Sir Peter Cosgrove interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, TODAY

29 January 2020

Event: Interview on TODAY with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon

Speaker: General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK AC(Mil) CVO MC (RETD)

Date: 29 January 2020

Topics: BizRebuild, bushfires

Karl Stefanovic, host: Welcome back to the show, it's good to have your company across Australia this morning. Well millions of dollars continues to roll in to help people recover after bushfires destroyed their homes and livelihoods. However, business owners don't want to rely on donated money, they want to get back to earning their own.

Allison Langdon, host: But without tools, supplies and shop fronts that's nearly impossible and that's where BizRebuild comes in. It's led by Sir Peter Cosgrove who until last year was the 26th Governor-General of Australia and he joins us now. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

Sir Peter Cosgrove, Chair, BizRebuild: Good morning to you all.

Allison: Karl and I, we were just out in East Gippsland yesterday talking to a lot of business owners. They've been hit really hard with tourists not coming and they all said the same thing, they don't want a handout but they accept that there's a very good chance without some kind of help that a lot of them will go under this winter. So how can you help?

Sir Peter: Well we've got this set up now that's been dreamed up by the Business Council of Australia. It's called BizRebuild and what it's designed to do is to funnel giant resources through from the business community in Australia, the wider business community, into recovering those businesses so that they can get back on their feet and remain the economic glue of their communities. Without them, those communities just gently fold and fade away and we don't want that. So we're doing this as a business community, as a wider business community, putting in funds, jobs and goods in-kind to get people back on their feet.

Karl: Sir Peter, you and I have spent a deal of time together after Cyclone Yasi in far north Queensland. We watched the slow rebuild there and I thought you did an extraordinary job doing that and this country is in no better hands with you looking after this part of it. How are you going to incentivise this? How are we going to bring people back to those areas? As Ally said, we were out there yesterday, they really need people to come back. How are you going to incentivise that and keep these small businesses afloat?

Sir Peter: Quick, direct action. What we've got to do is have people on the ground. We're doing that. We've got to engage with the community leaders, particularly the business leaders, we're doing that. For example today we've got about 60 mayors and representatives of chambers of commerce from the damaged areas in today, in the parliament, and we're going to sit with them, establish their immediate needs and form a relationship ongoing so we can point aid directly at the areas of greatest need. We will rely on their expertise for their area to say 'this is what we need.' An example will be a popup at Mogo. A popup, a sort of business hub in Mogo.

Karl: Awesome.

Sir Peter: We will have that up and running quite soon through the generosity of people who will donate demountables and the people who will carry them. I think it's ATCO and Linfox will bring a convoy of these demountables to that little settlement so that it can get back up to some level of attraction to tourists and supporting the local community.

Allison: Because I think that's what people want to hear. They want to hear practical solutions. A great example I heard was a small carpentry business in Batemans Bay. They lost all of their tools so Bunnings stepped in and replaced all of the tools, that saved a local company and it saved local jobs.

Sir Peter: Nine young men, I think they are all young men, back in work with tools. The only thing stopping them was that they didn't have the wherewithal to continue the business. But that's just the tip of the iceberg from our point of view. We will have, we hope, situations like that, various ways and means across the whole of the bushfire area. People back in work, that's hugely important.

Karl: We have the ability here if we learn from some of these lessons and we do exactly what you are trying to set up to, I guess, prepare ourselves for future events like this but also to connect rural areas, regional areas and areas that have been isolated through things like bushfires or floods or whatever the case may be in bringing these people within the cities out to those areas and helping them through things like droughts and bushfires. Don't you think?

Sir Peter: Absolutely. We are trying to get all of the big businesses in Australia that might ordinarily run a conference in, I don't know, Melbourne or Sydney or one of the other major capitals, to say why don't you take your business conference this year now to one of those areas and give them your patronage and educate yourselves about the need on the ground. And we think we will get a sympathetic ear from Australia's big businesses in that regard.

Allison: Yeah, absolutely, Sir Peter Cosgrove, thank you so much for what you're doing and for joining us this morning. It's greatly appreciated.

Sir Peter: Thanks for your interest and the network's interest. The media has played a wonderful hand so far in this recovery.

Karl: Good on you Sir Peter. Thank you, we will see you very soon.