Hon Patrick Gorman MP Radio Interview – ABC Pilbara

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for the Public Service

KELLY GUDGEON, HOST: Last night the federal budget was handed down in Canberra, Treasurer Jim Chalmers has called a budget to provide cost of living relief, while also trying to jumpstart a slowing economy and navigate growing uncertainty overseas. And while we have already seen a lot of announcements being unveiled in the last few weeks, the Treasurer has been warning Australians not to expect a cash splash. So, what was in the budget and how will it help? Or how will it impact us here in the Northwest? To find out I’m joined by Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman. Good morning, to you Minister.

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE: Good morning Kelly, and good morning to your listeners.

GUDGEON: So relieving cost of living pressures was the main focus. So, broadly, what was in the budget that was unveiled last night that will help people to relieve some of those cost of living pressures?

GORMAN: The centrepiece is of course the tax cuts that we announced earlier this year, that gives across Australia some 13.6 million people a tax cut. And in the electorate of Durack which you cover, that is 85,000 workers getting a tax cut. So that makes a huge difference, because it means that people are not only earning more as we have seen wages start to grow, but they are keeping more of what they earn. What we also announced last night, that would be news to some of your listeners, is we have announced an additional $300 energy bill credit. Now that comes on top of what the WA State Government has already announced. So in households across Western Australia, that means $700 of immediate power bill relief. And I know that is going to go a long way for a lot of households, who were waiting to see what else we could do to help them with the here-and-now. While we also do a bit of planning for the future.

GUDGEON: You talking about households, but housing is one of the major major issues here in the Pilbara, what was in there that might actually help with the housing crisis we’re experiencing in regional WA?

GORMAN: For those who are struggling right now to just pay the rent, there is a huge boost to rent assistance. What we have seen since we came to office is we have managed to increase rent assistance by 40%. And we put another investment in that, with the 10% increase in rent assistance that was announced last night. We are also putting billions of dollars across a $32 billion national package that we have announced since we came to office around building more houses, and more housing services, because we know that these problems – which the Pilbara has been experiencing for many years – are only going to change if we change the way that we are investing in more housing stock. Investing in more social affordable homes, but also investing more in helping developers build homes in some of those areas where there has not been enough supply in recent times. So we will work really closely with State Government in WA, to make sure that we start to see a real change in what people have been experiencing. I know in the Pilbara in particular, there have been some really, really frustrating challenges.

GUDGEON: The Mayor for the City of Karratha said to me in the last couple of days in response to the State Government Budget, and also with something he’d like to see in the Federal Budget, is that the Federal Government actually use mining royalties to fund some of those housing projects, is that something that could be done?

GORMAN: It is not the way that we choose to run the budgets in Canberra, we do not say this money goes to this project. But what we have said is that investing in housing is something that is a national priority for us. And so you will see that, of that revenue that we have, we are putting billions and billions of dollars into housing. But we are also recognising that one of the things that is going to increase confidence in investing in the regions is what we do to make sure that we keep our mining industry strong. If you look at the work that we have done around the announcement for Geoscience Australia, a great outfit, part of the Federal Government, that looks at what are those clever technologies and what is happening in Australia’s geology. We have put a $566 million investment to be able to map – what are the minerals, resources and water across Australia – so that we can say here is where the jobs and opportunities of the future are. And we know that that will also drive investment, not just in resources, but also drive investment in our communities.

GUDGEON: What about health care? I know here in the Pilbara access to GP’s and access to mental health care, they are, you know, really big issues for the community. There’s funding to, was there funding to increase access to health care in the Pilbara and in regional or remote areas?

GORMAN: Yes, there was. And as a Western Australian myself, I know just how much pressure our regional health services are under. And I know that many of your listeners come to my Electorate of Perth to get the health care that they need. One of the things that is in the budget is funding for an additional 29 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics. This is a program that we started just two years ago. It has been a fantastic success, giving people a way of getting urgent access to a GP or a specialist where they otherwise might go to an emergency department, or where they cannot access an emergency department. We have not announced the locations for those yet, but a number of them will be in regional Australia because we know that when we have something that is working well, we need to back it in. And so that is what we have chosen to invest in.

GUDGEON: Wouldn’t one of the issues there be then if you are putting those Urgent Care Clinics in regional areas, actually getting the GP’s to those areas? Because that’s one of the issues we really struggle with is getting the GP’s into the areas?

GORMAN: We have been really careful in how we have targeted our migration to make sure we get skilled labour into Australia. The response that Jason Clare as the Minister for Education delivered yesterday around the universities review about how do we make sure that universities are delivering us the graduates that we need. And then also for nursing, one of the things that was in the Budget last night is for nurses who are doing their practical placements, we will pay them while they are doing those practical placements. And we know that is one of the key reasons that people either drop out of nursing or choose not to do nursing in the first place. So it is a real investment in our long term health workforce.

GUDGEON: Now we are running out of time, but we have already seen announcements, as you mentioned, for the Future Gas Strategy, for bolstering defence in Northern Australia, and for the geoscience project to find critical minerals. But what else is there in there for remote WA, and particularly for the Pilbara and the Gascoyne?

GORMAN: There is huge investment in the Great Northern Highway. We know that keeping our arterial roads well-funded, well-supported and well-maintained is how we ensure that those roads that we have seen with recent natural disasters – which are the lifeblood of regional WA – that we keep investing in those roads. There is also an additional $40 million investment in the Regional Airports Program. And I have had people from the Pilbara come to my office here in Canberra, local councils talking about how they want more investment in our regional airports – again, so important for people to be able to get to other parts of Australia, but also to sustain the economy. So that $40 million investment in regional airports is something that will make a real difference. And the Remote Airstrip Upgrades Program, which is another $50 million to help connect our remote communities.

GUDGEON: Minister, there is a lot in there and we just cannot get through it all this morning. I think, you know, all the analysis will come out over the next few days, and I do thank you for your time today. And just giving us a snapshot on what is in there for the Northwest of WA. Thank you for your time.

GORMAN: Appreciate your time Kelly.

GUDGEON: Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman joining me there.

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