Transcript of Interview: Sky News PM Agenda with David Lipson

Interview

BPC043/2014

19 May 2014

David Lipson: Well, the Roads Minister, Jamie Briggs was in Perth today making an infrastructure announcement—one of the positives of this Budget; one of the areas where the Government is spending, not cutting. I spoke to Jamie Briggs a little earlier.

Jamie Briggs, thank you for your time. I will get to infrastructure, but have to start with the polls. Now, you knew it would be bad, but did you ever expect to see such a dramatic collapse after this Budget?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, I think dramatic collapse in support is overstating. I think it's the first week after what is a comprehensive Budget, which changes our settings, importantly for the future—for the benefit of our people—and it will take some time for it to get through the system. So, I'm not necessarily surprised. I'm sure there'll be lots of people running around today talking about doom and gloom. But ultimately, what we're talking about is the future of Australia. We're not going to be driven by weekly polls or fortnightly polls; we're going to be driven by what's in the best interest of our people in the longer term and ensuring we've got the strongest economy we can possibly have.

David Lipson: The Prime Minister today pointed to the Howard Budget back in 1996 and said that at that time, the Howard government also took a big hit. But in '96, at least people felt that that Budget was fair. Thirty-two per cent thought that the '96 Budget was unfair; today, twice as many, 63 per cent, feel that this Budget is not fair. Now, that's a perception that's not so easy to change.

Jamie Briggs: I think what people will come to realise is that the Budget ensures that everyone contributes to a stronger Australia; that it sets up an infrastructure program which builds a stronger Australia. And, look, ultimately, this is not about today or tomorrow; this is about our future. And we are absolutely focused on putting in place a long-term plan, not just a short-term response to events, but a long-term plan.

And so none of us are surprised that the Labor Party is reacting viciously. They have no truck with people who are focused on delivering budget surpluses. We know that. We know that feral university protesters are going to use every opportunity to try and get attention. We knew that before they assaulted Julie Bishop on Friday night. What we are about, though, is talking to ordinary Australians about what really matters, and that is a plan for the future, for a stronger economy, and a Budget that lives within its means.

David Lipson: A lot of ordinary Australians feel like a whole lot of promises have been broken, so you've taken a big hit to what is the most precious thing for any politician, and that is trust. If people don't trust you, how are you going to turn things around?

Jamie Briggs: Well, they will trust the fact that we are delivering on what we said. We said we would fix the Budget. We said we would build a stronger Australia, and that's exactly what the Budget sets out to do. It is no surprise that our political opponents are screaming that they don't like what we're doing. You know, the reality is—and we saw it last Thursday night—Mr Shorten will continue along the path of his Labor predecessors on unsustainable promises, on spending money he doesn't have, on political but not economic decisions in the interest of the Australian people. All Mr Shorten's speech was last Thursday night was a political diatribe about past frustrations at the failure of their government to actually push proper policies for the future of Australia.

What they don't like is the medicine that we now have to give to the Australian people to deal with the disease that the Australian Labor Party put in the Australian Budget in the first place. I mean, that is what we are doing. We are fixing the errors, we are fixing the mistakes, we are fixing the complete lack of respect that Bill Shorten and his colleagues had for the Australian Budget. We're the ones taking the responsibility for a mess Labor created, and they're trying to make political capital out of it. No one should be surprised about that.

David Lipson: Clive Palmer says he's going to line up against many of the key Budget measures, including the changes to the pension, the GP co-payment, and also the six month waiting period for New Start for the unemployed. Can you see a way through this to negotiate these measures through the Senate?

Jamie Briggs: We will work with each Senator to ensure that we get the outcome we seek. We are an elected government; we were elected last September. The Australian people wanted stability in their government, and we will deliver that stability by putting through the Budget bills which - putting in place the commitments we made to fix the Budget and to build a stronger Australia. That's exactly what we will do, and we'll work with each Senator to ensure that we get through the Parliament the program we believe is necessary to make Australia stronger in the future.

David Lipson: And on the fuel levy, the Greens do support, indeed, the indexation of the fuel tax, but they're also going to seek to amend your measure to make sure that some of the money raised goes to public transportation.

Jamie Briggs: Well, it does go into public transportation. I mean, most of public transport in Australia—70 per cent of it—is buses. If you improve the road network, you improve public transport on those road networks because buses are able to use them more efficiently and effectively.

David Lipson: But none of it goes into rail or light rail.

Jamie Briggs: Well, sorry, David, that's just not right. What we are doing is ensuring that the states can invest in inter-rail. In fact, since the election, $25 billion worth of announcements have been made by state governments on investment in rail and heavy…and in public transport. I mean, just…

David Lipson: But none of the money raised from the fuel levy goes into rail or light rail transportation?

Jamie Briggs: Just because Anthony Albanese says it, doesn't make it true. I mean, this is a very important point I think you need to understand. Just because Anthony Albanese says it, doesn't make it true.

David Lipson: Is any money from the indexation of the fuel levy going into rail or…?

Jamie Briggs: Well, funnily enough, when you use rail, you're not using roads. Then if you're paying for your fuel excise, you are upgrading roads because you use cars.

David Lipson: So, that's a no.

Jamie Briggs: So, the answer to that would be no, quite obviously [laughs]. But what does use - what form of public transport—the biggest form of public transport in Australia, which is buses—they do use roads. They do use roads, and of course, upgrading roads makes sure that they get a more efficient use of those roads. So this whole claim that Labor and the Greens are trying to make somehow that because we're not investing in one aspect of public transport, we're allowing the states to do so, is going to somehow mean that our cities aren't as efficient as they could be is a complete bumpkin.

We are investing the biggest program ever—$16 billion more than Labor would have committed, had they been re-elected—to ensure that our infrastructure around Australia is as strong as it should be. Here in Perth, with the Perth Freight Link, which will get 65,000 big trucks off urban roads—that is good for commuters and for public transport, David, because it means buses will be able to travel a lot easier along those roads without having to compete with B-doubles. So, this is a great program. It is about building a stronger Australia, and we're very proud of it.

David Lipson: Well, speaking of Labor's claims, you say that this is an infrastructure Budget. And $50 billion in infrastructure spending is a major part of this Budget, but Labor says that 35 of that was already budgeted for and another $4.2 billion has been pulled out of public transport projects that this - that the Government - that the Coalition does not support. So, how much of that $50 billion is actually new money that is not accounted for by those measures that Labor points to?

Jamie Briggs: The problem with this is that Anthony Albanese is making it up. He is making it up, and I'll tell you - I'll point to figures which tell you the truth. The PEFO statement—the Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook—had Labor spending $29.5 billion-worth on infrastructure in the next four years. In the Budget, we've allocated some $45 billion to infrastructure in the next four years. Add to that the Asset Recycling Initiative and you get to $50 billion. $16 billion more. $16 billion more we are allocating than what Labor would have, had they been re-elected.

They are desperate not to talk about this because they know that our plan is far superior to theirs. We've put a focus for the state governments on getting infrastructure delivered. They are opposing key infrastructure projects like WestConnex in Sydney. They're opposing the Perth Freight Link here, remarkably. Absolutely remarkably. I mean, one good thing Anthony Albanese did do in Perth was support the Gateway project. It's a great project. But what that does is send big trucks to a T-junction—to a T-intersection. And they're opposing what we are now doing with row eight, as it's called—the Perth Freight Link— which will get it to the port. We'll actually achieve the economic benefit we want.

So, you just can't believe Anthony Albanese here, because you've got to go and have a look at the actual figures: $29 billion from Labor; some $16 billion more from the Federal Coalition in Government, delivered.

David Lipson: Jamie Briggs, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for your time.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks, David.