ABC South East NSW - parliament back for 2021

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RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC South East NSW, Breakfast with Jen Hunt
Tuesday, 2 February, 2021


JEN HUNT, PRESENTER: Federal parliament will meet today for the first time in 2021 amid ongoing pandemic restriction across parts of the country. Member for Eden Monaro Kristy McBain is our guest this morning for our regular federal politics chat. Kristy as we start the new parliamentary year, what's on your 'to do list?'

KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOE EDEN-MONARO: Good morning, Jen. Look, most importantly for me is making sure we are getting that bushfire recovery funding out. But we've been through a tense start to 2021 already with the closure of the Victorian border.

So I've spoken to a number of small businesses and held some small business roundtables in the Bega Valley, in the Snowy Valleys, and next week - Jindabyne, and we'll be talking to the Small Business Minister in the Shadow Small Business Minister about ongoing support for our region.

HUNT: Specifically, what is the additional support is you're asking for?

MCBAIN: You know, almost a year to the date, we saw a long line of traffic leaving our community, and for so many [business] people that meant that they had stocked up especially our hospitality businesses - and food doesn't keep. So you know, it involves a lot of wastage. And that has a serious ongoing impact to those businesses.

So talking about business incentives, looking at BAS deferrals again, and also, you know, what can we do outside the box, you know, is it is it time to implement something like travel vouchers to get people travelling and spending time in these bushfire impacted regions to take up the slack?

HUNT: Clearly, recovery is going to be an ongoing process for the South East for months and years, I guess in terms of not just bushfire, but the other trauma of last year. One of the big issues moving forward, though, will be the vaccine rollout across Australia and across this region. Are you being briefed on what the plan is for our part of the world?

MCBAIN: No I haven't received any briefing on the vaccine rollout. And at this stage, none of our region is anywhere close to any vaccine rollout stations that have been implemented across New South Wales.

But it's definitely something that we need to be cognisant of, given the demographics in so many of our regional towns, and also obviously our healthcare services, and not at the same standard as some of those in the city.

So we'll definitely be pursuing that further in Parliament over the coming weeks.

HUNT: We have seen figures when it comes to age care, and particularly home care packages, additional funding, significant additional funding has been made available for the federal government. Is that enough, in your view in terms of what you're being told?

MCBAIN: Clearly not - I mean, at the last report, there were over 600 people waiting for home care packages across Eden-Monaro. That number has now blown out to just over 1100 people. So that's nearly a doubling of that number waiting for home care packages. And we know that there are not enough aged care places for our elderly across the region.

In Jindabyne, there is no age care, Cooma is at capacity. And so many places along the coast were already at capacity.

So, you know, there is a Royal Commission into aged care. The interim report was titled 'Neglect' and, you know, it's time that we start looking at this seriously because, along with looking after our elderly, obviously comes a range of jobs.

Now, the care economy is huge. And we should be investing in it to make sure that we've got people trained for the system and working in that system full time.

HUNT: No one would doubt the need. That's demonstrable if you look at the waiting list, but you're already calling for extra support in terms of business recovery, extra funding for aged care, isn't there a limit to just how much federal government can provide in terms of expanded services given the deficit and financial situation where are you looking at?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, we look at our what will be a projected deficit of a trillion dollars. But that trillion dollars hasn't provided us any long term change to our systems.

You know, if we're going to be in debt and deficit, that money should have been spent on items that make a significant difference to communities. And we haven't seen any change to the aged care system, we haven't seen any change that childcare system, we haven't seen any investment in social housing.

You know, all of these things actually help us add dollars back into our economy, so I think it's definitely a missed opportunity. But something that needs to be pursued.

HUNT: One change we have seen is the change of one word in the national anthem. And I understand you can help groups access a new recording of this. Can you tell me more?

MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, we have seen a change to our national anthem, which I think has been accepted by so many of our First Nations People and the Royal Australian Navy Band has recorded, I think, 15 different versions of the song, which you can actually access and download for free.
If you hop on to our Facebook site, it'll lead you to the website where you can download those new lyrics and a couple of different ways of it being sung.

So it's actually quite beautiful. And a big thank you to the Navy Band for doing it.

HUNT: Do you think it goes far enough? The idea of changing one word in the national anthem?

MCBAIN: I look, it was one word, but it was, I think, appreciated by our First Nations People. And, you know, at the end of the day, these are people that have to be consulted. Having a constitutional voice in the parliament, would probably be the step that I think most Australians are looking for.

HUNT: Now, I believe the Bushfire Economic Recovery Grants are closing or have closed, but the Stronger Community Grants are about to open. What detail can you add to that?

MCBAIN: Yeah, so our Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Grants have now closed. I know it was a mad rush for so many local community groups getting in their application on the 28th of January. And a big thank you to all of those University academics that assisted local community groups in getting their applications done.

Now Stronger Community Grants are open. They are open for community groups and not for profit, to apply for grants from two and a half thousand to $20,000. Expressions of interest close late February, and all those details on our Facebook and website.

HUNT: We know it's a gruelling process, applying for grants at the best of times, let alone when you're struggling with recovery. And there's been questions asked I guess about the processes around some of these programs.

Are you confident that the criteria are clear that good decisions will be made about where this funding goes?

MCBAIN: Look, I am looking forward to sitting down with Minister Littleproud over the coming weeks and asking how those grants will be decided, whom this panel is that he's doing that on behalf of Eden-Monaro.

There are obviously a lot of pressure put on community groups to apply for those grants with some of the criteria. The application form alone, I think was in excess of 20 pages. And we had community groups competing with councils and big business and you know, so I think the learning from that is obviously there needed to be different streams of funding available to those vastly different groups.

But look, I'm hoping that so many of our community groups that have put a lot of time and effort into this application process are successful.

HUNT: Kristy, I believe you dusted off your big hat and cheered on the Eden-Monaro locals at the Golden Guitars recently, sadly The New Graces didn't pick up one of the four they were nominated for, but you still still recommend had a good showing?

MCBAIN: I think Eden-Monaro is blessed with many things, and we've obviously got a lot of musical talent right across the region. Fanny Lumsden from Tooma in the Snowy Valleys cleaned up with I think five awards. Brad Cox from Jindabyne was nominated but also didn't receive a gong but you know, we've we've got some absolutely fabulous talent, and I'll be heading along to see Fanny at the Arbour Festival just outside Batlow in a couple of weeks time - very excited about that.

HUNT: Oh half your luck. Kristy we will continue to keep in touch through the year of course. Member for Eden - Monaro, Labor's Kristy McBain.

Media contact, Ian Campbell, phone: 0417 482 171