Event: Sir Peter Cosgrove interview on 2GB with Alan Jones

Speaker: Alan Jones, host; Sir Peter Cosgrove, BizRebuild Chair; Andrew Constance MP, Member for Bega

Date: 25 February 2020


Alan Jones, host: Andrew Constance is here. Before I go to General Cosgrove, how are you going?

Andrew Constance MP, Member for Bega: Tough. Tough.

Alan: Tough?

Andrew: Look, the recovery for some people is going well but generally, I mean, there's 30% of people it's not. So they're the people I worry about the most.

Alan: One farm has written to me today, just it says, "Even if you're staying onsite in a caravan or a tent", which he is, "and you've got a generator, where do you shower? Where do you wash your feet? There are no toilets." He said. "How do you send the kids to school? You're trying to do it, in a tent, in the rain. What you would normally do in a kitchen."

Andrew: You don't.

Alan: See. And this is one of the most powerful people in government. Where is all this money? Do you see the money?

Andrew: Someone's got four and a half billion dollars somewhere.

Alan: Yes.

Andrew: Can you find it? I'll just go and find it. I mean, you know?

Alan: We shouldn't be laughing but it's true.

Alan: I know. It's the truth.

Andrew: I saw people in tents on Friday, just in the middle of the Bush. I mean, I think that the thing about it is, is that with best of intentions we're seeing ultimately recovery effort underway under Dick Adams, under Ewan McFerguson, up on the North Coast. But the thing that's concerned me, and Barra's doing an amazing job, but for God's sake, we've got to start turning off the green tape so people can look at their blocks and potentially rebuild or sell a block. 80% of people are going to walk away from their blocks. They're not going to rebuild. They've been too traumatised and they don't have the energy to go and rebuild. But you know, we need to turn off the green tape at national and state level, so people can rebuild their homes.

Alan: No, but see, you wake up. Peter Cosgrove, come in. So Peter Cosgrove, good morning to you. We're lucky to have you but I know you understand all of this, but just fancy waking up every day, you've got the kids there, you don't have a home, you don't have a kitchen table, you don't even own a porridge bowl. You've got to try and send them to school and these people are writing to me and I'm sure you've heard all of this, you said we can't afford to have compassion fatigue. How do you see things?

Sir Peter Cosgrove, Chair BizRebuild: I see them exactly the same way but from obviously greater range, as Andrew does. And it's nice to be able to say hi to Andrew because he was around when we were in Mogo more than a week ago, putting up some bump-ups, and I saw Andrew there and I could sort of give him a pat on the back from all of my team. Look, we're trying to do the non-red tape, the non-green tape thing. We go straight through with our aid. We've distributed thousands and thousands of dollars of immediate aid to our visiting teams. I mean, we've been in Andrew's area, Mogo, of course, but Batemans Bay, Eden, Merimbula, Cooma, Tumut, Batlow and Lake Eucumbene. That's just since you and I last spoke, Alan.

Alan: Yep.

Sir Peter: And on our list, we've helped the Whiters Butchery, Eden Antiques and Wares, Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre, Eden Gas and Gear, Pickles Fishing and Outdoors, Finnies by the Wall Cafe. And I'm just really going into the business side.

Alan: Right. Well now do you want the bad news? You want the bad news? No, no, no. I'll give you the bad news. This is a former governor general, a former distinguished man in every field of combat but he's not trusted. You can't trust Peter Cosgrove. Because if you trusted him you'd say, "Now look, we'll put the money in a trust account. And you and Andrew Constance, look after the dough, you've been everywhere." Oh we mustn't trust him. No, we'll give them money to the bureaucrats. And we'll send the mayor of Bega Valley to Canberra to beg for money. Now you can't have it both ways. We either trust Peter Cosgrove and we say, "Well, this is a distinguished Australian. He was the Australian of the Year, he's a former governor general, Peter, we're going to shove this money in a trust account. Can you mobilise Andrew Constance and Liz Innes and we'll get this money because Peter Cosgrove's looking after business. Andrew here is talking about families and we'll get this dough to families. Andrew, what's wrong with that?

Andrew: I think we should have a national disaster relief fund with the appropriate Australians running it, not bureaucrats.

Alan: Absolutely. So Peter, I'm sorry, we mustn't trust you?

Sir Peter: Please Alan, I reckon that what we'll do is focus every Australian who listens in onto the real and present need that's ongoing and all your attention on this, is absolutely vital for what we are trying to do. So bless you for that. Andrew, I hope you're going to have break, mate, because I know that you've been burning candles at both ends.

Andrew: Bugger that, I haven't got time! I mean, can I just say to Peter, like it was amazing having you down because lift peoples' spirits. But Shane Fitzsimmons said to me these words, "A great recovery is an honest one" and I know certainly what Sir Peter's doing is giving people enormous hope. But we've seen eight businesses close in the last two weeks and one of the challenges there is that the small business program is not hitting where it needs to. So we're just tipping people onto the Newstart allowance. So we're paying people entitlements instead of paying small business to keep them employed. And that's the problem I have. Like, the feds are missing the mark in terms of their small business recovery.

Alan: And what do you say to that, Peter?

Sir Peter: I say we're in a race, Alan, because it's going to be that people, if I could put it this way, Andrew, they become despairing and they give up the ghost. So I reckon that-

Alan: They do. But Peter, what do I say? Peter, I've got to answer this letter today. What do I say to this bloke? I mean, I've already referred them to Sarah Mitchell. This man's got five kids, I mean, he's got nothing. He's got nothing.

Sir Peter: I found after Cyclone Larry, we put somebody in a demountable home, set up as a some new, little cottage for them.

Alan: Yeah. Yes, yes.

Sir Peter: I thought we were good as gold and then I asked that lady who was in there with her kids, she was a single mom. I said, "Where you been the last few months?" She said, "I've been sleeping in the car." And I thought, you know, Australia in whatever year that was, 2006, how could this be?

Alan: That's right. That's right.

Sir Peter: So we are in a bit of a race.

Alan: Absolutely. Well, a great thing about you, Peter Cosgrove, he's a real knockabout everyday. Australian and we love him for that, but somewhere along the line can someone get these bureaucrats out of the way and release the money? Peter, we'll talk again next week. Keep at it, great to talk to you. Thank you sir for everything. There he is.

Sir Peter: Thank you and good on you and Andrew.

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