Transcript of Interview, ABC AM Program with Chris Uhlmann
24 March 2014
Chris Uhlmann: Tony Abbott's move to back up his promise to be the infrastructure Prime Minister by assigning key ministers to ensure that promised projects are delivered on time. He's set up a new Cabinet sub-committee to focus on building. The Opposition accuses the Government of trying to gut Infrastructure Australia, the existing body charged with assessing the nation's needs, but the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Jamie Briggs, defends the plan to give senior ministers a new role. Mr Briggs has been speaking to political correspondent Louise Yaxley.
Jamie Briggs: What the subcommittee will do is allow the Government, the executive Government, to make decisions with taxpayers' money in the best interest of our economic future, building infrastructure which improves our economy, improves our productive capacity and is good for all Australians. Ultimately, if you've got the single focus of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the relevant ministers in the infrastructure portfolio, it's got to be a good thing for the future of our economy and the future of our people.
Louise Yaxley: You have a body like Infrastructure Australia which is there to prioritise and to look at projects. What's the need for a Cabinet subcommittee on top of that?
Jamie Briggs: Well, absolutely, and Infrastructure Australia will be a very important part of our agenda, and if the Labor Party would get out of the way and let us pass the reforms to it, it could start to do its work.
Louise Yaxley: So what will it actually do?
Jamie Briggs: It will take, obviously, decisions in relation to our infrastructure investment. We have got $36 billion already planned over the next few years of infrastructure investment, and we're looking at doing more with the states to build the capacity of our people, to ensure we've got an economy which is as productive as it can be. This committee will obviously look at proposals from state governments and from the private sector and put emphasis on getting things done. It will have reporting mechanisms to ensure that we're getting things done more quickly than what they have been in the past and, as I said, it won't be just about announcements. It'll be about delivery.
Louise Yaxley: Now, that's all going to have a fairly long time frame, though. It needs a long lead-in, doesn't it?
Jamie Briggs: Well, it needs a government that's going to make decisions based on evidence, and that's why Infrastructure Australia's—the reforms of Infrastructure Australia are so important, and that's why a working relationship with state governments is also important. And if you get the right decisions in place, the Productivity Commission says you can save at least $1 billion a year, either you—by making the right project selections in the first place and funding and delivering infrastructure in the best way. At the moment, as the Productivity Commission tells us, the system left to us by the Labor Party wastes at least $1 billion a year. Well, we're going to fix that.
Louise Yaxley: But why can't the existing structure of the Government do this without having to create an extra subcommittee of Cabinet?
Jamie Briggs: Because government's about emphasis in a lot of ways, and this emphasis—the emphasis of this government is I'm building the infrastructure of the 21st century. And, you know, Tony Abbott has made perfectly clear he wants to be remembered as the Infrastructure Prime Minister, and this is a major commitment that we made in the election campaign and we maintain now, building infrastructure which builds a stronger economy will ensure Australia's as strong as it can be, and that's why we're so focused on it.
Louise Yaxley: But isn't having a subcommittee of Cabinet really just doing something to ensure that he looks like he's delivering on that? What will it actually do?
Jamie Briggs: Well, it will deliver, and that'll be the test for all of us. If we don't deliver, in 2016 the Australian people will have their opportunity to express their view.
Chris Uhlmann: The Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Jamie Briggs, speaking to Louise Yaxley.