Transcript of Interview: ABC 24 with Chris Uhlmann

Interview

BPC002/2015

02 February 2015

E&OE

Chris Uhlmann: I'm joined, actually, here, by Jamie Briggs who is one of the Ministers in Government. What did you make of the Prime Minister's speech?

Jamie Briggs: I think it was the speech by a Prime Minister with a passion for the job, a real speech of conviction, proud of the achievements so far of the government, nearly halfway through our term. But conscious that we've got much more to do and the task for us now is to knuckle down and focus on what we said to the Australian people we would deliver. And that's what I thought we saw today. A man of conviction. He, certainly, I thought, was humorous. In good spirits, and is very focused on the task at hand and where we want to take Australia in the next 12 months.

Chris Uhlmann: He's under deep threat at the moment, though, isn't he?

Jamie Briggs: I think clearly there are some political challenges, but what we need to address as a Government are the policy issues. We all need to contribute to that. We can all do better at our jobs. I certainly am focusing every day on doing as well as I can. I know my Cabinet colleagues are the same. And I think everyone in the Government has responsibility to do the best they can every day. It's not just the Prime Minister who's facing the challenge of the politics of the time. We all do and the reality is we've all got a stake in this Government; we've all got a stake in the direction of our country. These policy challenges are real. We need to focus on them. We've got a Labor Party who doesn't know who they are, whether they're going to lift taxes or cut spending or bring back the carbon tax.

Chris Uhlmann: If we could focus on you for the moment though, your colleagues would say the back bench hasn't made that many mistakes, you as a minister haven't made that many mistakes; the mistakes made have been the captain's calls and the Prime Minister's own mistakes. He's not in this position for no reason. He said he's going to improve. Why should the back bench believe him?

Jamie Briggs: I think, as I say, everyone can do better in this Government and I think you are denying reality if you think that—from the Prime Minister down, to say that we haven't done our best, we've tried our best but not always everything works. And I think the reality of the day is that we need to be honest with ourselves about that. We need to refocus at the beginning of 2015. We've got a good plan. We've done well on the policy sense last year. We've achieved largely what we set out to achieve. Sure, there have been challenges. Fixing the Budget was always going to be very difficult. People have possibly underestimated that challenge. Dealing with a Senate who has no single interest on the cross bench is a difficult task.

Chris Uhlmann: Can we stop on the Budget for a moment because you set out with a task to try and make cuts? They were difficult cuts to make. Now you're clearly flagging—the Prime Minister's flagging, the Government Budget is not going to come at the expense of the household budget. There will be no new spending commitments. He's saying there's going to be no more cuts. Are you abandoning the idea that Government needs to get smaller?

Jamie Briggs: No, we are realistic about how the Senate will deal with certain measures. And the reality is there is not much point arguing for a measure that has no chance. So, we are being realistic about the Senate we've got to deal with. We know that the debt and deficit has got to end. He made that perfectly clear today. But we are going to look at ways in which we can ensure the Budget is sustainable. But we achieve the policy outcome we seek to achieve. We've got to continue to talk to the Australian people about the challenges that confront us. We are getting older, there's another aging intergenerational report that's coming. That will make clear the challenge that we face. We've got to grow the economy and that's where infrastructure is so important. We need to roll that infrastructure out. We've got a big task ahead of us, absolutely.

Chris Uhlmann: Why did it take the Prime Minister so long to dump the paid parental leave scheme and basically for a long time he was the only person in Government who championed it?

Jamie Briggs: He's a man of conviction.

Chris Uhlmann: What's given him that conviction?

Jamie Briggs: Well, because he realises the challenge of the time. This is seen as being too generous at this point in time. He says he still believes in it and we absolutely accept that. We all want to treat women trying to return to the workforce better than what they are at the moment. We need that participation rate increase, but we're going to look at it in a different context. And child care is a challenge. We've gone through the challenge personally ourselves in the last few years. It's expensive, it's hard to access, often, and Scott Morrison, who is a terrific Minister, has done an outstanding job. He's now going to lead the way in finding a new way through, a new way to deal with these challenges.

Chris Uhlmann: Jamie Briggs, lastly, briefly, do you believe that Tony Abbott will lead the Coalition to the next election and if he does, can he win it?

Jamie Briggs: Absolutely and absolutely. We have a very good plan, we've achieved, so far, quite a bit of our agenda. We've laid out the next aspects of our agenda today with the Prime Minister's leadership. We've got a very good team, absolutely a very good team. The Treasurer, the Communications Minister, the Foreign Minister, Scott Morrison in Social Services, a very strong performer. I think we've got the right direction for our country. And the time is going to come very soon where the Labor Party is going to have to start to be honest with the Australian people. They can't just go to the election with no plans. They need to be honest about what they'd with our borders, with taxes and what services they're going to cut, according to Chris Bowen. That contest is fast approaching.

Chris Uhlmann: Jamie Briggs, thank you.

Jamie Briggs: Thank you, Chris.