6 November 2017
Transcript - #2017060, 2017

Interview with Matthew Tukaki

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

Joining me on the line is Federal Small Business Minister Michael McCormack. We love getting Michael on the show because often starting a second career isn't about finding a job, it's about getting into a small business and with more than 2.1 small businesses across the country employing millions of Australians, it's a big part of our economy.

But we're going to turn our attention tonight to regional Australia; Tamworth, Dubbo, Wagga, Lightning Ridge and even Oodnadatta - who wouldn't love a bit of Oodnadatta on a Monday night.

Michael McCormack, welcome to the show.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thanks Matt. Great to be on.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

See, one of the things that we've talked about before is the power of small business in our regions, but of course, we have a number of free trade agreements in place with other countries, and yet it seems to me we've got a huge opportunity to grow those small businesses in our regions outside of Australia.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, indeed we do, and look, I'm looking forward to speaking on Thursday actually in Maryborough at the Regional Economic Development Growth Forum where I'm telling small businesses just that; how they can back themselves to continue to thrive and grow local economies but moreover trade into China, South Korea, Japan, taking advantage of those free trade agreements you just mentioned.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

Well, it's interesting too, because a lot of what these countries are wanting; they want primary produce. They don't want IT and technology and all that other kind of stuff. They want to buy fresh food, fresh meat, fresh veggies, fresh produce, fresh anything, and also the intellectual property that could come along with it.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well look, indeed, and the Assistant Trade Minister Keith Pitt has a favourite saying: that trade means jobs and more trade means more jobs, and that's more Australian jobs. Trade agreements create and support an estimated one in five Australian jobs, they give Australian consumers a great choice of goods and services from around the world. More than that, they give us markets, us as in regional Australia markets to sell to the world and to connect with the world. And by securing these markets and providing us with a competitive edge - and we have got that competitive edge, because we grow the best and freshest and greenest produce - it enables us to be able to trade our goods and services right around the world.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

Now let's move to talk about what's going on specifically in country Australia. It seems to me as if we've got this whole city thing wrong. When you have a look at house prices in places like Tamworth and Dubbo, Wagga, Lightning Ridge, Palmerston out of Darwin, wherever, it seems to me that the cost of living is a little bit lower on a lot of fronts and yet there are still jobs out there. Why is it that people are remaining in that hard concrete jungle of the city? I mean surely we should be getting outback.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well the best secret is regional Australia and you can live like a king or a queen in regional Australia. You can have a four bedroom home with the double garage lockup and pay a quarter of the price that you would be in Sydney or Melbourne and there are jobs out there. Look, I was talking to a transport owner in Wagga Wagga just the other day, Peter Rodney. He said he would put on 20 people tomorrow just like that if he could find them, and there are jobs out there. And it's not even so much as look for them. They're out there, they're available, they're good jobs, they're well paying jobs, and as I say, the price of housing is way below what you would expect in, you know, what you are paying for and you could get far greater expansion and quality of life than sitting in traffic all day.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

That's right. I mean if you want a pool just tell the kids to go and dig a hole out the back and put some water in it - you'll be right. Hey, but let's now talk about Maryborough, you mention Maryborough before. What's going on with this conference?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well it's a conference about regional economic growth and the opportunities that are there for regional towns. I mean you just look at our exports.

Now, in Maryborough it taps into this too. Australian exports of bottled wine grew 86.1 per cent just in- this is the January-June 2017 period. These are recent statistics just in exports of hay and chaff grown by over half, up to $51.5 million. Exports of cosmetic skincare products - now admittedly they're not all from regional Australia, but I tell you what, some of the products are - they're up by 151 per cent. And I want to talk to the communities of- the rural business leaders, but also the small business owners in Maryborough about the opportunities available to them.

Now the local member up there, he knows full well, Llew O´Brien knows full well the opportunities that are there. He's the member for Wide Bay. He spruiks on about it all the time. He replaced Warren Truss as you will recall. He defeated Warren Truss. He understands small business, he knows it just like I do and he knows that when regional Australia is strong, so too is the rest of the nation. And a lot of this is delivered by small business. You said at the top of the show that small business employs millions of Australians. It's actually more than half of Australia's workforce. And for the eight million people who live outside our capital cities, that's important because it drives growth, it drives investment, it drives jobs and it's just good for our economy. And when the seasons are particularly good - and for some areas in Australia they have been - it's even better.

Now, appreciate that the seasons haven't been all that good for everybody right around Australia, but you take the good with the bad. We know that 45 cents in every Australian dollar spent in Australia by international and local visitors is spent in regional areas. We want to tell more people. I'm so glad that your show does just that.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

Well now, let's turn our attention to the beautiful region of the Riverina. Now of course I do know you're the federal member for Riverina, but I've got to say: it is one of the most beautiful places in Australia.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well it is and it's got a lot going for it in as much as it's half way between Sydney and Melbourne, so it's a 50 minute flight to either capital city. It's just got a little bit of everything. It's got- Wagga Wagga's the only actual inland city in Australia with all three arms of the Defence. So that drought proofs us. We've got a large university. We grow absolutely everything in the Riverina. And now that we've got the Inland Rail coming right through Wagga Wagga, right through the heart of the Riverina electorate, it's even going to add even more to our economy.

Now on Friday I'm looking forward to opening that new roads structure there for the Bomen Intermodal- Rail Logistics Hub. I'll get my tongue into gear. And I know that the trucks and trains are getting themselves into gear because they're going to take advantage of that great logistics hub. It's $14.5 million of federal money we've tipped into it and it's really going to make Wagga Wagga one of the real drivers of economic growth in this nation. Don't worry about just regional Australia, it's a brilliantly centrally located city and with so much canola and other grains and beef and sheep and everything else being produced in the Riverina, it is ideally located on that Melbourne inland Brisbane freight rail to take advantage of everything that's happening.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

There you go. If you thought nothing was happening in regional Australia, you are poorly mistaken. I'm joined on the line each and every other week by Federal Small Business Minister Michael McCormack. Also the federal member for Parliament for the beautiful area of the Riverina in rural New South Wales. Michael, always good to have you on.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

We've got a little horse running in the Melbourne Cup tomorrow too out of Gundagai, a little- race seven, number 19, Single Gaze, ridden by Kathy O'Hara - the only female jockey in the race, trained in Canberra by Nick Olive, bred at Harden, owned at Gundagai by Marty Hay and a few of his mates and get on it. They're good odds.

MATTHEW TUKAKI:

I tell you what, love a tip on the horses. Mate, you're like my form guide for the Dapto dogs.

[Laughter]

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Good on you, Matt.