Transcript of Interview: ABC 24 Capital Hill with Lyndal Curtis



24 June 2014

Lyndal Curtis: The Assistant Infrastructure Minister, Jamie Briggs, has joined Capital Hill now in between divisions. Jamie Briggs, welcome to the program. Do you accept now you will not get the re-indexation of fuel excise through the Senate?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I accept that the Labor Party has got no plan for the future of our country and they're refusing to listen to what the Australian people said last September, which is allow us to fix the Budget. This…

Lyndal Curtis: The Australian people didn't vote on a proposal to re-index fuel excise, did they?

Jamie Briggs: No, they voted for the roads of the 21st century. That was number three on our plan. Number one, you'll remember, would be to stop the boats. Number two, to get rid of the unnecessary taxes. The Labor Party is opposing that, mind you. Number three, to build the roads of the 21st century. Number four, to fix the Budget.

Lyndal Curtis: And there was a promise in there for no new taxes.

Jamie Briggs: Well, this is not a new tax. This is a reinstatement of something the Labor Party originally did in government way back. What it is though is dedicating any revenue from the indexation to roads to ensure that we have got roads which can support lifting our productivity across the country.

Lyndal Curtis: You were asked on the weekend: so, can you guarantee the infrastructure money will be quarantined from any impact that may be felt by the Budget should measures not get past the Senate? And you said yes, absolutely. If the fuel excise indexation does not get past the Senate will the $2 billion it would have raised still be spent on roads?

Jamie Briggs: Well, the commitments we made in the Budget will go ahead but this is about future commitments, because obviously after the fuel indexation is put back in place, as revenues gain and it goes into the account that we have created for roads, then, yes, we'll miss out in the future. But the commitments we made in the Budget will go ahead, because they are important commitments. And one of the criticisms I note the Greens are trying to make is that this is somehow not going to benefit public transport. A really important fact that the Greens and the Shadow Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, seem to miss in this respect is that 50 per cent of public transport kilometres travelled are by bus. They use roads. We want better roads, which will mean more people will be able to access bus services—public transport services—to get to their destinations.

Lyndal Curtis: But just…

Jamie Briggs: I would have thought that's something the Greens support.

Lyndal Curtis: But just to be clear, if the move on fuel indexation does not go ahead, that means $2 billion over the four-year forward estimates will not be going to roads. You won't try and find the money somewhere else?

Jamie Briggs: Well, the commitments we made in the Budget, WestConnex, East West in Melbourne, the increase in Roads to Recovery, the Black Spots program, the projects across the country—the $50 billion record spend—will go ahead. But this will mean that future decisions will be more restricted. And that means that people will miss out on better roads in the future.

Lyndal Curtis: And there's no other way you can try and make this money up?

Jamie Briggs: Well, we're not yet giving up, obviously, with a new Senate starting in a week's time. We're confident that when we put the persuasive arguments to everyone across the Parliament in the Senate, they will be persuaded by what we are trying to tell them. This is about building a stronger Australia.

Lyndal Curtis: It does seem, though, a lot of your Budget measures will not get the support of Labor or the Greens or from what Clive Palmer's had to say, the Palmer United Party. There will be a number of measures that will not make it through the Senate.

Jamie Briggs: Well, the first thing is the Labor Party has not learnt the lessons of last year yet. They're still trying to play politics and not serious about building a stronger Australia. The Greens, we shouldn't be surprised. They're a protest party; they're not serious in the Australian Parliament. The rest of the independents in the Senate, they get here next week. They'll have discussions with ministers, with the Prime Minister, and we are very confident when we put our case to them that we'll be able to persuade them that the direction we laid down, which makes some difficult choices, we agree, is the right direction for the future of Australia.

Lyndal Curtis: There are a couple of infrastructure bills have been amended in the Senate, one on Infrastructure Australia, one on the Asset Recycling Fund. Will you be seeking to remove those amendments when the bills go back to the House?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, we are working through that at the moment. But Infrastructure Australia bill, we want to get the reforms passed, so there's been some changes which have been suggested and we have made some small amendments in that respect. But the Asset Recycling Proposal, it's quite ridiculous what the Shadow Opposition Leader is trying to put up here. He's trying to second guess decisions that would have already been made by the states. He's trying to second guess a decision that a state—for instance, Tom Koutsantonis, the South Australian Labor Treasurer, last week decided to sell the Motor Accident Commission. Yesterday he was out there saying this will allow us to access the Asset Recycling Fund. What Anthony Albanese is now proposing is that he'll now second guess that decision by a State Labor Treasurer. I mean, it's absurd. It just shows that Anthony Albanese's doing whatever he can to draw attention to himself away from Bill Shorten. This is going to be a developing story. It was broken yesterday by Troy Bramston and it will develop over the months ahead.

Lyndal Curtis: Oh, he absolutely denies it, though.

Jamie Briggs: Of course he absolutely denies it.

Lyndal Curtis: Is there any evidence for it?

Jamie Briggs: Ah, well, look, Troy Bramston is very well engrained in the Labor Party. Former PM Kevin Rudd's speechwriter.  Anthony, of course, was his numbers man, so I'm sure he's got reasonable information. But the reality is this, the Labor Party hasn't given up on the way that they governed, which was all about politics, not about policy. We are interested in policy. The Asset Recycling Initiative has been welcomed by pretty everyone other than Anthony Albanese.

Lyndal Curtis: Jamie Briggs, we'll have to leave it there because you have another series of divisions to go through. Thank you very much for joining us.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks very much. Thank you.