28 June 2017
Transcript - #2017040, 2017

Interview with Julie Clift, ABC Central West

SUBJECTS: Results of the 2016 Census; regional development and decentralisation


Joining us on the line now is Riverina MP and Small Business Minister Michael McCormack. Good morning.


Hi Julie.


Let’s talk about what the Census results are showing, in terms of the data itself. It’s been well documented that the census failed. Can you give an assurance about the data is it genuine?


The data is very genuine. That was assured with yesterday’s release of the Census, confirmed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Statistician David Kalisch. This is as well as the Independent Assurance Panel’s findings that the data is high quality.

There were 95.1% of households which responded. That is on every measure a success. It’s comparable to any previous Census conducted in Australia – as well as with international standards in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.

So that’s rich, quality data providing an insight into the nation. How Australia is, how it’s shaping over time and it is really good for all those business people who use the Census data to make decisions about investments. It is also really good – importantly – for Governments of all persuasions and all levels, when they are looking to see where funding is needed. We look at this data for infrastructure, road, rail, as well as new hospitals and new schools.


How will this data affect the Central West?


Well, I am happy to say the population in both Parkes and Forbes, both of which I represent in the Federal Parliament, the population is up. It’s not by much at Parkes, but none-the-less its up. And Forbes had a population increase of 417 people.

Interestingly, the median age for people in Forbes in 42 and for Parkes is 41. There’s a lot of unpaid domestic work being done in both towns – about two thirds of the populations in those towns said they did unpaid domestic work.

We can also see the median rent, let’s look at Forbes for a start, was $180 per week. Now the state average is $380. For mortgages in Forbes, the median mortgage is about $1,150 per month, compared with the state average being closer to $2,000. For Parkes it’s a little bit higher for median rent – at $200 – and the median mortgage is around $1,300 per month. But on both parameters Parkes is well below the state average.

This just goes to show that there is housing affordability in regional NSW, and in regional Australia more generally. I’ve said so many times. For those people who are living in metropolitan areas who are getting tired of sitting in the traffic jams, getting tired of the smog and pollution and just not being able to get where they want quickly, there are jobs in regional NSW.

As I say, regional Australia more generally has very affordable homes. You can live very nicely in a regional area. I say to people who are living in the eastern capital cities, out in the suburbs and in the metropolitan areas, please consider going over the Great Dividing Range! You can see what’s available here. Because there are jobs. There are good jobs, well-paid jobs, in regional NSW. You just have to take advantage of the opportunities and you can better live within your means here too.


Well-paid jobs – what it shows is medium income in the Central West has been lower than the Australian average.


If you add it all up, the cost of living is lower in regional areas. And when you weigh it up, there are some great opportunities here too. Maybe there will be a bit less in your fortnightly pay packet on an average, but you save a great deal in the amount of money you’re shelling out for either rent or a mortgage.

So there are great possibilities there for people. Our cities are getting choked up – let’s face it. Anybody who has been to Sydney recently would know that. I love Sydney, sure. It is a great place to visit. And I go there for work as the Federal Small Business Minister and visit small businesses and it’s a fantastic place.

But there are many people who are complaining about how expensive it is to live in our eastern state capitals. So I say to them, remember there are opportunities in regional areas! Please have a look beyond what you’re used to and see what is available in the country.


What’s the Government’s role?


We all have work to do. It is incumbent on business to see what opportunities they have as well.

But we are working too – look at the fact that connectivity via internet and mobile phone towers is rolling out at a rapid pace. That introduces many small businesses to new markets, and as I have heard from some, markets they didn’t know were available. Small businesses can in many cases, from home, have that connectivity with the rest of the world and do business. That was previously just a pipe dream. So certainly there are opportunities there for small business.

And the decentralisation agenda is key too. Certainly as The Nationals in Government we’re pushing decentralisation. We are looking at Government departments. Fiona Nash – the Regional Development Minister – has asked her Ministerial colleagues to see which departments could possibly look to decentralist their activities to regional areas. Certainly, it’s about getting those people out of city offices and into country areas.

There are opportunities there. We are looking at them from a Government point of view. It’s up to businesses to also explore what opportunities are available to them as well.


There is a need for aged care, across the Central West. Does that tell you, for future planning, that we are ageing in the Central West? How does that then impact on Government and the decisions you make?


It certainly tells as a Government that we need to make sure we’re spending wisely into mental health and aged care. The data helps us make sure that provisions are there for our ageing population.

Absolutely we need to make sure we have the right mix of spending available for aged care. This means the right facilities, the right services. We’re doing that. We’re rolling out more spending for that. But as Australia and regions such as our age, we are going to need to be doing more and sooner and that’s why the Census is so valuable.

So I would like to thank again so many Australians for taking part. The Census is so important. The Census has always been for many people, something they filled in after Census night, understanding it’s about where they were on that particular night.

I am thankful to so many people for taking part. As a local MP and a Minister, I know it does help us make the case to fund communities. Its data does provide the resources and support we need for funding rural and regional areas – and remote areas too – absolutely.

That’s why it’s critical. That’s why Governments look to population trends in regions such as the Central West. So now across the wide Central West, including Orange and everywhere else around the region, we can use this data to make sure we get the right spending mix. This is to make sure the Dubbos of the world and all the little towns and communities in between, including Parkes and Forbes in my area, and right across Andrew Gee and Mark Coulton’s electorates are funded well. That’s why I’m so pleased that so many people took part.


Alright, thanks. That’s Michael McCormack – local MP for Riverina and Minister for Small Business talking about the results of the Census.