Transcript of Interview, 6PR Perth with Paul Murray



06 February 2014

Transcript of Interview
6PR Perth with Paul Murray

Paul Murray: You might remember that in the dying days of the federal election campaign, there was a major controversy about the Liberal Party's intention to fund two big road projects in Western Australia. It's an issue I picked up on the morning program, and I pursued it, even to the extent of promising the Federal Secretary of the Transport Workers Union that I'd been assured that the roads would get done.

Well, some time ago, I got an interview on air with the Federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Jamie Briggs. Jamie gave me the undertaking. And he's in Western Australia again, and he joins us on the program now. G'day, Jamie.

Jamie Briggs: G'day, Paul. How are you?

Paul Murray: Good. You're in the Pilbara at the moment, are you?

Jamie Briggs: I'm up here with the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, and Melissa Price, the local member. We're doing a tour around of several significant mining sites this afternoon. This morning, he visited the North West Coastal Highway to make the announcement that you and I spoke about in November. The Liberal Party in Government will deliver upon the upgrades to that important road, and we will start that project in conjunction with the Western Australian Government this year. And so we're now working closely with Treasurer Buswell to get that project up and running and delivering all the productivity and safety improvements that the project promises.

Paul Murray: Okay. So these are two fairly notorious parts of the North West coast—the Great Northern Highway and North West Coastal Highway. So it's Great Northern Highway from Muchea to Wubin—very dangerous stretch of road—and the North West Coastal Highway, Minilya to Barradale.

Jamie Briggs: Yes. That's right. And, look, I should make the point; we're delivering this without a mining tax. And one of the messages we want to give the mining industry in Western Australia is we're not here trying to find a new way to tax you or to regulate you or to injure you. We're here to try and take taxation pressure off you, take regulation pressure off you, and for the mining industry in Western Australia to do better.

Now, these two roads, these two upgrades, I should say, to these important roads will, we believe, help with that, not just the mining industry, of course, but also the agricultural sector. And that is part of our plan to be a government that creates the economic opportunity for all businesses to do well, not just pick some winners, to give all businesses the opportunity, through investments in productive infrastructure. And there are no better examples than these two roads, frankly, across the country.

Paul Murray: Yes. Look, they've been sorely needed. And I understand that that controversy, probably, was rooted in the fact that Labor did promise to fund them out of the mining tax. And, of course, when you were promising to do away with the mining tax, it left the issue of where the money was going to come from.

Jamie Briggs: Well, indeed. But the other point—and I made this point this morning, it is questionable whether Labor could have delivered, because there was no revenue from the mining tax. It was so badly designed, as you are aware, that the tax wasn't collecting revenue. So we're underfunded, or unfunded, I should say. And what we've done, and through important projects, which, in effect, meant additional money for Western Australia, will be completed and completed soon, we hope, sooner than planned at the moment. Overall, Paul, I should make the point that there is, you know, $4 billion in the investment program from the Federal Government directed to Western Australia in the coming years. It is all for, I think, very productive infrastructure investments which will help WA grow. We don't want to talk down industry, as our opponents do. … also, not just talk them up, invest in the productive infrastructure which will help Australia's miners make more—get more of their ore out of the ground, support across the country, and to customers around the world. That is good for our nation. It will make us more prosperous if we're able to do that.

Paul Murray: Jamie, when will work start on these two upgrades on Great Northern Highway and the North West Coastal Highway?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, this is one of the challenges of the Federal Minister. We don't have a lot of control over when we'll start. That is something that Troy Buswell’s team are working on now. And I saw the Treasurer in Perth yesterday, and he assures me that everything is being done as quickly as possible to get this work underway this year, on both projects. I would hope, in the next couple of years, both of these projects—and there are, as you know, different aspects of each of the projects on different parts of the roads—will be completed. So we've got not just the upgrades for the productivity reasons, but, of course, particularly on the North West Coastal, as I understand, it has been a horrific spot for accidents.

Paul Murray: Yes.

Jamie Briggs: And there's been some deaths and so forth. So, obviously, this is going to have multiple benefits. But, you know, I think it is not unfair, in Western Australia, that people look around and think to themselves, we are doing the best we can to help drive the Australian economy, when you're sitting in the Pilbara and you look at these unbelievable investments that companies have made, which are driving our economy so much that the Western Australia public and industry get some benefit from making such commitments. We think this additional funding, this additional money we've come up with for these roads, is part of that.

Paul Murray: Finally, Jamie, what's the state of play with the Swan Valley Bypass and the Gateway WA project? Which are both, I think, about—over $600 million each?

Jamie Briggs: Well, they are massive projects. The Gateway project, I'm informed by the Treasurer yesterday, is coming along very well. And, again, we're hoping that the timeframes that have been announced can be brought forward as works completed more quickly and, hopefully, Paul, more cost-effectively than first planned. The Swan Valley Bypass that is obviously a project which is still to go through its planning and development.

We are committing very heavily… I think it's just over $600 million to the Swan Valley Bypass. And it will, again, be an important link in the infrastructure needs of Perth, linking it with the north. Well, we would be hopeful that our project is moving rapidly, as well. But, again, I'm sure Troy Buswell and the team there at Main Roads Department in Perth are working as hard as they can to get this started.

Paul Murray: Good to talk to you again, Jamie. Thanks a lot.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks, Paul. Thanks for having me on.