Doorstop Interview with Kristy McBain – Bega – Thursday 2 July 2020

Subjects: HomeBuilder in Eden-Monaro; John Barilaro.
KRISTY MCBAIN: Hi, I’m Kristy McBain, Labor’s candidate in the Eden-Monaro by-election. I’m joined here today in Bega with Jason Clare Labor’s Shadow Minister for Housing. Jason and I have been at Jan and John Harris’s property today at Vimy Ridge. They lost their house during the Vimy Ridge, Reedy Swamp and Tathra fires in 2018. They are still not close to rebuilding. Bushfire recovery is long, it’s drawn out and it requires a lot of support. The experience they’ve had means that they won’t be in a position to sign a building contract by the end of this year and will therefore be ineligible for the HomeBuilder package.
We know many people across Eden-Monaro, over 750 families, have lost their homes during this summer’s bushfire. Over 600 properties are still to have the debris cleaned up from their properties. There are many people that will not be in a position to sign a building contract by the end of the year. And as such, we need bushfire affected regions to have some dispensation in this programme, so that people that are doing it the toughest can access the additional $25,000 from this government.  
We’ve said early on in this campaign, it was about local issues and local voices and people right across this region doing it tough have said to us, they need additional time to access the $25,000. At a time when these people are doing it the toughest, we should be extending that hand of help out to them and making sure that we can actually see some of the $25,000.
JASON CLARE: Thanks very much Kristy, it’s great to be with you here in Bega. You are an awesome candidate and all the best for the weekend. Driving into Bega you see leaves growing back onto blackened trees and foliage coming back. But it takes a little bit longer for homes to come back out of the ground. And visiting Jan’s house today I really got a good understanding of just how difficult it is to rebuild. Her home burned down, not in the bushfires over summer, but two years ago, and she’s only now getting building approval to go ahead and still hasn’t got a building contract.
Now, here’s the problem with the government’s HomeBuilder scheme for the 700 or more people who lost their homes in this electorate over the summer bushfires. You’ve got to sign a contract to build a new house by New Year’s Eve. And, for most people who lost their homes in the bushfires, they’re just not going to be able to do it. Whether it’s because the debris is not cleared yet, insurance problems, building approval problems like Jan had or just the trauma of getting over what happened to you, your family and losing the family home. That’s why we’ve said: Prime Minister use a bit of sense and extend the scheme so that people who deserve this money the most, people who lost their homes in the bushfires, can get access to it.
Now Labor wrote to the Prime Minister and said; Can you apply a bit of common sense here? Can you provide a bit of extra help for these bushfire victims? The Prime Minister wrote back yesterday and said no. He said they’ve got to apply by New Years Eve and then there’s potentially special consideration for how long it takes to build after that.
Well the bottom line is, most people aren’t going to be able to sign a contract by New Years Eve. Which means most people are going to miss out. The people of this local community felt abandoned by the Prime Minister during the bushfires and now they’re being left out of this scheme, being left behind by this government. It’s just another reason to vote for Kristy McBain this weekend. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Do you want to see the scheme extended just for bushfire victims in Eden-Monaro? Or is throughout the state and country?
CLARE: I think the government is going to have to extend the scheme for everybody eventually.  Because this is a scheme about saving the jobs of tradies and small businesses in the construction industry. The construction industry is going off a cliff, and we need to do more to save these jobs.  So, I think eventually reality is going to catch up with the government, they’re going to realise that they have to extend this scheme. But at the very least, they should be extending this scheme for the people who need and deserve this the most. And that’s the 700 odd families here in Eden-Monaro and the more than 3000 across the country who lost their homes in the bushfires. I just think it’s a common sense thing to do, from a government that abandoned this community during the bushfires to show that they care.
REPORTER: Given that the government’s giving out $25,000 to people who can afford $150,000 renovations, do you think a specific scheme should have been developed earlier specifically for bushfire victims?
CLARE: Yeah, absolutely. Here’s the thing, if you own a home in Sydney or Melbourne and you want to put another floor on it, and you’ve got the plans ready to go, then you can get $25,000 from the government, happy days. But if your home burnt down and you can’t practically get the paperwork done by New Years Eve, you miss out. So, we’re saying extend this scheme, so the bushfire victims get access to it.
But here’s another idea that Kristy came up with, which is just a good example of what a great Member of Parliament she would be. In her five-point jobs plan she said; The government should provide some help to people to make their homes more bushfire safe. More than 700 people had their homes burn down here in the bushfires, but thousands of others are living fire prone areas and if the wind had blown the other way it could have been them that lost their home as well. So, Kristy’s plan, she’s saying the government should provide some financial help to help people make their home a bit safer, whether it’s sprinklers or whether it’s change to the decking or the materials used to make the house.
According to the University of Melbourne, on average, it costs about $25,000 to upgrade your home to make it more fireproof, now, if the government provided a little bit of help, that would help a lot of people in this local community to keep their home safe.
REPORTER: How grateful are you for John Barilaro helping you out in this late stage of the campaign?
CLARE: We’ll look, if John Barilaro couldn’t bring himself to vote for the Liberals at the last election before they abandoned this community during the bush fires, then why would anybody vote Liberal on the weekend?
The Liberal Party and the National Party have been at each other’s throats right throughout this campaign. From the very, very start they we’re fighting with each other. And now with only two days before election day, they’re still fighting with each other. And now we’ve got John Barilaro basically admitting that he voted Labor at the last federal election. If he couldn’t vote for this Liberal candidate at the last federal election, then why would anybody vote Liberal on the weekend?
Remember, since then, we’ve had the bushfires, we’ve had the government basically abandon this local community. You’ve got Kristy here, the former mayor of Bega, who in the toughest of times, stood up and fought for her local community and showed the sort of leadership you want in a local member of parliament. Being a member of parliament in any seat in the country, but particularly this one, requires somebody who’s tough, somebody who’s prepared to stand up for their local community and not back down. Now that was Kristy in the teeth of the bushfires. Compare that to the Prime Minister who turned up, got abused, people wouldn’t shake his hand, so he ran away. This is not a game. You need a tough, strong person who’s going to represent this community and speak up for it in Parliament. Kristy’s shown that she can do that as the mayor of this local community and she’ll be able to do that in Canberra if she wins enough support on Saturday in this crucial by-election
REPORTER: Given how tight the contest is. What impact do you think Mr Barilaro’s comments will have on the campaign?
CLARE: Well, I think for a lot of swinging voters, I think for a lot of National Party voters when they hear that the leader of the National Party voted Labor at the last election, that he couldn’t bring himself to vote for the sister party, the Liberal Party, they’ll think, if he votes Labor then maybe so should we. You know, he’s effectively voting against his own family, voting against the Liberal Party. He disliked the Liberal candidate that much, he voted for the Labor candidate. Now if even the leader of the National Party voted Labor, then why should anybody else vote Liberal on the weekend.
REPORTER: Given with two days out from an election, he’s well versed in politics. This is obviously not a slip of the tongue. This is a deliberate attack on the Prime Minister, do you think?
CLARE: It’s just nonsense political games don’t you think? You know this is serious. This is an election to elect somebody to represent this local community in Parliament. It’s a big responsibility, as I said before, representing over 100,000 people, speaking up for people who need a voice in Canberra. And this shouldn’t be about political games, whether it’s the Nats undermining the Libs or one politician in Sydney, undermining another politician in Canberra. This is about making sure that we’ve got the best representative possible to represent this community in Parliament. And this is a community that needs a strong voice. You’ve gone through a drought, you’ve gone through bushfires, you’ve gone through Coronavirus, and now you’ve got the Liberal Party and the National Party playing slapstick games with each other. Really, the community deserves better.
REPORTER: Can I ask you about those comments? Do you think John Barilaro’s position has significantly helped your campaign?
MCBAIN: Look, I’ve been out campaigning, I’ve done over 9000 kilometres right across this electorate. My focus has always been on securing people’s number one votes. I’ve worked with John Barilaro over a number of years now as mayor. And I’ve got a lot of respect for him. But I’ll be campaigning for people’s number one votes and where their preferences flow, and after putting me number one, hopefully, is a matter entirely up to them in the polling booth.
REPORTER: Is it unexpected but welcome?
MCBAIN: To be perfectly honest, I haven’t actually seen any of the media on it. It’s just during these events that people have bought it up. But as I said, I’ve been out there for a long time now campaigning for people’s number one vote. Because, as Jason referred to, our community’s doing it really tough at the moment  They’ve got a lot of people really struggling on the back of bushfires, COVID and we still have an ongoing drought.
And the conversation has largely moved on from drought, but we’ve got farmers still in significant need.  We’ve got people that are in caravans that, you know, should be in more stable long-term accommodation.  And we have businesses that are really crying out for a plan for the future and they’re not sure if they’re going to be viable after September when JobKeeper goes away. They want to know that someone’s there to have their back and fight for them first, and that what I’ve said all along, throughout this campaign is, for me, about local issues, amplifying local voices and getting outcomes to the people in this region.
REPORTER: What’s your Intel telling you about how close it’s going to be on Saturday?
MCBAIN: It’s Eden-Monaro. It’s a marginal electorate. It’s going to be a tough contest. And we’ll be campaigning right up until 6pm on Saturday, to try to get as many number one preferences as possible from our voters. What I know about my community, is that they’re strong, resilient bunch, but they want somebody that’s not afraid to speak up for them. During a by-election, in a party room or in Parliament, they need someone that will not be told what to do or how to act.
REPORTER: In your travels have you seen or heard of any Nationals members or voters putting you behind them, ahead of the liberals?
MCBAIN: I’ve been on a number of pre-poll booths over the last couple of weeks and we’ve stood side by side with the Nationals candidate himself. I’ve never once heard a National party volunteer or the candidate himself talk about preferences other than his own.