Presenter Holly Stearnes: Joining me live is Emma McBride the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health. Thank you for your time today –
Assistant Minister McBride: It’s lovely to see you, good morning.
Presenter: You’re in Townsville this morning visiting health services impacted by the cyclone, how is it there at the moment?
Assistant Minister McBride: I arrived in Townsville last night and I’ve spoken to the Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, and the biggest concern people have had is power outages, about 60,000 homes have been impacted by power outages. I understand most of the power was restored last night or earlier this morning. That’s why the Government, working with Queensland, has introduced the personal hardship grants of $180 for individuals or up to 900 for families of 5 or more. To supply those essentials like food and medicines and clothing. So important assistance from the Commonwealth, we will continue to work closely with the Queensland Government, and I spoke to the Premier Steven Miles last night to provide the support and care Queenslander’s need in this time.
Presenter: I mean yes, Kirrily struck barely a month after tropical cyclone Jasper, how can community members, I guess, be better prepared for this wild weather? It’s been a terrible couple of months for them out there.
Assistant Minister McBride: It has been very difficult for Queenslanders and for many people, particularly in Far North Queensland. We know that this can have an impact on individuals and communities’ mental health and wellbeing which is why I’m particularly keen to be visiting headspace in Townsville today. We know that young people have been particularly impacted through covid and cost of living pressures and we want to make that every young person has the right support and care, where and when they need it. So, I’ll be particularly keen to hear about the impact on young people locally and to make sure they can access the support and care that they need when they need it, close to home.
Presenter: What about support for our farmers up there. Farmers have been in the headlines a lot recently about the impact that they’re feeling on all fronts at the moment but the weather only impacts that further and I guess that sort of feeds into the mental health issues as well that they face.
Assistant Minister McBride: It’s really important point and we know that our farmers in Far North Queensland and around the country have been doing it tough. That’s why we’re rolling out 61 Head to Health Centres right across Australia. These are free, walk in centres where somebody can get information, advice, support, and care. There is one in Townsville, and I’ll be opening one in Kingaroy tomorrow. These are really important centres that mean that people can access support and care they need close to home and affordably without a GP appointment, without a referral. Really important care for Australians doing it tough right around the country.
Presenter: We also know, a little bit off beat here, but Anthony Albanese has just announced a hydrogen hub there in Townsville where you are. Have you been speaking with members of the community about that? Is it welcome news?
Assistant Minister McBride: I understand the Prime Minister will be with Minister Bowen, the Climate and Energy Minister, today and Premier Miles, making this announcement. I think that this will be welcome news in Queensland, and I know that around the country so many people are keen to see climate addressed in affordable ways that mean a reduction in power prices and Australia being able to reach our emission targets. I think this will be very welcome news in Townsville today and for the Queensland community.
Presenter: Do you think that’s front of mind for them though when they’re going through the severe weather events they’ve just been through and struggling to simply get by, and as you mentioned at the start of the conversation, just having electricity and basic necessities.
Assistant Minister McBride: Well, I understand the Prime Minister will be visiting the Disaster Response Centre this morning with the Premier so what is absolutely front of mind for the Prime Minister is the wellbeing, and the rescue and recovery for the people in Townsville and in Far North Queensland. But I also understand people know the link between climate and natural disasters and we’ve seen a greater frequency and severity of natural disasters in Australia which is why it’s very important that we do both act on the rescue and recovery right now, providing the support and assistance that people need, and make sure that we have the right climate and energy policies now and into the future that provide affordable energy and reduce the risk of the impacts of climate on people and communities and businesses.
Presenter: Minister, I want to ask you before we wrap things up here and while I’ve got you here. Peter Dutton is facing pressure not to stand in Labor’s way when it comes to these Stage 3 tax cuts which way do you think that will go?
Assistant Minister McBride: Well, we know that in Townsville every taxpayer in Townsville will receive a tax cut and we know that under Labors tax reform that 87% of taxpayers in Townsville will be better off compared to the previous government. So, I’m not sure what Phil Thompson, the Member for Herbert, will do but would he stand in the way of tax cuts for benefit, the whole of his community, and that leave 87% of his community better off?
Presenter: Emma McBride, thank you for your time today. Our thoughts are with everybody who’s been impacted by these severe weather events up in Townsville where you are as well. Thank you for your time.
Assistant Minister McBride: Good to be with you.