Transcript of ABC Tasmania Country Hour

Interview

BPC057/2014

10 July 2014

Journalist: We're talking at the launch of Sense-T. So, as Minister for Infrastructure Regional Development, what's the connection with this kind of research into regional development?

Jamie Briggs: Well, this is obviously part of our Tasmanian Jobs and Growth package and what I think we're really trying to achieve with Tasmania is to build a stronger and more productive economy. Obviously one of the great strengths that Tasmania has is its agriculture sector. This we see using smart technology from the University of Tasmania and private sector partners with farms like Houston's, who do such great work, to produce better yielding, to use the data, the information it sends to collect to inform future development of agriculture in Tasmania. Ultimately to create more jobs and more opportunity and that's exactly what we're trying to leverage with the investment of $13 million will go into this project.

Journalist: Any particular hotspots in terms of agricultural jobs that you see?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think, what you're seeing here is that the technology will help inform that. Obviously Tasmania's does very well across a range of agricultural products and it's not really Government's role to tell farmers what they should farm, but to use data and use information and this will help inform that. I think, in that respect, this is exactly what—Government's doing the right thing. Funding these sorts of projects can help all of the industry, not just particular companies.

Journalist: This is a multi multi-million dollar investment in terms of the size. We've seen, under your Government, cutbacks to CSIRO. Is there a risk that this kind of science won't be funded into the future?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think appropriately funding the right projects is what we've targeted and obviously we've got a very difficult Budget situation. We've had to make a lot of hard decisions. But we want to create more jobs and opportunity and whether it's our infrastructure and investments on roads, all these projects, it's about creating opportunities for business to do as well as they can.

Journalist: We're in Tasmania, of course, we've got a lot of investment in Antarctic science and climate change science. Are you concerned that Tasmania might be hardest hit by some of the cutbacks to scientific research?

Jamie Briggs: Well look, they're matters which go into other portfolios. But, obviously, again, Tasmania's got great opportunities with its location in respect to the Antarctic and has a lot of work that I know Greg Hunt's doing in that respect, the Environment Minister. I think what we're trying to get is the best value for taxpayers’ money and what this sort of investment does is leverage a private sector. If you get this farm, for instance, performing better, you'll have more jobs created in Tasmania and that's exactly the outcome. We're looking to work with the Tasmanian Government under the new leadership of Will Hodgman, to achieve just that.

Journalist: Talking about jobs and creating jobs, the timing in terms of Tasmania is rather bad given the Mount Lyell decision in the last 24 hours, your comment on that in terms of your role as a Regional Development Assistant Minister?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, in the end, businesses go through difficult times, particularly in the mining industry. Commodity prices, obviously, affect the operations of mines and also incidents related to safety and there has obviously been some issues in respect of that mine. At the end of the day, what we can do is create the best conditions for business to flourish. That doesn't necessarily guarantee all business will always flourish. For too long in Tasmania, I think there's been an economy held back by over-regulation. What we're trying to work with Will Hodgman on is creating an environment for business to be more successful and prosperous and with investments like these, rather than just chucking good money after bad; this is targeted money about building stronger industries for the future.

Journalist: Any initiatives in terms of the adjustment that that community on the West Coast is going to have to take given we're talking 200 jobs from Mount Lyell and 165 from Barminco the contractors?

Jamie Briggs: Yeah, well I think a couple of things there. Obviously Will Hodgman I think is out there today talking with the community and with the mine management. There is then a Tasmanian Economic Development Committee meeting, which the Treasurer and the Prime Minister sit on, and I think that's in the next couple of weeks from memory. They'll obviously consider those sorts of issues at that time and on advice from Will.

Journalist: Well, as Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, Tasmania of course also has the highest pit to port costs. Now, we're talking broader than just Mount Lyell in terms of Tasmania's mining sector. Any thoughts on ways Tasmania's infrastructure can be improved to reduce those costs?

Jamie Briggs: Well, we've got investments throughout Tasmania, particularly on the Midland Highway, $200 million allocated over the coming years to work with the Tasmanian Government to improve the highway, to improve the productivity on that road…

Journalist: Can you [indistinct] ports?

Jamie Briggs: Oh well, ultimately ports are decisions that state governments make. I mean, if there's proposals around investment support then we're obviously always happy to talk to Will Hodgman about that. At the end of the day, what we can do for Tasmanian businesses is take pressure off their backs by reducing unnecessary taxes and creating an environment where business can flourish. This, I think, this investment here, the $13 million, is part of that plan.

Journalist: And will you be speaking with Will Hodgman today? A propo…Mount Lyell and other things?

Jamie Briggs: Well, we were meant to be but unfortunately because of other issues he's been dragged away. But I'm catching up with Rene Hidding about the infrastructure needs in Tassie. We're making some announcements in relation to the Black Spots Programme which we've increased by $200 million for the next two years and we'll be looking at a range of infrastructure issues with Rene in that meeting later that today and it's always great to be down here talking about a better future for Tasmania.

Journalist: Thanks for your time.