Transcript of Interview: The Bolt Report with Andrew Bolt



20 April 2014

Andrew Bolt: Poor Tony Abbott. He went to Sydney this week promising to build a new airport.

[Tony Abbott, Prime Minister: Today the Cabinet has confirmed that Badgerys Creek will be Sydney's second airport; it will be an airport for Western Sydney.]

Andrew Bolt: But what happened? Everyone is talking instead about Barry O'Farrell and a bottle of wine. But promising this second airport at Badgerys Creek highlights a real problem we've had- simply getting stuff built. The Hawke Government announced it would build Badgerys Creek in 1986. Hong Kong decided just three years later to build its second airport on the island of Chek Lap Kok. It opened 16 years ago. And Hong Kong didn't just build an airport. It also had to level two islands, build a new rail line, build the world's longest double decker suspension bridge, and more. But us? We haven't even started work. Joining me is Jamie Briggs, the Abbott Government's Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, who has helped get this airport going. Hong Kong just took nine years to build its airport, Jamie, one of the worlds biggest, from go to whoa. How much longer will you take?

Jamie Briggs: Well, we're getting on with it, Andrew. And happy Easter to you and your viewers. We are getting on with it. Tony Abbott as Prime Minister will be the Infrastructure Prime Minister for a reason and that is that he wants to actually not just announce projects but deliver them. And as part of the Western Sydney airport there'll be a massive infrastructure investment in Western Sydney, which will make the most of that growing, massively growing part of our country to contribute to our- to a stronger economy. And an airport is an important part, a second airport is an important part of Sydney's economy. And it has been too long, you're right. This has been talked about for decades. And what we've done in the first six months is not just talked about it. We've decided upon a site. We'll now enter into negotiations with the Sydney Airport Corporation as we're required to. But we'll get on with it. And we want those negotiations to be as quick and as fruitful as possible so we have not just roads in Western Sydney, which can drive our economic capacity, but a Western Sydney airport which will ensure that 2 million people who live in that part of Sydney have access to modern infrastructure.

Andrew Bolt: But the question is when will it be finished?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, some years ago when the Sydney airport was sold to the Sydney Airport Corporation, as it's called, and there was a right of refusal for them, which will- for them, if there was a second airport to be built, they now have the opportunity to negotiate to have the first right to build, in effect. They've got some time and that can take up to two years. Now, we would hope that it will be a lot quicker than that and that they'll come to an agreement with the government to get on with it.

Andrew Bolt: So you've got no idea when we'll actually- we will actually see an airport?

Jamie Briggs: No, we expect construction to begin- to be under way by 2016.

Andrew Bolt: And finished by?

Jamie Briggs: Well, that will then take- as quickly as we possibly can. I mean, the private sector-

Andrew Bolt: But this is the- a country, a place like Hong Kong gets it done in a matter of a few years. And we- we don't even have a finish date on this thing. See, this is the thing, Jamie. When I lived in Hong Kong, I was talking to the head of John Holland in Hong Kong and I said, you know, does he—did he have any advice for engineers in Australia? And he said, "Move." Because it takes so damned long to get anything done, it is just not worth it. What has been our problem in Australia in building stuff?

Jamie Briggs: Look, this- this is a good point. One of the issues we do need to go through now with the Western Sydney airport is we now need to get another environmental impact statement. There was one done in ‘99 but the advice we have is that it's been too long. So that process needs to again be undertaken. Now, I would hope that that is a quick process. That the planning and approvals the NSW government need to happen is a quick process. It gives some of the people in the community an opportunity to express their views and maybe ask questions and so forth.

Andrew Bolt: But that's the thing, isn't it, Jamie? That's exactly the problem. I mean, that's one of the things the head of John Holland in Hong Kong was telling me, all this green tape. I'll give you an example. We've had so many projects slowed down by exactly this kind of stuff. You've had the Mary River dam in Queensland banned because of the lung fish. A proposal to build the world's biggest nuclear waste facility banned because of anti-nuclear scares. A pulp mill in Tasmania held up by ludicrous environmental concerns. What are you going to do to stop green scares slowing down this airport?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, we will take necessary action to move it on. We're not going to let this be dragged on by professional protesters. You're starting to see that in Melbourne, Andrew. You would know in Melbourne with the East West tunnel you've got a bunch of professional protesters who are trying to stop the Victorian government get on with an important project. And we're not going to abide it. We will- if we have to, we'll look at special legislation to pass through the federal parliament to ensure we get this airport built. To ensure that we get the roads which support the airport. And we will work with the NSW government in making it happen. The Prime Minister made very clear that he expects a second airport in Sydney, the Western Sydney airport, to be under construction by 2016. There are commercial negotiations-

Andrew Bolt: So- so when the Department of Infrastructure tells you from its last survey there are 17 threatened species of fauna at Badgerys Creek, including the Spotted-tail Quoll and the Giant Burrowing Frog, you say, “tough”.

Jamie Briggs: Well, we say let's find ways to ensure that any threatened fauna are dealt with appropriately, but let's get on with it as well. And we say the same thing about the East West tunnel in Melbourne. We want to see bulldozers on the ground. We want to see those magnificent tunnel boring machines doing their work to build that important piece of infrastructure for Victorians. And we want the same in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. We've got an expansive infrastructure agenda. We've got much more to say about it in the Budget because we need better infrastructure in Australia, Andrew, and we need it built quicker and less costly. And that is exactly what the Abbott Government's agenda is.

Andrew Bolt: You made a deal with Barry O'Farrell about the airport and the roads. Do you have a still- do you still have a deal with the new premier, Mike Baird?

Jamie Briggs: Well, Mike Baird and I worked quite closely in building this- building this project, and building the plans for the Western Sydney roads to support the second Sydney airport. He was involved with Duncan Gay, the roads minister, in putting the plan together. We're very confident that the new NSW premier will be on the- is on in fact on the same page as the Abbott Government, not just on the Western Sydney roads package, but on WestConnex and all the ambitious plans we've got for infrastructure. I think Mike Baird is the best thing to come out of a bad situation in NSW. He is a terrific person. He's a very smart and able performer. He'll be a great leader for NSW and we're very confident as a government we'll be able to work very closely with him to get infrastructure built and delivered.

Andrew Bolt: We're talking about how he got there.

ICAC, do you think that's out of control? Do you think Barry O'Farrell should still be premier?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, I think any reasonable person would say the revelations we've heard in the last four or five years about the activities of some of the members of the former Labor—the State Labor government—who now remain unmolested, so to speak, who still remain in their- in society without any harm being done to them in a legal sense, compared to what has happened to Barry O'Farrell, it doesn't seem to be fair or just. That is for sure. The Eddie Obeids of the world, and the behaviour of the former Labor government, the hypocrisy to have Bob Carr lecturing during the week about standards, given that it was Bob Carr, of course, who put Eddie Obeid into the NSW Cabinet in the first place. And yet, Barry O'Farrell, who seemingly made an innocent mistake in not recalling a delivery of a bottle of wine, he has taken a very heavy price, you would have to say, in anyone's language, Andrew. And I don't think the comparison between some of the behaviours that have been outlined previously before ICAC and what Barry has had to- had to do for that mistake at all fair.

Andrew Bolt: Jamie Briggs, thank you so much for joining me.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks, Andrew.