Transcript of Interview, 936 ABC Hobart, Statewide Mornings with Leon Compton

Interview

BPC010/2013

26 November 2013

Leon Compton: Are the Federal Government at the moment walking away from some of the larger commitments that were made by their predecessors to Tasmania? We've already spoken—we've spoken about it many times. The $100 million for job creation that was to come out of the forestry deal. We've spoken with businesses that have already planned and, in some cases, spent the money that was pledged to create jobs. You've heard in the last 24 hours that Gonski funding for the state is being reviewed and, of course, questions in the last 24 hours about the money that had been pledged, indeed, had been assigned in the budget of this year to Tasmania now coming under question.

So where is it? What's going on? The Prime Minister has said he will be an infrastructure Prime Minister, that's how he wants to be known, so what's happening in the context of Tasmania and the road network? Jamie Briggs is Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Assistant Minister, good morning to you.

Jamie Briggs: Good morning, Leon. How are you?

Leon Compton: I'm well. Thanks for talking with us this morning. The money was in the May budget. Why are you reconsidering delivering it to Tasmania?

Jamie Briggs: We're not.

Leon Compton: So what's happening at the moment with some of the $140 million or so worth of projects that have been promised to this state?

Jamie Briggs: You've got, I think, a couple of things happening, Leon, if I can. You've got Anthony Albanese, who's sort of like a Japanese soldier caught on an island post-Second World War, not realising the war is over and running around the country sort of, you know, not handling the loss very well on 7 September, making all sorts of accusations, wild accusations, consistent with the chaotic approach he took to government when he was the Minister for Infrastructure.

And you've got a very desperate state government who seems to be willing to put Tasmania's future at risk just to have a political fight. Mr O'Byrne, the relevant minister, who I met with just a couple of weeks ago and had a reasonable conversation with him, it must be said, yesterday made all sorts of claims about what was said and wasn't said in that meeting, which was very different from the discussion I was part of two weeks ago. You know, Mr O'Byrne's acting more like a political prima donna than he is an actual state minister representing the interests of Tasmania, and that's a real shame for the people of Tasmania.

The $100 million package, it's been explained to Mr O'Byrne and to many others, will be implemented. In fact, it's $106 million, Leon. We added to some of these projects during the campaign. Now, let me just explain this for your listeners, if the Labor Party had been re-elected—and thank goodness they weren't—they would have had to go through exactly the same process that we are now going through. Sure, they were chaotic and sure, they didn't respect good fiscal process as far as treating taxpayers’ money with respect, but they would have had to go through a process of working with the proponents of each project to ensure that taxpayers were getting the value for money.

We are doing the exactly same thing as would have happened had Labor been re-elected, and Mr Albanese and Ms Collins are being very disingenuous by not saying this to Tasmanians in the first place.

Leon Compton: So when will this money…

Jamie Briggs: So $106 million…

Leon Compton: This money was in the May budget. When will it be delivered?

Jamie Briggs: Well, no, this money was announced in July from a list as it was revealed in Senate Estimates last week, which had no rhyme or reason to it, Leon. It had no rhyme or reason to it. It was a list that came from the Tasmanian Government. Normally with regional development type programs there is a process where governments will have a tender process and they'll ask for applications. In this case, the federal department was handed a list by the then minister. So that was the first step and that happened in July.

There was no further movement; it must be said, by the Federal Labor Government at that stage to move those projects ahead before the election. We committed during the election to honour those projects because while we have, you know, concerns about the processes of the former Labor Government, we are not going to put good hard working Tasmanian businesses at risk just because federal Labor, and as it turns now, state Labor, are incompetent and treat taxpayers' money with complete disrespect. So we committed…

Leon Compton: Jamie Briggs, have a listen—this is Anthony Albanese talking with us yesterday. Have a listen.

[AUDIO]

Albanese: What we've got here is that money that was allocated in budgets. It's fair enough to say if someone gives an election promise, then a new government isn't bound by it. By what we have here is projects that were signed up to as part of Nation Building 2. Obviously that was due to begin next year that rollout. It takes time to plan infrastructure projects and to get it right, but all of that now seemingly up in the air.

[END OF AUDIO]

Leon Compton: Anthony Albanese says it was in the budget, Jamie Briggs.

Jamie Briggs: Well, you've confused two projects, Leon, with all due respect. You're talking about on one hand the $100 million Tasmanian growth package—economic growth package, and claims that Anthony Albanese is making in respect to road funding, they are…

Leon Compton: Roads funding is what we're talking about this morning. He says the roads funding was in the budget.

Jamie Briggs: Sorry, you started off on the $100 million Tasmania economic package. I'm happy to talk about road funding as well. Those claims are also wrong and Mr Albanese should know it. I mean, look, what you've got here is a former minister who hasn't got over the loss. I mean, it's as simple as that. And what you've also got here…

Leon Compton: No, Mr Briggs, can I just…

Jamie Briggs: No, hang on.

Leon Compton: No, no. I'll pull you up for a moment. Nobody in Tasmania is interested in the personal accounts or challenges between yourself and Mr Albanese.

Jamie Briggs: Well, Leon, with all due respect…

Leon Compton: Nobody believes that you or he is out doing the road engineering works to put these projects together. It will be done somewhere in the Department of Roads, it will be prioritised in accordance with what Tasmanians need, and someone needs to pay for it. Are you going to pay for the road works that we're talking about this morning?

Jamie Briggs: Well, Leon, with all due respect, you are repeating accusations made by the former minister with no basis in truth. That is what is happening here. Mr Albanese got on the radio yesterday and made a series of accusations which are unfounded, have no basis in truth. There is no question about our commitments to Tasmania. We made them very clear in the election campaign. Money that was in the forward estimates for projects that were already agreed, of course, will continue. It is absurd to suggest otherwise, and that is exactly what's happened.

Leon, there's a political game being played here because of the Tasmanian election and sadly, Mr O'Byrne is kicking this along rather than representing the interests of Tasmanians. He's questioning these projects for political purposes. That is my point. Both in respect to the $100 million…

Leon Compton: So the question is will roads funding promised in the Budget to Tasmania, in the Federal Budget, be delivered to this state? And if yes, when?

Jamie Briggs: Leon, of course, it will be, and we will talk to the Tasmanian Government—as you said quite correctly just a moment ago, it is the Tasmanian Government, as it is across the country. It's the state governments that deliver these projects. Now, I think it's quite reasonable for people to wonder what the Tasmanian Government is doing after 16 years and they've seen the results of this Labor Government but at the end of the day, as far as the federal contribution goes, of course it's committed.

The additional commitments we made in the election campaign, including 400 million for the Midland Highway, will also be achieved. We are doing what we would normally do and what the former Labor Government would've done, Leon, in talking to the Tasmanian Government about our investment programme for the next year's budget, which is when the next five year roads funding agreement will be announced, and would've been announced under Anthony Albanese, Leon.

Leon Compton: So when will the roads funding that was promised in the budget of this year be delivered?

Jamie Briggs: It will be delivered as part of the agreement with the state government. State government builds these roads, Leon. Mr Albanese would've answered the same question the same way. I mean, see, what you've got here is a political party that's just lost an election making unfounded accusations and somehow they're becoming a fact when there is no fact at all other than what is in the budget, of course, will be delivered. What we make commitments to in the election campaign, of course, will be delivered.

But like all good federal governments, we will enter into agreements with the relevant state governments across the country, as we are doing with the Victorian Government, the New South Wales Government, the Queensland Government, the South Australian Government and the Western Australian Government. Right at this time, we are talking about the infrastructure investment programme. We've committed $30 billion over the next four years to ensure that we upgrade our roads to get the best economic performance we can.

Leon Compton: On ABC local…

Jamie Briggs: Mr Albanese needs to be tested. They can't just be taken at face value.

Leon Compton: On ABC local radio around Tasmania, it's quarter to nine. My guest this morning, Jamie Briggs, the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. So, Mr Briggs, as we talk this morning, there will be many hundreds of people making their way through the Brooker Highway intersection—around where the Glenorchy Roads intersect with the Brooker Highway, where racecourse turnoffs happen, and the roads area there is a debacle—$25.6 million has been promised to improve that. When will that money be delivered?

Jamie Briggs: Well, as I said, Leon, we are discussing with the state government about the investment program now. Has—the state government will have its plans on when it wants to upgrade roads. The Federal Government doesn't actually upgrade the roads. The state government does, so that is a matter that state government will need to answer. We will commit—we will honour what was in the budget and we will honour what we made commitments at the election campaign. The state government will ultimately work with us on what will be their most important priorities.

That's how it happens across the country. There's no difference here, Leon. This is a normal procedure and, by the way, would've been the same procedure had the Labor Party been re-elected on 7 September which, of course, thank goodness for Australia, they weren't.

Leon Compton: Can you understand at the moment there might be a perception or a concern in Tasmania as the claims are being made that all of the $100 million for job creation that was to come out of the forestry deal needs to be reassessed or that due diligence needs to be done again on that, that Gonski funding for the state needs to be reviewed, that roads money funding potentially needs to be reviewed. Can you understand a concern that there might be a plan to walk away from much of what was pledged to Tasmania over the course of an election campaign?

Jamie Briggs: No, Leon, because they're not true. None of those accusations you've just made are true. We are not reconsidering the $106 million now for the economic diversification program. We increased that amount of money. We are doing what a good, normal federal Government always does and, as I said earlier, Mr Albanese would've done. The education funding will be delivered. The same amount will be delivered, as made perfectly clear by Minister Pyne.

These claims are being made as part of a state election campaign, Leon. You've got a state government that can't talk about its record after 16 years. It's got nothing good to say about the future of Tasmania. It is trying to create faux fights. It's got ministers running around acting like political prima donnas rather than representing the best interests of Tasmania. These are all very normal processes, which would've occurred had Labor been re-elected on 7 September. What you've got is a state election campaign in which a state government is desperately trying to drag a new federal Government into a fight. We're going to represent the people of Tasmania. We've got good new Liberal representatives who are working very hard to ensure that Tasmania gets back on its feet and gets its economic performance much improved.

That's what we want to see, as a government. That's what we need to see, as a country. Having these faux fights over false claims does not take Tasmania forward. In fact, it makes you wonder what is it that David O'Byrne is actually trying to achieve?

Leon Compton: We have to move on. Good to talk to you this morning.

Jamie Briggs: And you, Leon. Thank you very much.

Leon Compton: Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.