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Transcript of interview with Poppy Penny and Leigh Ryan: Triple M Riverina: 10 July 2020: border closures; Coronavirus; regional sport

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The Hon Michael McCormack MP Deputy Prime Minister Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Leader of The Nationals

Federal Member for Riverina

The Hon Michael McCormack MP

Parliament House Canberra| (02) 6277 7520 | Suite 2, 11-15 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650 |




Subjects: Border closures, Coronavirus, Regional sport;

POPPY PENNY This morning we are speaking with Member for the Riverina and Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Michael McCormack. Good morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK Good morning, Poppy. Good morning, Leigh.

LEIGH RYAN Look, what's the latest on the Victorian situation and the New South Wales-Victorian border closure? Some reports through this morning that it's likely to be for six weeks or so?

MICHAEL McCORMACK Yes, it will be weeks of course, we want our truckies to be able to get through to be able to have the same access they did when the New South Wales-Queensland border shut. I've been working very closely with Kevin Mack and Anna Speedie, the Mayors of Albury and Wodonga to make sure they get that access and of course, the Transport Ministers indeed for New South Wales and Victoria Paul Toole and Jacinta Allan respectively, so it's been a bit difficult. The situation has got better, it was a lot better yesterday than it was the day before. Long queues the day before, but at least we're seeing a bit more ease of access there now, but there are still a lot of bridges and access roads across the Murray which are blocked which have big cement girders or in some small remote parts, Murrabit and elsewhere, they've actually got gates on them and they're actually locked. So, we need to get that situation resolved, because farmers can't have their heavy farm equipment having to travel an hour up or down stream just to get across the border. That's not on.

POPPY PENNY Speaking of transport, there was the debacle earlier this week where a plane full of people left Sydney Airport without being properly screened. That's what was being reported. Do you have an update on that? Were all of those people tracked down?

MICHAEL McCORMACK Look, New South Wales Health organises these sorts of things and there's always going to be situations where somebody did something that perhaps could have or should have been a little better. Could have done it where the situation somebody was tested or somebody was screened or somebody was asked a question as to where they've been and have they been in quarantine, have they been self-isolating? There's always going to be these instances where everything is not done as it should be, but what we need to do if people are in quarantine, they need to stay in quarantine. If they've been asked to stay at home, they need to stay at home. We can't be complacent. Complacency will lead to more cases, more cases will lead to more deaths and that's the last thing we need or want to see.

LEIGH RYAN Now in some good news for 2020, which has been few and far between in the good news stories, there's some good money coming in for Wagga in the defence spaces here, can you give us an update on what's happening there?

MICHAEL McCORMACK Well, there's a thousand million dollars going to the defence bases in Wagga and Wagga as you know, is the only regional city in Australia which has all three arms of the defence in the extent to which we've got them. So, we've got of course, the army recruit centre out at Kapooka, where that battalion turns young men and women into soldiers and they've been doing that for many years and of course, the important base at Forest Hill, the RAAF base, that's been going as well. We celebrated a great milestone the other day and of course, we've got a Navy base. Have had since the '90s. So, $1 billion is being spent on the upgrade of the two bases, the Forest Hill and the Kapooka bases. Now that money was signed away when I was Assistant Defence Minister actually back in February 2016. That money is ongoing. It's been confirmed just the other day as part of our defence positioning, defence posturing and we're making sure that we've got these two important strategic bases funded to the extent that they need to be both in buildings and every other aspect. And so, that money will flow through the Wagga Wagga economy. It will flow through the regional economy. Regional small businesses will benefit from that. They have already, they will continue to do so. It's a bit hard to see because they're behind high walls and of course, they've got security at the front gates. It's not easy to access either two bases as it can't be, but let me tell you there's a number of joineries and other small businesses which have benefited so much by that defence spending in recent years and as we crank it up, $1 billion is a lot of money to spend in one town and Wagga should be very thankful that that money is being spent by the Federal Government in those two important defence bases.

POPPY PENNY We saw over the last weekend the by-election for the Eden-Monaro electorate and Kristy McBain from the Labor Party walked away or claimed the win on the Monday. Now -

MICHAEL McCORMACK I rang her and congratulated her and look, I look forward to working with Kristy. She's been the Bega Valley Mayor. I've had a bit to do with her in that role as you'd expect, being the Transport Minister, federally across the nation and Regional Development Minister and so I've had a bit to do with her and of course, when it comes to the infrastructure portfolio, you know, the area of Eden-Monaro was badly hit by bushfires, badly hit and of course, that includes Batlow and Tumbarumba in our own region and so, we will build back better. We've been working with the mayors in the community, of course and I'll work with Kristy McBain to make sure that the people in those areas get that sort of assistance that they need and continue to get it.

POPPY PENNY From a Nationals' perspective, how disappointed were you guys with the result?

MICHAEL McCORMACK Well, we have never held Eden-Monaro. Of course, we gave people a choice by putting a candidate in Trevor Hicks up and he got out and about in the four weeks of the campaign and it was always going to be difficult, though. We got about marginally the same result as we did at the general election last year when Sophie Wade stood as our candidate and of course, with a 14-horse field there's always going to be even more of a spread of votes. I understand that, but look at the end of the day Kristy's won, she's won it by less than 0.5%, so it was a close go between the Coalition and Labor, bearing in mind that it's been 100-years since the Government won a seat from an Opposition in a by-election. So, history was always against us. The voters have made their choice and that's called democracy. I wish Kristy well. I spoke to her on Monday. I phoned her straight away and wished her well and she'll take her place in the Parliament when it resumes in August and I'm sure we'll all work together to build a better Eden-Monaro. They've been hard hit by the drought and particularly bushfires.

LEIGH RYAN Very quickly, of course, the footy’s back, the RFL and Farrer League over the next couple of weeks. You'd be looking forward to that, getting out and supporting Mangoplah.

MICHAEL McCORMACK They're playing their first game on Saturday week against Leeton at Leeton and I know Trent Cohalan is very much geared up for that. I know him and Will Murray who works in your same building, so we look forward to -

LEIGH RYAN He's been telling us how well they've been going!

POPPY PENNY We hear all about it!

MICHAEL McCORMACK Well, they had a trial game against North Wagga the other day. There's a big difference between trial games and the real thing and look, it's going to be an interesting competition, because there are a lot of players on the New South Wales side of the Murray League who are coming up and of course, Osborne, I supported them in their bid to fill that tenth spot in the Riverina Football League. They'll give it a good go don't worry, the little team without a doubt, but a great little footy ground a great little community and I look forward to seeing how they fare. I think they've got Wagga Tigers first up. It should be a good competition. And Group Nine as well and all the other sport that's resuming and of course, junior soccer under way, so back to winter as normal.

POPPY PENNY And as always, we have covered the widest breadth of subjects with you, Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and Member for the Riverina thanks so much for your time this morning.

MICHAEL McCORMACK Thanks, Poppy. Thanks, Leigh.

Media contacts: Tess Salmon, 0467 740 017 Hannah Maguire, 0429 920 254