Transcript: Interview with ABC Southern Queensland Breakfast
Subjects: Flood mitigation projects in Toowoomba.
Joining me in the studio this morning here on a – I guess you could call it a flying half-day visit – is the Leader of the National Party, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, and as we speak, Acting Prime Minister of Australia, Michael McCormack.
Mr McCormack, welcome. Thank you very much for coming in.
Good morning, David. Great to be here with John McVeigh.
Indeed, and joined, of course, by Member for Groom John McVeigh. John, welcome.
Thank you, David. Great to be back with you.
Michael McCormack, can I start… It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, I guess, the past eight weeks or so. You were simply another parliamentarian in Federal Parliament; now here you are, Acting Prime Minister. Is it a bit hard to get your head around?
Well, it’s a huge responsibility. But the fact is I’ve been getting around the regions – most importantly – and not just talking to people, but most importantly listening to them, and that’s why I’m here today: to listen to John McVeigh’s constituents, to have a look at the James Creek culvert project, making sure I get everything I need to know about that, having a look at InterLinkSQ, talking to the mayor Paul Antonio and lots of other people. I’m looking forward to the visit.
Tell me about that part of your visit for a start. I know you’re going to look at the Second Range Crossing, meet the crew from Nexus and a few other things, but you mentioned the flood mitigation down at West Creek with Paul Antonio. What’s the agenda there and what’s likely to come out of that? What is council asking?
Well, we all know the flood that went through there in 2011 was absolutely tragic, and of course, the Warrego Highway is a national highway. Obviously, that is a priority project. I’m looking forward to having a look at it, seeing exactly what needs to be done.
Obviously, the Federal Government is keen to fund that in conjunction with the State Government, and as well, obviously, Council has a role to play too. But John has told me how much of a priority this is. That’s why I’m here to have a look, listen, and then we’ll go away and have a chat about it, and see what we can do.
John McVeigh, what are we essentially looking at or proposing or asking for there? Are we looking at raising James Street so that it’s no longer a flood threat?
Well, based on council’s work and some discussions they’ve been having with the State Government, it’s very much about culverts under the James Street, which of course is the Warrego Highway, both at East Creek and West Creek.
Now, I was still on Council myself in 2011 when those floods hit. I know that as a Council we then went through planning right across the city, and I know that Council since that time has obviously put in place the detention basins, a fair bit of upgrade along the channel ways in East and West Creek, the significant flood mitigation down here in the CBD adjacent to the railway station, as part of that ring road that was put in place.
It’s really exciting to be here now with Michael, not only as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, not only as the Deputy Prime Minister, but as the Acting Prime Minister today, to look at this last piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
So we’ll be catching up with the Mayor and talking about East and West Creeks, getting that flood mitigation project completed after that terrible 2011 event.
Mr McCormack, I guess we’re not sure funding-wise what to expect with regards to projects like this. I know Scott Morrison’s gone from being Santa Claus to potentially a Grinch, and now somewhere in between. Should we be confident that projects like that would be funded?
Well, he’s certainly no Grinch. He is an infrastructure Treasurer, as the Prime Minister is an infrastructure Prime Minister, and this budget is going to have some good infrastructure in it and certainly for regional communities.
Flood mitigation is an important part of that. I was up at Rockhampton just a few short weeks ago where the Rookwood Weir project, something that community’s asked for for decades, has been delivered and really looking forward to having a look at this today, this important culvert project to see exactly what we can do, go away and see how we can best fund it in conjunction with the State Government.
And I know it’s a priority for Council, of course it has been, I commend them for the work that they’ve already done, and looking forward to see what we can do.
I have to ask you, of course, in the news today there’s the Medicare levy decision to scrap the Medicare levy idea, with the Treasurer saying that it’s not now going to be needed to help fund the NDIS. Should recipients of the NDIS be a little bit concerned?
No, no, no. Not at all. And I know that this was one of the first areas where the NDIS really had a presence.
And look, we need to – as a Government, as a society – look after our most vulnerable, and they are the people, the recipients, the beneficiaries of the NDIS. This has come as a result of a stronger economy.
The announcement yesterday by Scott Morrison – I know he’s making a major speech on it today – is the result of more tax receipts coming in, because business is doing well.
Its employing people; 1100 people a day were employed by business thanks to the good economic settings that our government were able to in place since 2013. And you know, we’ll build on that with good members like John McVeigh and others in the LNP.
You know, we’re building on making sure that the sorts of things that we’re doing, the lowest tax rates since 1940, making sure that instant asset write-off is helping businesses buy the capital equipment they need, and just the confidence is back in the business sector. And the last thing they need now is a Bill Shorten-led government which is going to be dictated to by the unions.
Just very quickly, though, is there a chance, though, that the NDIS costs could blow out to the point that the Government may then regret not bringing in this Medicare levy?
The NDIS is a really important part of the Government’s overall framework, and as- I can’t stress enough, we have to look after society’s most vulnerable.
Now, Labor put the NDIS into place – and good luck to them for that – it had bipartisan support.
No-one wants to deny somebody with a disability the benefit they need, and we’re certainly going to back it. We’re now going to fund it and we’re not going to ask the community for any more than what they need to provide. It’s a good scheme and it helps those who need the help the most.
Alright. John McVeigh, very quickly – I’ve got 45 seconds – but you’re facing a pre-selection battle – if we can call it that – this weekend with Isaac Moody throwing his hat in the ring. Are you affronted by that? What are your thoughts on the fact that this is going to happen?
Those are issues for the party president in Brisbane to deal with, David. I’m simply on with the job.
I’m thrilled to have Michael here today. As Cabinet Ministers, we in fact share the same department. So as a senior Minister in our team, he’s someone I’ve spent a lot of time with in recent weeks, finalising all of our budget bids for the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities.
And he and I are on the job. Great to have him here as Acting Prime Minister today.
And John’s doing an outstanding job too, let me tell you.
Alright. John McVeigh, Michael McCormack, appreciate your time.