Transcript of Interview: 5AA Adelaide, Mornings with Leon Byner

Interview

BPC007/2015

06 March 2015

E&OE

Leon Byner: Jamie Briggs is the Assistant Infrastructure Minister. Jamie, what's your response to what the government's saying?

Jamie Briggs: Leon, thanks for having me on. That is just a lie. That statement is just a lie. We have not changed the criteria of this programme since the then-Gillard Government put it in place, and the states signed up to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and therefore this money. That statement is just simply wrong, misleading, and it is again another example of a government that is just trying to play politics. This is money which is being spent in New South Wales, in Victoria, and in Queensland as we speak, work is actually happening today as we sit here in those states from that money.

So, the only reason that they are not signing up is because they are trying to play politics. It's the only reason they are not signing up. There has been no change to the criteria, they have been told that on several occasions. They were told by the former government, when they asked for this payment to be exempt from the GST considerations, that that wasn't going to happen. We have reaffirmed that. I have responded to this latest letter from Geoff Brock yesterday, making that very clear on behalf of government again.

I mean, it's a staggering, impossible to understand issue for people in river communities. I can absolutely understand their frustration. But we have offered, we have, there's $25 million sitting there to be spent. The state government won't spend it.

Leon Byner: Alright. So, you can give an unequivocal guarantee, as Assistant Infrastructure Minister, that this will not affect one cent of GST revenue?

Jamie Briggs: Well, what I can say is that every payment that is made by the Federal Government to state is considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, right?

Leon Byner: Yes.

Jamie Briggs: And that's a process that goes on for every state. For them to claim that there's a certain impact of this decision on their GST allocation is just a lie because it is a broader consideration about all sorts of other factors and as you rightly point out, if it wasn't for Tasmania, we would be the biggest net receiver of GST payments from other states and that is just simply a reflection of how appallingly badly our economy is performing at the moment. And that sits right at the front in-tray for Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis . I mean, these guys are not a government, they're a political party operating a political agenda and that's the consequence of South Australia is that we are missing out. We are missing out on jobs; we are missing out on investment…

Leon Byner: So, put it this way, there are people listening across the state today who live in the very townships that are going to be affected, what are they missing out on?

Jamie Briggs: $25 million of these projects. These projects range from the Murray Bridge redevelopment of the racecourse which is one of the projects…

Leon Byner: Yeah.

Jamie Briggs: …several projects, particularly in the Riverland. This was money associated with the Murray Darling Basin plan that was allocated to help river communities adjust to the reduction in water entitlements that was part of that plan which, of course, you argued so strongly for Leon, to make sure that the Lower Lakes could survive six or seven years ago. This is the payment, if you like, to help those communities adjust. In Victoria, as we speak today, there is work going on those projects that were funded out of that programme. That's what's happening today. They have taken the money, they've spent it on the projects that we agreed to and people are getting the jobs and the investment out of it.

Leon Byner: So, the bottom line is you're contending that there's no GST implication here but what if the Grants Commission was to decide that in their view of fairness, some GST ought to be held back? Could that be possible?

Jamie Briggs: No and what the…

Leon Byner: No?

Jamie Briggs: …Grants Commission will say is that this is the amount of money that South Australia's got from the Federal Government this year and this is, therefore, the allocation of the GST we're giving. In fact, South Australia is getting, I think from memory, about 1.8 billion extra in GST payments than they expected last year, right?

Leon Byner: Yeah.

Jamie Briggs: So, this is—this is—it's such a farcical situation. They are looking for any excuse just simply to play politics Leon…

Leon Byner: Yeah.

Jamie Briggs: …this is what's going on here. I mean, frankly, the Federal Government has had enough of this childish behaviour from a state government. All it wants to do is continue to pick a fight. All it wants to do is continue to pick a fight. They're running ads about pensioner concessions—which you and I talked about last week, which are wrong, are based on fibs, are full of lies and we will be responding. Let me make this very clear…

Leon Byner: So, you're going to have a counter-advertising campaign are you?

Jamie Briggs: We are, yeah indeed, we are.

Leon Byner: What are you going to do, have two pensioners saying isn't Tony Abbott wonderful [laughs]?

Jamie Briggs: No, no, no, we can't. Federally, we're not allowed to run ads like they've run. We have got very strict rules about what we can do. But what we can do is point out the fact South Australia's receiving more money than ever before from a federal government. We're increasing the amount of money over the next four years to South Australia by 23 per cent. That's the amount of additional funding we're providing South Australia the next three years. What Tom Koutsantonis won't tell your pensioners who are listening this morning Leon, is that he ripped $100 million off them in last year's budget. He made that decision that was Tom Koutsantonis' decision. I can send you the Budget paper, if you like, which shows that decision and the impact of that decision.

As I say, we have tried—and I've been working with Stephen Mulligan on infrastructure and we committed to two South Road projects as you know. We want South Australia to do better; we don't want South Australia to be a state which is a massive recipient of taxes from other state because we're performing so badly, we want to lift the performance here. But we've had enough of a government that won't even spend free money. I mean, this is what this is. This is all federal government money, not one cent of state government money in it, we need them to spend it because constitutionally we are not able to spend it directly ourselves and as you referred to the High Court case in relation to chaplains is the reason and you've got a state government that will create any reason, any excuse just for a political fight, Leon…

Leon Byner: Jamie, thanks for joining us.