Transcript of Interview: 5AA Breakfast Show with David Penberthy and Jane Reilly



16 July 2014

David Penberthy: But talking about the Adelaide Hills and roads, it has long been one of the worst bottlenecks in South Australia, driving Hills residents mad as they make their daily trip to and from the city, but as of November, work is going to begin, happily, on the new South East Freeway interchange at Bald Hills Road, and that will reduce the congestion in the fastly growing Mount Barker. Joining us now to discuss this project is the Federal Infrastructure Minister and local member for the Hills based seat of Mayo, Jamie Briggs. Good morning, Minister.

Jamie Briggs: Good morning, David.

David Penberthy: What kind of changes will the new interchange make for travel times?

Jamie Briggs: Well, they'll be very substantial, particularly with the growth in around Mount Barker, as you've talked about before. It will reduce the state government estimates on their traffic modelling by at least 10 minutes, and I think what you'll find is that will be more as time goes on and the eastern side of Mount Barker continues to develop. The new development plans that the state government released a few years ago now have a large amount of that development happening out towards Wistow, and so you'll see increased pressure not just on the Adelaide Road exit, but with the new on-ramp and off-ramp, you'll see, I think, that become quite busy very quickly, because there will be the demand.

Strathalbyn, as you know very well, David, is growing quite quickly as well, and people travelling from Strathalbyn to the city on a daily basis, many people do at the moment have to go through the middle of Mount Barker to get to the South Eastern Freeway. This will mean they'll be able to exit through Bald Hills Road instead, taking them out of Mount Barker. It'll be a huge benefit for not just the township of Mount Barker, but the broader Adelaide Hills.

David Penberthy: Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously you are a local boy up there, Jamie Briggs, and I go up there a lot because my sister lives in Strath. Now, the expectation is that the interchange is going to carry up to 8000 vehicles a day. With the kind of growth that you have described, do you think it's going to be enough long term to support the expansion of the Hills?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think it'd certainly make a huge difference. At the moment, there are major risks with one interchange. If you have a major event around the Adelaide Road exit, the only exit to and from the city and to the east at the moment, you basically, in effect, shut down Mount Barker. Whereas this at least means that you'll have two exits, and particularly as that side of Mount Barker grows and parts of the Hills, we know, whether it's popular or not, people want to live in the Adelaide Hills. It's a beautiful place to live. Mount Barker's growing very fast because of that. Strathalbyn's growing very fast because of that. This is necessary infrastructure. It has been too long in the waiting, no doubt. This should have happened some time before. But to give Stephen Mulligan his credit, he has got on with it, and in the last few months I've got to praise him as much as I possibly can. He's absolutely put his nose to the grindstone with his team there in the State Department of Infrastructure and they've got these plans moving, which is fantastic.

Jane Reilly: Mr Briggs, will this offer a better, safer route for those in that part of the Adelaide Hills, and is there an issue currently with a lot of accidents happening in that area?

Jamie Briggs: Well, certainly what you're seeing is the Adelaide Road interchange, particularly as school times, with Cornerstone College just around the corner from it, there are substantial build ups each day. Littlehampton's grown quite quickly in the recent years, so has Nairne, and this will mean people's access to those two towns improves markedly. The other part of the project, which is a real bonus, is the Old Princes Highway-Bald Hills Road intersection, which is just near the Howard Winery there; you might know it is a terrible black spot. Under this project, the scope is now going to include a roundabout at that intersection and I think that just adds to the importance of this project. It will reduce the amount of accidents on that road or that intersection which have been numerous in the last few years. It's a real black spot. So this is a real win for the Adelaide Hills. It's a credit to Ann Ferguson, the mayor, who's fought for this for a long time, the state member Mark Goldsworthy, and we've committed to this in the last three federal elections, and it's great to be able to deliver it.

David Penberthy: Jamie Briggs, for the benefit of our city listeners, you just alluded to the fact that you seem to have a pretty good working relationship so far with the State Labor Transport Minister, Stephen Mulligan, has there been any progress on the South Road upgrade?

Jamie Briggs: There is some progress. A couple of weeks ago the state government released a draft plan for the Torrens project. It's now out for community consultation, and that's an important first step of what we described as the early works, if you like, getting the project ready for heavy

construction to begin. In the not too distant future there'll be expressions of interest for contractors to apply to look for the work, and we're heading in the right direction to get serious work going early next year on both projects, Darlington and the Torrens project.

Jane Reilly: Look, just on another topic, on Monday we learnt that local boot manufacturer, Rossi Boots, lost out on the contract, a $15 million contract to make 100,000 pairs of non-combat boots. Will you go in to bat for this South Australian company and see if you can get the way that these contracts are awarded changed so that they might be able to get back and make these boots for our defence force?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, it's a good question, Jane. When I heard about it, I asked David Johnston, our Defence Minister, what had happened. What it turns out this is, it relates to the procurement guidelines that the Government follows that were put in place by the previous Government. This tender, in fact, was begun under the previous Government, and it is a process which is at arm's length from the political process, and for very good reason.

You've seen in New South Wales, David would remember in recent years, allegations of ministerial involvement and favouritism of different businesses. So what governments have done to prevent that, to prevent any suggestion that there is favouritism for certain businesses is to have an arm's length process, which we don't make the decisions on tenders, they're made on the basis of a set of guidelines which have been established. Companies apply to get the tender, an independent group of public servants make a decision based on the best value that they see against those guidelines.

Now, I understand in this circumstance people aren't very happy about the outcome and obviously we would prefer to see Australian…

Jane Reilly: But will you go to bat for them? Will you go in and put the…

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think the question people need to ask is do you want politicians making decisions on who gets access to government contracts?

David Penberthy: Well, I think most of our listeners would say yes to that, Jamie Briggs.

Jamie Briggs: Well, sure.

David Penberthy: I mean it's not that we're talking about a case where your brother-in-law is the managing director of Rossi Boots.

Jamie Briggs: But then you have that issue though David, that's the point.

David Penberthy: But you only do if that's the set of circumstances in that case. I mean value for money is part of the argument, but surely a commitment to the nation on the part of businesses. I mean, I thought it was a really compelling argument that the boss of Rossi Boots made when he says we are based here, we pay our taxes here, we contribute through state taxes like payroll, and we pay company tax at the federal level. If they're doing all of that why should they be muscled out on the basis of some illusory conflict of interest?

Jamie Briggs: Well, I think in this circumstance, and I'm not the expert on this, it wasn't obviously in my department—it wasn't a contract that Rossi had; it was a contract that they put a bid in for that was with another supplier. In fact that supplier, as I understand, wasn't successful either, it was another supplier that was successful. But again, I think the reality is you need a process which is independent of the political process making these decisions. Now, you can have a discussion about whether you want different procurement guidelines for sure, but I think at the end of the day, decisions being made on the use of taxpayers’ money need to be made on the basis of the best value. There are a range of factors, I absolutely accept that and in the circumstances, if you can improve the procurement guidelines to ensure that we're getting the best value and that Australian companies have got a fair crack at the work then that's what you want to see. But you don't want to see a circumstance where you have accusations that favours are being done by politicians for friends and I think that, as you've seen in New South Wales in recent years, that is a terrible outcome and it breeds, in effect, corruption and that's not what we want. We want a set of procurement guidelines which gives your listeners faith that the decisions with their money are being made in the best interests of all taxpayers and not a favoured few.

David Penberthy: We're going to have to leave it there. Infrastructure Minister and member for Mayo, Jamie Briggs, thank you for talking to us.

Jamie Briggs: Good on you guys. Thanks so much.