Transcript of Interview: SKY News AM Agenda with Kieran Gilbert
22 October 2014
Kieran Gilbert: With me now, Liberal front-bencher Jamie Briggs. It was a rare day of very strong bipartisanship yesterday as the tributes were paid, including from the Prime Minister to the 21st Prime Minister.
Jamie Briggs: And so it should be when a Prime Minister, a former Prime Minister passes. Anyone who becomes a Prime Minister of Australia is obviously a very skilled and substantial figure. Each one of them has made a contribution. Clearly Gough Whitlam made a significant contribution and yesterday, people had the opportunity to express their feelings about Gough Whitlam. There'll be more occasions in the coming week, I'm sure, to do so but I think it reminds us how important our democracy is. I mean, one of the great attributes of Gough Whitlam was that he was a genuine believer in the importance of the chambers of Parliament. It's an honour to be a member of a Parliament of which Gough Whitlam, John Howard, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, and all those giants who rose to the position, were members. At the end of the day you are only a member of that Parliament because people in electorates across the country grant you the honour of being a member of that Parliament. Gough Whitlam rose to the top of it. Only a few people have ever had that opportunity. He made a significant contribution, and it was right and proper that we honour that.
Kieran Gilbert: I want to talk about the issue of red tape. Josh Frydenberg has been leading this within the Government.
Jamie Briggs: Yes.
Kieran Gilbert: It's apparently now going to reach more than $2 billion in savings for businesses and individuals through tax returns and so on. Labor says it wants to see the detail. I guess that's only proper, isn't it? Particularly given it did have concerns last time about inadvertent implications on competition and so on?
Jamie Briggs: Well all credit to Josh Frydenberg in this respect. He's done an outstanding job in finding a way through the bureaucracy, across legislative impediments to reduce the amount of red tape that operates in our system. Red tape holds back businesses from employing and it makes it more difficult for people to go about enterprise in our country. Josh is tenacious in his pursuit of this. In my own portfolio of infrastructure and regional development, we recently abolished a small but very significant piece of red tape, which cost about $12 million a year, and it was a piece of legislation, or a regulation if you like, which required an additional extension to mudguards on motorcycles. Now, some, when we announced this, sort of made fun of the announcement. The reality is, it saves $12 million a year. It was a small announcement, it was a small change but it's quite a significant reduction in cost, if you like. Josh has been, as I said, tenacious in pursuing those smaller issues of red tape, which he's just pursued like rabbits down a burrow in order to reduce the cost of doing business in Australia.
Kieran Gilbert: Is that as far as the Government goes now in terms of, what, upwards of $2 billion in savings, another repeal day next week according to the Government, but is that…
Jamie Briggs: No, not at all.
Kieran Gilbert: …is that in terms of this reform, or how far do you go in terms of I suppose…
Jamie Briggs: Yeah.
Kieran Gilbert: …isn't the rest down to the federation, and overlap with state governments?
Jamie Briggs: Look it's a good point, and that's a challenge for Josh I guess leading this role within Government. I thought Malcolm Turnbull put it very well a couple of days ago when he said that it's a real discipline on ministers to consider every regulation that we're responsible for, and whether the need for it still exists. And in that sense what Josh is doing is pushing us all to consider the regulations for which we're responsible. Are they necessary? Do they actually achieve the purpose they were originally put in place for, or are we better off without them, and does that mean that we can get on and create opportunities? I think, as I said, Josh has been tenacious on this, the Prime Minister wanted him to be, and I think the Prime Minister is very pleased with the performance that Josh has brought to the table in that respect.
Kieran Gilbert: The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, is in Beijing at the moment. We know about those tariffs that were slapped on coal exports to China. The indication is that Andrew Robb has done a deal that the tariffs will go if free trade agreement is truck, but there's no guarantee that an agreement is going to be struck, so that well and truly could remain in place.
Jamie Briggs: We're obviously very disappointed that China took that action in the first place, and we're talking to our Chinese friends about removing that impediment for Australian businesses to export into China. China is developing, it needs cheap energy, it wants our coal. I think this is a short-sighted approach to something which is very important to that country, and I think in time they will see the wisdom of the approach that Andrew Robb is advocating. Andrew Robb, frankly, has been probably the most successful Government Minister in the first 12 months. He signed up the Japanese free trade agreement, he signed up the Korean free trade agreement. We're very hopeful he'll sign up the Chinese free trade agreement, and it will be issues like this which mean our producers, particularly our farmers, will be able to get product into market in a massively growing, once-in-a-millennium opportunity to get product into that market.
Jamie Briggs: And it will be easier with a free trade agreement.
Kieran Gilbert: Next month China's going to announce an Asian Investment…
Jamie Briggs: Yes
Kieran Gilbert: …Infrastructure Investment Bank. The Americans don't want Australia to sign up for that, but that would be a bit contradictory if we didn't endorse this infrastructure push from the Chinese across this region, given it's been such a big focus of this Government.
Jamie Briggs: It is a big focus, and we're getting on with it: $50 billion in the Budget obviously was our commitment.
Kieran Gilbert: But will Australia sign up with the Chinese?
Jamie Briggs: I think this is a matter that the Treasurer is working through with his counterparts this week. He had discussions last week in America and in the UK, I understand. I spoke to him on the weekend. He thinks there is real potential for an agreement on this. There's been reports that the Americans are sceptical. There are reports in newspapers but it's always hard to tell how well informed those reports are.
Kieran Gilbert: You're instinct would be to back though, wouldn't it? If you're talking about billions and billions of dollars across the Asian region.
Jamie Briggs: Yes
Kieran Gilbert: Which has an infrastructure deficit as you well know.
Jamie Briggs: Well it does. We're at a time where we need to invest heavily in public infrastructure. We went through a period where the private investment in infrastructure was very significant, which is traditionally what happens in Australia. You have a real uptick in investment in the mining industry when there's a boom on. It makes sense for Government not necessarily to be in that market at the same time, competing with the private sector but when it comes off, the Government should be there. And we are there, we're there in a bigger way than any Australian Government in history has been there, and we're going to start to see the fruits of that labour very shortly with big projects like WestConnex and other projects beginning early next year.
Kieran Gilbert: Okay.
Jamie Briggs: But at the end of the day, we want Asia to grow because Asia growing is good for Australia.
Kieran Gilbert: Jamie Briggs, we're out of time. Thanks for your time we appreciate it.
Jamie Briggs: Thanks Kieran