Transcript of Interview: ABC 891 Adelaide

Interview

BPC046/2014

27 May 2014

Matthew Abraham: Jamie Briggs is Federal Liberal MP for Mayo. He's Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development and joins us now. Minister, good morning to you.

Jamie Briggs: Good morning.

Matthew Abraham: Is the Federal Government just going to have to wear the fact that the South Australian Government is offloading a lot of its Budget pain now on you?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think there's believability in politics. And for Jay Weatherill, who's been a premier and part of a government for 12 years, spent South Australia into debt and deficit crisis, is now trying to blame everyone else but themselves. The believability of that is very difficult to see people accepting.

The other point I would briefly make is that in the list of the graphs and so forth we saw yesterday on Twitter, if you look at the press releases, it claims for instance in that there's a $13 million net repayment for the Northern Expressway project completion. Well, that's just simply not true. The $13 million is whether South Australian will agree when they come to us with a proposal that uses on an appropriate infrastructure project. So, I think there's a bit of an exaggeration, and I think there's an overstretch by State Government who's got a budget crisis of its own making.

David Bevan: Well, bottom line here though is you are cutting funding to the states. You admit that. You are cutting funding to the states. Now, either in real terms or a combination of real terms or it's less than they thought they were going to get, but however you package it up, you're cutting funding to the states. You can't cut hundreds of millions of dollars and then expect them to cop it on the chin.

Jamie Briggs: Well, there's a couple of points. Firstly, we're certainly not going to deny that the Federal Budget ensures that everyone contributes to making sure we've got a sustainable Federal Budget. That is obviously undeniable. We've made that point since the Budget was announced. And that is a difficult point, but people accept that the Federal Budget was unsustainable. So we've had to make some tough decisions, and everyone's contributing to that.

Most of the so-called funding cuts that Jay Weatherill is claiming are outside the forward estimates. They're money that was never budgeted for; they were agreements that the Federal Government never put actually money on the table in place. So there's not a real cut, if you like, in that sense. But there is some reductions. There is some reallocation of what are state services and what the state governments should be delivering and what the Federal Government should be delivering. And that is clear.

Matthew Abraham: But they're cuts. They're cuts to funding. And you might put aside the state of the State Budget already, because it wasn't in great condition going into this. You'd have to say there's a compounding effect now, whether there's some, you know, tub thumping involved in that or not. You would have to make a bad situation worse.

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, but the other point we should make is that education and health spending actually goes up in the Federal Budget. It is in the out years, as I make the point, where it's - the states claim that there was money allocated by a former government which we never agreed to; which we never said we would fund. Now, if Jay Weatherill has based his Budget on imaginary money that is not our issue.

Everyone has to make tough decisions. In a budget where you're not earning as much as you're spending, you need to turn that around. Otherwise, it'll be the next generation who pays a higher price. And we're not going to allow that to occur. And we've taken a lot of tough decisions. And as you are reporting every day, they're difficult. Some people in the community dislike them immensely and some understand what we're trying to achieve. But what the State Government should really do is be honest with the South Australian people and say for 12 years they haven't budgeted properly and now they've got this situation where they're relying on others to fix up their mess. Well…

David Bevan: So…

Jamie Briggs: …it's about time they take responsibility for themselves.

David Bevan: So our government, state and federal, they can never have vision that goes beyond four years, because any money out beyond four years—it's not real money. So don't ever expect anything visionary from our state and federal governments.

Jamie Briggs: No, you can certainly have policies. And some of our infrastructure projects, indeed, are outside of the four years, and the reality is the budgets are laid down on a four year cycle. You have a four year budget period. You lay out what I called the forward estimates—the budget year ahead—plus the three years in addition. Now, the idea that you are then putting in place policies which spend money past that time, they are not budgeted for.

They are not on - there is nowhere in the Commonwealth Budget you can find money which is allocated post the four years, because your estimations of revenue, your expectation of what will happen in four years plus is not there. So, to rely on that to base your State Budget is really not a good way to go about it, and I think, you know, there are broader issues with the South Australian Budget than cuts - so-called cuts of funding, which are well into the ether.

Matthew Abraham: The Public Service Association says that one of the cuts that is starting to emerge as highly likely now as a result of withdrawal of federal funding of programs is to paediatric palliative care. They say the nurses who provide specific palliative care to children who are dying in South Australia operated out of the Women's and Children's Hospital, they've got no certainty now on that program after 30 June. Is that one of the responsibilities you want to wash your hands of, dying children?

Jamie Briggs: Well, no, we are not washing our hands of responsibility. We are doing what the Constitution says; the states look after public health. They have always looked after public health.

Matthew Abraham: So, even when it comes to palliative care for terminally ill children…

Jamie Briggs: Well, Matthew, that's not our decision. I mean, it is the State Government. I do not know the specifics of the claim they made by the union, but if the state is making a decision not to continue with that program, that is their decision. That is not the Federal Government's decision. Our decision is…

Matthew Abraham: But if it was partially Federal Government funding up until now, and that's been…

Jamie Briggs: Yeah, but it's a decision made by the State Government on what to fund. This is the point. We give money to the state governments and they run their hospital system. We don't tell them what to do or not to do. They're sovereign in their own sphere, and South Australian people get to make decisions about who governs them in that respect. As I say, the amount of funding for education and health in this Budget actually increases. It actually increases. The claim by the State Government that we are cutting these services is completely false. It is a matter for them to budget; it is a matter for them to ensure that they are providing the essential services. That is exactly why we are making the hard decisions in this Budget, because if we don't make the hard decisions now, as the parliamentary budget officer said today on the front page of the Financial Review, the more you…

Matthew Abraham: So what you're saying here is if you're a dying child…If you're a dying child and the State Government doesn't care about you, suck it up. Because the Federal Government is saying that's a state government job.

Jamie Briggs: No, Matthew. The State Government is the level of government that makes the decisions of what are the issues that should be - what are the services that should be provided to South Australians? And if you continue to spend more than you earn each year, it gets harder to provide the essential services. That is why they need to start to making harder decisions and get their priorities right. They haven't for 12 years; this Budget needs to start to make those decisions.

Matthew Abraham: You have a party room meeting to attend. Jamie Briggs, thank you for talking to 891 Breakfast.

Jamie Briggs:

A pleasure. Thank you.