Sir Peter Cosgrove, chair BizRebuild interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB Breakfast

Ben Fordham, host 2GB Breakfast: Towns devastated by fires nine months ago are still recovering and with so much happening in the world we can't forget they still need our help. Someone who's been leading the recovery effort is former Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove. He'll be in Mollymook and Mogo today as the head of BizRebuild. An initiative helping local businesses get back on their feet and we're very happy to say on 2GB Breakfast, good morning Sir Peter Cosgrove.

Sir Peter Cosgrove, chair BizRebuild: G'day Ben. Good to talk to you again.

Ben: Nice to talk to you. You're in Mollymook and you're about to go to Mogo. How's everyone down there?

Sir Peter: Not too bad, the weather is beaut for a start. We had a bit of a storm that went through yesterday evening, but the place looks clean and bright. It's getting to the point now where you want to say to people, ‘spend your holiday money down here! Come along here. Visit one of these beaut coastal settlements and see the recovery they've made so far.’ But there's work still to be done. That's another part of coming down here. You'll have a holiday but boy oh boy, will you see some stuff that still needs to be rehabilitated to get it back on its feet.

Ben: They copped the triple whammy, drought and fires and then coronavirus. And just as we were encouraging people to go on holiday in these areas, then we were saying to people we'd prefer you don't take coronavirus potentially into the regions. I'm guessing you'd see a lot of ‘For Lease’ signs up on the shops?

Sir Peter: Last time I was down in this neck of the woods I was in a coffee shop and the lady there had the ‘For Sale’ sign up on the glass front of the coffee shop and it was the same sort of deal, that it just got too much. And that's the sort of thing, we're in a bit of a race to make sure that businesses which have been on their knees don't just close the door, sell up, go somewhere else. That's the glue of the community we're trying to keep here so that there are businesses that can still operate. And that's why people live around the district.

Ben: So much of the bush was burnt out last time around so does that mean we're unlikely to have the same intensity bushfires this time around?

Sir Peter: Possibly, hopefully. In driving down, we've been seeing the regrowth occurring. Nature just regenerates. There's a bit of fuel developing but probably not to the extent that was so devastating late last year and into this year. 

Ben: Listen I might ask you another question if I could put your other hat on as a former chief of the defence force. The Afghani soldier, Hekmatullah, who killed the three Australian troops. There's still a chance of being released in this prisoner swap deal done by the Trump Administration. I know Australia is doing its best to try and keep him in detention. He's now being transferred to Qatar and talks are continuing. Clearly this man should never be let out?

Sir Peter: Well that would be Australia's view. I mean, I'm thinking of the loved ones of the soldiers who were killed by this fellow. And I know what they'll be thinking, and they'll have 25 million other Australians who feel the same way. But it is a matter for governments. We do these sorts of negotiations all the time. Sometimes it's trying to get our people off death row in other people's nations and sometimes it's of course to plead that there not be leniency given which we wouldn't agree with. The government is all over this and it will be a delicate negotiation with Afghan authorities who are the nation that claim this guy. And if he's in Qatar at the moment well he won't be having a good time in their jail. But whether or not he actually ever gets out, I reckon the government is well aware what the Australian people would prefer.

Ben: We are very thankful for your time this morning and enjoy the day in Mogo. Say g’day to everyone for us. 

Sir Peter: Thanks very much Ben. All the best to you.

Ben: Sir Peter Cosgrove, our former Governor-General, he's in Mogo today as the head of BizRebuild which is all about helping people back on their feet after the bushfires. Can you believe it? The bushfire season begins again on October 1.