Transcript - Interview with Triple M Riverina - 3 April 2019

E&OE

Subjects: Budget 2019; infrastructure funding; tax cuts; drought funding; schools funding; jobs; more apprenticeships; Instant Asset Write-off.

DAN:

A great honour it is this morning to be joined by the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. He only comes on the biggest and the best shows around the world, Michael McCormack, good morning.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

But perhaps more importantly in your context, Member for Riverina.

LEIGH:

Yes.

DAN:

Exactly right. Exactly right.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Indeed.

LEIGH:

Exactly and voice in the phrase that pays: We have a competition running Michael and you are one of the voices in our competition.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Yes, I am aware of that.

[Laughter]

LEIGH:

Your voice is getting around and probably also, importantly, in the wake of the Budget that was released last night, Member for Infrastructure and for Regional Areas, you have had a big night.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK

Look, you’re right Leigh. It was actually a Budget for infrastructure, a Budget for regional Australia, and particularly those families in regional Australia and those small business people - and there are many of them right across the Riverina. And taxpayers earning up to $126,000 a year: I know there are a lot of them across our local area including teachers and nurses and tradies et cetera – they’re getting a tax cut. So for a single income family it’s $1080 in their pocket per year, and for a dual income family it’s $2160 extra per year. The money they earn, more of it - they’re keeping it so they can spend it on what they want.

LEIGH:

Yes and so we would all be aware that our tax rebates are only due in a couple of months now and we should see some of those rebates as soon as June, I believe.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

In 13 weeks’ time.

LEIGH:

That’s great. Now let’s talk about some regional funds that have been allocated because there has been $2.2 billion for safer roads and there are a couple of roads that are of concern, especially around our region here in Riverina. So should we see some of that money?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Absolutely. Councils are receiving more money. That includes Wagga Wagga City Council - more money for local roads. So they get to make the calls on which roads they want to fund. That’s going to flow right throughout the Riverina and Central West that I represent – a dozen or so councils, including Coolamon and Junee Shires, Lockhart, all that area that your listeners are in, all their councils are going to receive more money as part of the Roads to Recovery Funding as part of the bigger road safety package - that’s really good. And Roads of Strategic Importance got a billion dollar boost - that’s a thousand million dollars for those feeder roads into the national highways and byways. That’s also going to benefit Riverina roads.

LEIGH:

That certainly will. So we know that we’re being looked after when it comes to our roads. $100 million for regional airports: now we know that our Wagga Airport is - it’s kind of okay at the moment, but has it been earmarked for some money?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

They will be able to apply. It’s for taxiways and runways and that sort of thing. I’d encourage Wagga Wagga City Council which runs the airport to absolutely apply for that money.

DAN:

Talk to us about drought and drought relief: now $6.3 billion in the Budget for an emergency drought relief fund – there’s a lot of new measures in regards to drought and drought relief. How will farmers access that and how soon will that be available?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It’s actually available now. There’s $6.3 billion for drought assistance and concessional loans. We’re also going to reward recruiters who find farm work for welfare recipients with $50 bonuses – that’s up from $45. It might not sound much but every little bit helps. For councils throughout the region, we’ve just added another couple of councils to receiving that one million dollars for funding where they can actually keep money generating around town. So it might be a roundabout upgrade, might be a lick of paint for the town hall or whatever the case might be, but it’s keeping local employment local. That’s good.

There are concessional loans available for our farmers. There’s money there for them and we really want to get them through this drought because when the drought breaks - and it will - the good times will be back. Certainly we’ve made even more inroads into more markets, more free trade arrangements for them to boost productivity. The roads factor is going to help their supply chain. So it actually was a very good Budget for our farmers.

DAN:

Okay. And very quickly, talk to us about the money for schools as well. Really interesting take on this where schools are going to be directly funded to provide services they need.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

We’re providing record funding for schools; right throughout our Government we’ve provided record funding for schools. It’s really, really important that we give kids the best start. So funding for public, independent, Catholic schools is at an all-time high. We’re committing around $300 billion to all schools - that’s a total increase of 63 per cent.

This Budget includes a new scholarship program for over 1000 students a year to study in regional Australia, so that’s really important. And there’s $453 million to once again extend preschool education - that enables 350,000 kids, many of them right across the Riverina, to receive 15 hours of quality early learning per week in the year before school. And of course we all know that when they can get that bit of preschool before they actually get to big school it’s an important start for them.

LEIGH:

That is very good. So that’s a good start. Now let’s, if you don’t mind, really quickly, just touch on employment because there’s been a stack around about new apprenticeships – 80,000 new apprenticeships.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

80,000 new apprenticeships - yes.

LEIGH:

That’s really good. But also the thing we are wondering about this morning is the 10 new training hubs that will be connecting regional areas with high unemployment. Do you know where those hubs will be at this stage?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

No, not at this stage but there are some areas in Australia where there’s significantly - I mean, 27.5 per cent youth unemployment - and that’s just way too high. Fortunately in the Riverina we’re not encountering unemployment for our young people at those alarming rates because the kids of the Riverina have jobs there, if they can - I appreciate for some it’s difficult - but for many of them there are jobs there even despite the drought.

We’re lucky that we’ve got Defence bases where they’re getting $1 billion of important upgrades for both Kapooka and Forest Hill. We’re lucky there’s a construction boom on right across the Riverina and we’re lucky that we’ve got a fairly buoyant market, drought notwithstanding. So we need to build on that of course, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’re putting in those new apprenticeship places as part of that $525 million skills package, so it’s good news for the Riverina. It was a really, really good regional Budget.

DAN:

Now we’re interested to see in the Budget the projections for wage growth which have been protected for a number of years now. I think in five of the last six we’ve had declining wage growth though. How certain are these predications because a lot of that predicates the Budget surpluses that are forecast for the years to come?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It does but also our exports predicate the Budget surplus, and the fact is it’s the first Budget surplus for 12 years. We’re getting on with the job, and when you have a strong economy you can spend more money on the things that are important to people. That is tax cuts. That is higher wages. And when you have a strong economy, obviously it’s going to create more jobs.

I know that businesses right throughout the Riverina will be delighted we’ve extended the instant asset write-off even more from $25,000 to $30,000. So for every bit of capital equipment that they buy, every bit of money that they spend on - whether it’s a van for a tradie, whether it’s a new kitchen for a cafe or something - they can write that off instantly and that also generates more income for them. And when they have more income, when they have more money flowing in the door, they put on more people.

DAN:

And one last question before we let you go Michael – which Saturday should I be ordering sausages for in May? Should I say before Mother’s Day or…

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

That’s up to the Prime Minister but he’s narrowed it down to the eleventh, the eighteenth or the twenty-fifth. You know, I reckon it’s going to be the eighteenth but that’s just me. It’s up to him. It’s his call, totally Scott Morrison’s call. But whatever day, I’ll be ready and urging and encouraging people to think really hard about who you trust the most, Scott Morrison or Bill Shorten.

DAN:

Yes, wonderful. That is so great. Thank you so much for catching up with us this morning.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Good on you. Any time Dan. Thanks Leigh.

LEIGH:

Yeah. There’s a lot to do in the Budget. So enjoy your day, it’s going to be quite busy.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

You too. All the best.

DAN:

Brilliant, thank you. Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister on the Riverina’s Triple M.

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