ABC South East NSW, Regional councils, bushfire recovery and GP shortages

ABC South East NSW, Regional councils, bushfire recovery and GP shortages   Main Image

22 June 2021


RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC South East NSW, Breakfast with Simone Lauder

Tuesday, 22 June 2021



SIMON LAUDER, PRESENTER: As you've been hearing in the news this morning, the return of Barnaby Joyce as leader of the National Party has disappointed some women who say it's a backward step to reappoint someone who resigned after an affair and separate sexual harassment allegations, allegations which he denied. Joyce will be sworn in as Deputy Prime Minister later today. The member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain joins us this morning from Canberra, I believe. Good morning.


KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning, Simon. How are you?


LAUDER: I'm really well, have you had much to do with Barnaby Joyce.


MCBAIN: Look Barnaby and I both sit on the Regional Australia Committee. So we see each other in in that Committee. But apart from that, I haven't had a great deal to do with him.


LAUDER: What do you think of him returning to the Deputy Prime Minister's chair?


MCBAIN: Well obviously, the Nationals party room has made their decision. And that's a matter for them. But I would say I think it's the last thing people should have been focusing on. You know, we're dealing with vaccine rollout which could be going a lot smoother than it is. We've got a number of outbreaks happening across the country. We still don't have a national quarantine system and the talk of purpose built quarantine is still that talk and there hasn't been any action taken by the government.


So I think that that their focus should have been elsewhere. But it is what it is now and we have a new Deputy Prime Minister I just hope he hurries up and get back to work.


LAUDER: A text message from Tony commenting on what some people have been saying about Barnaby Joyce's relationship with women, says sadly, the ABC will advocate the promotion of Barnaby as a disaster for women. Not so, real ladies respect powerful men. Thank you, Tony. Look, I'm not sure if you have a view on that. Kristy McBain. What do you think?


MCBAIN: I think I'll just leave that one there.


LAUDER: Fair enough. Now, tell us what Labor has planned when it comes to the Australian Council of Local Governments? Why are you planning to bring that back?


MCBAIN: Look at the moment local government, the whole sector doesn't have a seat at the table on National Cabinet. They did have a seat at the table when we had COAG meeting. National Cabinet’s replace COAG. But local government doesn't have a seat at the table. And it's a huge mistake when you think of some of the issues that local councils have been involved in over the last 18 months.


I mean, they are at the forefront of floods and fires. They were at the forefront when there were border closures and issues around whether we had border bubbles in place or not. They are the go-to local authority in every area. And it makes sense that you would have local government representation when these decisions are being made. Because logistically, they're always rolled out by a local council. They're responsible for over 85% of infrastructure in Australia.


So, you know, when decisions are being made about roads, bridges, community halls and parks. When decisions are being made to close borders, local governments should have a seat at the table to make known logistically how that's gonna work and how it's gonna affect local communities.


LAUDER: Okay, as well as that you were recently in the electorate with Mark Butler, Labor's spokesman for health. What were you doing in town with Mark Butler?


MCBAIN: We've heard from numerous local doctors following on from the loss of the GP in Bombala. I’ve heard from numerous local doctors, that they cannot attract new doctors to the area, that we are having trouble retaining doctors that do come to the area. And there are a number of reasons for that.


I wanted our Shadow Minister to hear directly from those people who are working in the electorate about the challenges that they're facing. And they are quite significant. We heard from doctors from Cooma, Pambula, Eden, Merimbula. I’ve spoken and emailed with doctors in Bega and Jindabyne. And they are also under the same pressure. So there seems to be a regional GP shortage right across the country.


And we are feeling that in Eden-Monaro. And things need to be done, I think to make sure that we don't face an issue where we have GPs missing in regional communities because the loss of GPs we know will have a significant impact on our economy.


LAUDER: And we're well and truly into the second winter since those devastating bushfires, what are you hearing from communities and bushfire survivors right around the electorate at the moment? What are what are the concerns?


MCBAIN: I think it's obviously going to be very cold winter. And you know, the other week I was at Woolworths and I had a woman approach me saying that she was still in a caravan and had been flooded, and she was unsure about what her next move was going to be. So we know that we still have people that are significantly struggling but following on from bushfires, the impacts are still being felt across different communities.


And the message that I keep hearing is that we have to keep pushing for bushfire recovery in the area, I mean, there are a lot of people I guess, in Canberra, whose minds no longer turn to bushfires because of COVID. And, you know, Deputy Prime Minister leadership spills in the whole works. But we do still have industry significantly struggling.


You know, I was talking to forestry contractors the other day. They're an industry that has been all but forgotten in bushfire recovery. Forestry, has received something but the contractors who work in and around the industry haven't been assisted through the this process. And we know that a number of our contractors will be without work very soon. So I think that there's still a very long way to go in making sure that our community can recover from bushfire.


LAUDER: Yesterday, we heard from the Federal Environment Minister Susan Lee on ABC South East saying that she's not satisfied with the New South Wales government's handling of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park and the management plan. She will intervene using her federal powers and perhaps new regulations. Would you support that move? Or do you have faith in what the New South Wales Government has in the works?


MCBAIN: Look, I think the message that I get loud and clear from people is that the New South Wales government hasn't been transparent enough with what's happening. That a lot of people aren't convinced with survey numbers and that’s people on both sides of this argument, people are wanting action. And I don't think there is a proper timeline for action yet. So I think that what people are telling me is that they're unsatisfied with the transparency around a number of things, and they want to make sure that this issue was dealt with. So, if the environment minister thinks that there is a position for her then fantastic and perhaps a decision can be made sooner rather than later because a number of people are worried about the lack of action.


LAUDER: Is it true that you've now got school students writing your parliamentary speeches for you?


MCBAIN: I had a work experience student from Eden High and it was fantastic to have Euan Osten, both in the Bega electric office and in Parliament House. And he wrote a speech for me which I delivered on the floor of the chamber about the Eden Canoes project at Eden High School in conjunction with Katungul, Campbell Page and Twofold Aboriginal Corporation. So it was fantastic that he could put his skills to use and allow me to deliver that speech in the chamber. It was fantastic having Euan in the office.


LAUDER: Watch out the next generation of leaders coming up already. Kristy McBain great to talk to you this morning. Thank you very much.


MCBAIN: No worries. Thanks, Simon.