as a Parliament, we need to do better, but so do all workplaces right across the nation. I think we’ve seen in recent weeks just how people rightly get slighted by people saying those unnecessary remarks, making that unnecessary joke. And it’s not just about when men are talking with women present, it’s more importantly – I’ve said it time and again – it’s about when men are talking to men. Don’t make that remark. Don’t make that joke that you might think is funny. Have the respect. And if somebody is actually saying something that they shouldn’t, call them out for it. Bloke to bloke, mate to mate, if they’re a good enough mate they won’t get offended by it and they shouldn’t anyway because they shouldn’t say it in the first place. So it’s about respect. It’s about dignity.

SIMON WALLACE

Do you think senior members of Parliament will start to do that?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’d certainly hope so. I mean, if they haven’t woken up to the fact that people are aggrieved and people are annoyed, then they’re not opening their eyes and ears to what’s being said and done around the place.

SIMON WALLACE

Do you think there’s a need for quotas for female numbers?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’ve always believed that it should be on merit and I’m proud of the fact that in The Nationals we have had that merit-based system. I only look at Steph Cooke’s preselection for the by-election in the Seat of Cootamundra. Now, at that particular by-election there were only five candidates for the preselection – they were all female. Steph then preselected by The Nationals, then elected by the people of Cootamundra has done an amazing job, a remarkable job. And I look at the job that Perin Davey, Senator from New South Wales has done. She went through the process. She got elected and she’s doing a mighty job. And I’m pleased that already a couple of women have put up their hand for that other spot for the Senate for The Nationals for New South Wales. And look, may the best person win that particular spot. I know John Anderson has also put his hand up. Fiona Nash has, former Senator for New South Wales. Indeed, Alison Penfold, who’s done some powerful things in getting good outcomes for the agriculture industry generally, she’s put her hand up too. And there’ll be others and I welcome any others who want to put their hand up for that, male or female. Put their hand up, let’s see what they will bring to the table and may the best person win.

SIMON WALLACE

Thank you.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks, Simon.

ENDS 12:11PM

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