Transcript of Press Conference: Bald Hills Road, Mount Barker

Interview

BPC079/2014

08 December 2014

Subject: Construction of the Bald Hills Road Interchange; Fisher by-election
E&OE

Jamie Briggs: This is another example of the Abbott Government delivering on our commitments. This is part of our infrastructure investment across the country. Work is now starting on the Bald Hills Road Interchange after many, many, many years of work and discussion.

The Abbott Government committed $16 million to this project in the election campaign. The council has been working on this for years, has acquired land, has had plans for years and the State Government, to their credit, has put some money into this project as well. It is now starting. Work will begin and this will be completed by June 2016, like so many projects across the country that are now getting underway because of our $50 billion commitment to building infrastructure in the Budget. It is so important, these are local jobs, up to 50 local jobs will be created in building this project.

This is a really important part of our economic plan to build a stronger Australia, to create more jobs and lift our prosperity. Ann do you want to make any comments about the new road…

Ann Ferguson: This is not only very important to our district but to the wider South Australia. It is connecting Australia in the wider plan so we're very, very delighted to know that there are three levels of government working together and this is going to be the most fantastic outcome.

Question: It, perhaps, would have been more prudent to do this last Friday, wouldn't it, before the Fisher by-election? If you're touting the good works of the Abbott Government because it would have seemed logical.

Jamie Briggs: Well, we're doing it on the day the work's starting and this was the day that work's starting. It's not a political timetable, it's a timetable of delivery and, at the end of the day, we've rushed this project as quickly as we possibly can. This has been put together—credit to the State Government department for the work they've done very quickly. The project is now underway and it'll be done in 18 months and it's a lot quicker than what's been delivered before.

Question: Is Steven Marshall's position in doubt following Fisher?

Jamie Briggs: No.

Question: Do you blame Tony Abbott and your coalition colleagues for making life so difficult for the Liberals in Fisher?

Jamie Briggs: I take the responsibility I think that we should bear and I think we've made a hash of it over the last couple of weeks but this is a test match, it's not a one-dayer, it's not a Twenty20. We've had one bad session and played a few bad shots and now we've got to put our head back down and start working hard again and this is an example of a government delivering. It's a good government and we are doing what the Australian people elected us to do. Unfortunately in the Fisher by-election context, there were comments made which took away from our broader message, took away from the message the State Liberal Party was trying to send and people judged us harshly.

Question: Should David Johnston be sacked for what he said?

Jamie Briggs: Well look, he's apologised and withdrawn the comments and that was the right thing to do.

Question: Okay, right thing to do now but it potentially cost the Liberals the seat of Fisher.

Jamie Briggs: It was a very unfortunate incident and he shouldn't have said what he said.

Question: So do you think he could have cost the Liberals a seat?

Jamie Briggs: I think it played a large part in the result.

Question: Do you expect a reshuffle in Cabinet over the break and perhaps you might even fill that position?

Jamie Briggs: Well mate, you know, flattery will get you everywhere but I'm not the Prime Minister and I'm not making those decisions and that is a matter purely that rests with the Prime Minister to make. But I say again, we've been a good government, it's done a lot of good things and it's a privilege to be part of the infrastructure team with Warren Truss, delivering all these new projects across the country, all these new jobs, all this new economic opportunity.

Question: But do you expect a reshuffle?

Jamie Briggs: That's a matter for the Prime Minister.

Question: Are the State Liberals in crisis after this?

Jamie Briggs: No.

Question: Should they be?

Jamie Briggs: No.

Question: Should they be thinking wow, that was the unlosable one and we lost it?

Jamie Briggs: Well, by-elections are always funny beasts. I'm a child of a by-election and they're difficult. They always bring different factors and you would know from your years of extensive reporting that by-elections bring up unusual results.

The reality is that it was a difficult contest because it hadn't been a Labor/Liberal contest for very many years and the Such vote, people were always unsure where it would go. Fisher is also a very different seat than what it once was. It takes in a lot more of federal Kingston and Amanda Rishworth has a 16 per cent seat. It's a strong Labor area. There were multiple factors at play and credit where credit's due, Nat Cook worked very hard and she's got the outcome that she obviously fought very hard for…

Question: So you've given it up?

Jamie Briggs: I think it's very difficult.

Question: What do you think will happen in Davenport then? Is that now—reason for the Libs to be nervous?

Jamie Briggs: Oh look, I think there are different factors in Davenport. Ian has been a very good member for a long time but by-elections are difficult battles and Sam Duluk, our candidate, will work very hard. He will be getting out and ensuring that he gets the message to the people of Davenport that supporting Sam will lead to a stronger Liberal team. Sam will make a strong contribution in the State Parliament, I'm quite sure of that and I'm quite sure that he'll get the support of the voters.

Question: If the Libs do lose Fisher and let's say, in the current climate where anything can happen and as you say by-elections are strange beasts and Davenport also goes to Labor, is then Steven Marshall's position in trouble?

Jamie Briggs: Well look, there's speculation about speculation and then hypotheticals chucked into that and I'm not a commentator, I'm a participant and I'll continue to participate by delivering infrastructure across the country, including here and the Adelaide Hills, as promised…

Question: What about submarines?

Jamie Briggs: Well look, the reality of the submarines issue is that it's become completely overblown in rhetoric. That's the reality and that is partly…

Question: Thanks to David Johnston…

Jamie Briggs: …that's partly our fault, I absolutely accept that. The Government is going through a proper process of selecting the best way to ensure that a very important defence acquisition is done cost-effectively and delivers the best defence outcome for our country. That's exactly what people should expect us to do and that's what we will do. But the outcome of this will mean more jobs in South Australia, it will mean that Osborne will play a very significant part in whatever decision is taken.

Question: Given what's happened in Victoria and today's Fairfax Nielsen Poll, is it a bad sign for the Coalition that you're here?

Jamie Briggs: No, no. We're a good government with a good message. We've got a tough job to fix a budget that was left in absolute crisis by a federal Labor government that ruined it over six years. We're doing that work, it's hard work. People don't like some of the medicine but we'll continue to talk about why it is important that we don't leave a legacy of debt and deficit for our children. We also have a positive message about our economy. This is another example of a government getting on and delivering. That is exactly what people expect us to do. More infrastructure, more jobs, more prosperity, that's what we're about.

Question: Does that need a new Treasurer to get that message across?

Jamie Briggs: No, definitely not. Definitely not. Joe Hockey is doing an absolutely outstanding job. He is by far the most well-credentialed, economic salesman for the Government selling what is a very difficult product. No one said this would be easy and Joe is an outstanding contributor to our party, to our cause and to our country.