Transcript - Interview with Michael McCormack on Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton relay and new portfolios

Transcript - Interview with Michael McCormack on Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay and new portfolios


JOURNALIST: We have the Queen’s Baton relay coming through, what would you like to say to the baton bearers?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: How exciting is it that we have the Queen’s Baton relay coming to Wagga Wagga, the first regional city in NSW to have such an honour and we saw on the weekend in 43 degree heat how Wagga’s sporting public came out to support the women’s Big Bash League match at Robertson Oval and I am sure they are going to come out and line the streets and cheer on the participants in the Queen’s Baton Relay. It’s fantastic, too, that it’s going right throughout the Riverina, and I’m delighted that West Wyalong, Temora and Forbes will also see relay runners, participants, carry that baton. And I know how special it is because only the other day somebody who carried the Olympic Torch in 2000 came up to me and said what a special and treasured memory it was for them, and they were remembering, of course, 18 years ago when the torch came through Wagga Wagga. And I think the same feelings will be held for the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games. For some who are participating in it, it probably won’t really hit home until April 4 when the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is held at the Gold Coast. It’s fantastic that it’s in Australia this year and it’s also fantastic for all these country people who do so much for their communities, who do so much for sporting organisations, to be able to participate in this very special event.

JOURNALIST: It is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the baton bearers themselves, but you are obviously calling on the community to come out and get the atmosphere going and have a great day.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: I don’t think I really need to call on the community to come out because I know the community will come out. They came out in 43 degree heat to watch the women’s cricket on Saturday. Wagga Wagga is a sporting town, it loves its sport and, of course, we all celebrated when Alicia Quirk won Wagga Wagga’s first gold medal at the Olympics. I know Wagga Wagga will turn out in their numbers to support these baton bearers, I know Wagga Wagga will turn out and support them all the way. Despite the heat I think it’s going to be a great event and I just know Wagga Wagga people will turn up because they always do. Wagga Wagga people love their sport, just like the Riverina, which has a rich sporting history, I know they will support this Queen’s Baton Relay. It is a fantastic event for the community, it’s a fantastic event for Australia, so get behind it and urge those people on.

JOURNALIST: How are things going with your new role as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: I’m looking forward to going to Canberra tomorrow to get a full briefing on the portfolio. I’ve already obviously had many portfolio briefings as far as the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio is concerned. I am delighted I have been asked to hold this important role in the Government. It’s not just Veterans’ Affairs, it’s also Defence Personnel, so looking after the more than 300,000 returned service men and women, looking after their needs, providing that support, that’s the Government’s role and it’s my role as Minister to make sure that they are receiving that care and support and, of course, the current serving personnel. We have many just here in the three bases in Wagga Wagga. How lucky are we that we are a tri-service city, the only city in regional Australia to hold all three arms of the Defence. So that makes it especially important for me. And of course the 58,000 serving personnel who do such a wonderful job to protect our nation. That’s significant, too. And, of course, 2018 is the year when we commemorate the Centenary of ANZAC for the final time; 1918 being the last year of World War One and that is also part of my portfolio, to oversee those commemorations, to make sure that Australians are aware of the service and sacrifice of so many in that First World War – 60,000 men did not come back. We should never forget them, just like we should not forget those on peace keeping deployments overseas and those who are serving our nation in areas of conflict.

JOURNALIST: Are there any projects already in the works?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: There are many projects and I’m looking forward to the Sir John Monash Centre opening at Villers-Bretonneux on ANZAC Day this year. That is a special commemoration for Australia in France to honour those who fell on the Western Front in the First World War, but not just the Great War of 1914 to 18, but also all who have served and who have worn that khaki from the very first ANZACs right through to today. Australia honours Wagga Wagga as the Home of the Soldier and, of course, we have thousands of recruits going through Blamey Barracks each and every year. So we should also remember those. I know all Australians do honour ANZAC Day, they do honour Remembrance Day, but also each and every day we should remember the service and sacrifices of our former service men and women and also those currently deployed.

JOURNALIST: Is support for those service men and women and their families a priority for you?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK: It is and, of course, finding employment when they are transitioning from military life into civilian life is something that I will focus on. Having been the Small Business Minister I know many Defence people when they retire from their active service have a lot of unique skills. They want to start businesses, they also want to work for other people, so making sure those transition arrangements are right for them is something I will be focused on and making sure the mental health care and support is there. We know service men and women only have to serve one day in the military to receive the support they need as far as mental health care, but making sure that support is ongoing, making sure that they know the Department of Veterans’ Affairs support is there whenever it’s needed is an important thing that I will be focusing on this year.


Ken Grimson