Transcript of Interview, Sky News PM Agenda



16 April 2014

Western Sydney infrastructure plan;
Barry O'Farrell

David Speers: The minister who has the job of overseeing this Western Sydney development is the Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs, who is with me now from Sydney. Minister, thanks for your time.

Now the road projects—those in Sydney and Western Sydney in particular would know them. The Northern Road is being upgraded, a new four-lane motorway between the M7 and the Northern Road, and an upgrade of the Bringelly Road to four lanes.

A lot of money being spent. I've got to ask though, is this just a payoff for an airport being plonked in Western Sydney?

Jamie Briggs: No, it's a plan for a stronger Western Sydney so we can make the most of the two million people growing to three million people over the next 20 years as quickly as we possibly can. We want to grow the economic opportunities in Western Sydney by investing in the infrastructure, by creating the framework for the aspirations of Western Sydney to be met. If you think about…

David Speers: But why did they have to wait for the announcement of a Badgerys Creek airport to get this?

Jamie Briggs: I agree with you. The Labor Party in government for six years did nothing, absolutely. That's a good point. But what we've done is got—we've got into government, we've put together a comprehensive plan with the New South Wales Government to ensure that we've got the growth that we want and we need out of Western Sydney, to ensure that we've got a stronger economy. We've got a major challenge with the budget up ahead.

We've got some challenges with growth and employment in the years ahead, and we've made very clear for some time that infrastructure will be a major part of our agenda to deliver a stronger economy, to deliver growth, and deliver higher employment.

David Speers: On these roads, the Prime Minister indicated today that there would be no tolls. Is that correct?

Jamie Briggs: That's right.

David Speers: Alright. And can I ask about the airport itself. We know that Max Moore-Wilton, the chair of Sydney Airport has—well, not been the biggest fan of a second Sydney airport in the Sydney basin—in Badgerys Creek, in particular. They're obviously going to weigh up what to do now, but the point that he and Sydney Airport have consistently made is, they can still grow their capacity at Sydney Airport to 2033. They can double their capacity. Is that right?

Jamie Briggs: There will be a negotiation as is required under the Act and the Deputy Prime Minister will of course take responsibility for that as the minister responsible for aviation in the country. We are working at making it easier for people to get to and from Kingsford Smith with the investment in WestConnex, another one of our investments which will help ease the traffic congestion in Sydney and build the economic capacity of our country. And so in that respect we do want to get more out of Kingsford Smith, of course. But there is obviously a need, all the studies that have gone on for years, for a Western Sydney airport. A city, in effect, of two million people needs an airport—is at the point where an airport as part of a broader economic plan can help ensure that we've got the strongest possible economy. That's what this is all about.

David Speers: The question I've got though, about the second Sydney airport, I don't dispute the need is there, but who is going to use it? Who is really going to use it? I mean, Kingsford Smith is 10 or 15 minutes to the city. Hang on, 10 or 15 hits(*) to the city where everyone works and a lot of people live. It's a lot more convenient for people coming in and out of Sydney than Badgerys Creek would be, you've got to acknowledge that.

Jamie Briggs: No, there are two million people living in Western Sydney, David, so I suspect some of them will use it. I suspect a lot of them will use it. If you live in Penrith, today it takes you about an hour and a half to get to Kingsford Smith. Now, you know, in Canberra you've got a population much smaller than the population of Western Sydney and you've got a first class airport. It makes no sense. There is a need for an airport in Western Sydney. There is a need for infrastructure investment in Western Sydney. It has long been forgotten, I agree with you about that. But to the question, I think, the capacity of people in Western Sydney to be able to use and make the most of this opportunity I think is mistaken. I think this will be a success, and I think if you get the framework, with the infrastructure in place first, it'll be a terrific success. And what you've seen from the Infrastructure Prime Minister is that commitment, along with the New South Wales Government, $3.5 billion over the next decade to ensure that we have the best possible infrastructure we can have in that part of Sydney.

David Speers: Now, though, what you think the lesson might be from all of this that we've seen around the New South Wales Premier over the last 24 hours? I know you're a red wine fan, coming from South Australia, but have you checked your own cupboards for any forgotten bottles of Grange?

Jamie Briggs: It is a very sad day, I think. Barry has paid a tremendously high price for what—you know, in comparison to what we've heard in New South Wales, I've got to say over the last four or five years, seems to be a reasonably small and minor offence, if offence at all. It seems like an inadvertent mistake. A significant one, as he admitted this morning, but I think it's a heavy price.

I think it's a heavy price that the people of New South Wales will pay for someone who, I think, was doing a terrific job. And I can say right up until late last evening I was getting text messages from Barry O'Farrell about nailing down this package for this morning. You know, I'm very disappointed for Barry, I'm very disappointed for the people of New South Wales. And I think it is, as I say, a very heavy price for what—compared to what has gone on in New South Wales in recent years, and what [audio skip] have been made in recent years, seems to be a relatively minor example.

David Speers: Jamie Briggs, Assistant Infrastructure Minister thank you for joining us this afternoon. We did want to talk about that significant infrastructure package for you this afternoon, so thank you for that.