Transcript - Interview with ABC Riverina - 3 April 2019

E&OE

Subjects: The Federal Budget for regional Australia; next election.

SIMON WALLACE:

Now last night’s Budget was very much a pre-election document with hardly any of the measures of expected to be legislated before an election is called for mid-May. The old pre-election trope of a business case for fast rail was one of the pledges that was part of $100 billion to be spent over 10 years on infrastructure for roads and rail, bridges, dams and ports. Although aside from the Melbourne to Albury line, south-west New South Wales doesn’t appear on the fast rail map. The Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack spoke to Lauren Pezet.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

One of the corridors does include Parkes and Parkes is actually in the Riverina electorate. We’ve chosen five corridors there but that is just a good start. It really was an infrastructure Budget and certainly a Budget for the bush.

LAUREN PEZET:

If fast rail is something that, you know, people sort of roll their eyes at when they hear about it, and particularly a business case, how substantial is this actually going to be?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It’s going to be very substantial. When you look across the country it’s a great Budget for rail but it’s also a great Budget for roads. I’m really delighted that the Roads to Recovery funding is significantly increased as part of the $2.2 billion road safety package which is going to make such a difference for local councils and there are many – more than a dozen I represent right across the region including Wagga Wagga, Lockhart, Junee, Coolamon – which will benefit from having more money for more local roads and they’ll be able to make the calls locally, at a local level, as to which roads receive that funding.

LAUREN PEZET:

The local government representatives that we’ve spoken to, including councils, say that it’s nowhere near enough. When will local councils get their money they need to fix their roads?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

The Mayors I’ve spoken to are absolutely delighted at the money that they’re getting and they’re really, really pleased that under that road safety package that the Roads to Recovery funding has been significantly increased.

LAUREN PEZET:

We must be speaking to different Mayors.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I must be.

LAUREN PEZET:

Looking at regional airport funding, how much is that and where exactly will that go, and how will it increase competition and also potentially address the pilot shortage?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

There’s $100 million as part of a regional airports package and that’s going to go to those airports which actually apply. So Wagga Wagga City Council, which runs the Wagga Wagga Airport, will be able to apply for that funding. It’s for taxiways and runways and that sort of amenity. We want to make sure that there is improved infrastructure at our airports – so that is significant, $100 million. Of course that’s right across the nation as well. I urge and encourage those airports that are in the Riverina at Parkes, Wagga Wagga and elsewhere to apply for that funding. It’s a good package.

LAUREN PEZET:

In terms of dams, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg mentioned that in his speech last night. What’s the detail around that and where will they go?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

There’s $500 million already for the National Water Infrastructure Fund as part of a $1.3 billion measure that we’ve put down to build more dams; to build more pipelines; to lengthen, heighten and strengthen weirs. We’re rolling that out right across the nation. We’re willing to work with states and other stakeholders as well to build the water infrastructure that is going to better drought-proof Australia.

LAUREN PEZET:

So you’re looking for people to put their hand up or do you have locations in mind?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

No, absolutely. Put their hand up. That money is there, it’s good and we want to build the water infrastructure that Australia needs.

LAUREN PEZET:

Is there anywhere in the Riverina that you think could use a dam?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well I’m sure that we’ll work with the New South Wales Government to do just that. Already there have been a couple of sites potentially on the Murrumbidgee River that had previously been identified. So if the New South Wales Government wants to come on board - we’re more than willing, we’ve got the money there and we’re more than willing to come on board with them as well.

LAUREN PEZET:

I’m speaking with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Member for Riverina Michael McCormack. Mr McCormack, as I said this is essentially a pre-election Budget. We’re expecting the Prime Minister any day to declare an election for mid-May. Is this going to be enough to turn around the Coalition’s fortune in the polls?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Budgets don’t always give Governments of any persuasion a real boost; people know that the Budget’s coming up every year - but this is a good Budget. This is a very good - it’s a surplus Budget, the first for 12 years. So people in business know that when you have actually got a Budget in the black you can do bigger and better things as time goes on, and when you pay down debt that’s also significant. Businesses right throughout the Riverina are delighted at the fact that the instant asset write off has been extended. There are good measures in there for small business people and good tax breaks for workers as well.

It is a good Budget. Yes, it is a pre-election Budget, but that’s because it’s actually happened before the election. We’ve brought it forward by a month but the fact is it’s a very, very good Budget for infrastructure, a very good Budget particularly for the bush. And I know that people will look at our record of delivery, our record of the fact that we have produced a surplus Budget and try and think back to when the last Labor produced a surplus Budget: well that was way back in 1989. We can run the economy. We can manage the finances. I know people will trust us to do just that in the future.

LAUREN PEZET:

And speaking of elections, it is close. I know that it’s a decision for local and state branches, essentially but is there any direction you would like to see in terms of where Nationals preferences will go on how to vote cards?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I’ve always put the Greens last because I think they represent the greatest danger to our regional communities. They want to have 100 per cent renewables and an emissions reduction rate which is just going to stop farmers from doing what they’re doing. Labor’s land clearing laws that they want to nationalise are going to prevent our farmers from doing, largely, what they do; farmers are the best environmentalists in the world. And Labor’s newly modelled carbon tax by any other name is going to really make it hard for our regional communities.

The fact is we’ve got practical environmental measures in place with more announced in last night’s Budget. The fact is we’re getting on with the job of making sure that the economy runs smoothly and nicely and that everybody gets a fair go. What the Greens represent is a clear and present danger to all our people.

LAUREN PEZET:

And what about One Nation?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well the fact is I don’t have a One Nation candidate against me at the moment. So until you actually know who’s on the ballot paper…

LAUREN PEZET:

…Yes, but you are the Leader of the National Party. You’re happy to suggest that the Greens should go last.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Absolutely.

LAUREN PEZET:

Where do you think your colleagues or your other candidates should put …

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well the fact is the National Party preferences are probably not going to be distributed in too many seats anyway. You only get your preferences distributed if you finish less than second in a ballot. So I’m not …

LAUREN PEZET:

…You’re assuming that you’re going to be- to get enough primary votes?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

I’m not planning on too many National Party representatives in our incumbent seats to end up having their preferences distributed. And I think the best preference that people could make when they go to the ballot paper is to put a National Party person first.

SIMON WALLACE:

That’s the Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack speaking to Lauren Pezet.

[ENDS]

Hannah Maguire