Transcript of Interview: 891 ABC Adelaide with Matthew Abraham and David Bevan

Interview

BPC025/2015

18 May 2015

E&OE

Matthew Abraham: Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Development, which is code word for one of the few ministers who's got money to spend in the Federal Government. Jamie Briggs, welcome to the programme.

Jamie Briggs: Good morning.

Matthew Abraham: Federal Liberal MP, obviously, also for the state, federal Seat of Mayo. You're going to steer some money towards the Murray Bridge Racing Club, and you're doing that because you got sick of waiting for the state government to make a call with that same amount of money.

Jamie Briggs: Well look, many of your listeners would be tired of the political behaviour of the state government over the last few months in respect of the Murray Darling Diversification Fund. It was a fund which was established three years ago by the former government across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and was part of the Murray Darling Basin Agreement that was reached. It was to assist businesses to adjust to the new world of water entitlements, with obviously reductions in water entitlements across catchment areas. Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria, all three state governments have funded projects which are actually underway—in fact the project in Victoria, a gas pipeline, is nearly complete.

Matthew Abraham: So each got 25 million out of this hundred, and we…

Jamie Briggs: Around 25 million [indistinct].

Matthew Abraham: …and we've been allocated around 25 million.

Jamie Briggs: We got 25 million in South Australia.

Matthew Abraham: Okay.

Jamie Briggs: And the money has sat there. It was agreed with the former government that this would be spent, there was a national partnership agreement signed, the conditions were agreed to, the South Australian Government asked for it to be exempt from consideration from the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the former government said no as they said no to the other states, so that the agreement was all fixed in place. The projects were actually selected before the last election.

Matthew Abraham: Right. The concern of the state government according to a statement from Tom Koutsantonis' spokesperson, is that they've been having- Minister Brock's been having very constructive phone discussions with Deputy Prime Minister Truss on the issue. They've been trying to find a solution, but they've been consistent in the view that the funds needed to be considered without any GST impact to South Australians.

David Bevan: In other words, they didn't want to lose GST if they took this money.

Jamie Briggs: Well this- the claim they've been having constructive phone calls is just false. I mean, the Minister Brock, who didn't respond to our correspondence for about eight months, has finally woken up to the fact that he's going to be responsible for South Australia missing out on $25 million, and has desperately, in the last few days, tried to blame Tom Koutsantonis for this. But the reality is, as I've said to Minister Brock, as I've said to Tom Koutsantonis, as the Prime Minister said to Jay Weatherill at COAG last year when he raised it, we've agreed this with all four states. You can't have a special arrangement with one state.

Let's not forget, this is the same Treasurer who's been crying blue murder about Colin Barnett wanting a different GST arrangement in Western Australia, claiming that the current GST arrangement should just apply. So, they want no change on one hand when it comes to them benefiting from the GST, and they want absolute change on another if there's a threat that any reduction in GST money may occur. Now, the reality is [indistinct]…

Matthew Abraham: [Interrupts] Well maybe that's because they care about South Australia and trying to get the best deal. You're saying well we're sick of that.

Jamie Briggs: Well, [indistinct] also is because- is because the fact is that their budget bottom line is propped up by the $1.8 billion extra GST money coming into South Australia from the Federal Government. Maybe that's the case.

Matthew Abraham: Okay.

Jamie Briggs: I'm just making a stab in the dark here.

David Bevan: Alright, but the bottom line here is that there's been this argey-bargey between the state and the Federal Government for many many months. And you're saying that as a result of that, nothing's been built. Okay, well I'm going to get the money to Murray Bridge in another way. Is that it, in a shorthand?

Jamie Briggs: Yes. For the $5 million for the project at Murray Bridge Racing Club, which relates to the establishment of a new residential area, the existing Murray Bridge Racecourse, we think that's a good project. We committed to it in the last state election campaign where the then state opposition matched funding, and we think that one is worthwhile. So, out of some savings in another program, the Community Development Grants Program, we are funding that project today.

Matthew Abraham: So what do they get in Murray Bridge? What are they going to get?

Jamie Briggs: Our contribution is going towards the works around establishing the infrastructure to support the development of this new residential…

Matthew Abraham: So, like drainage and…

Jamie Briggs: Yeah, that's right. Yeah.

Matthew Abraham: …sewerage and power or whatever.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah. And there'll be a lot of jobs established out of it in the construction phase. It is a good project, there's been a lot of work gone into it over the last few years, and it's sat there for some time. They will still want money out of the state government mind you, and it will up to the state government on whether they fund it or not.

Matthew Abraham: Now what happened to this $25 million from the other bucket, the Murray Darling Basin Economic Diversification Fund? What happened to that? Did we lose that, or are you going to splash that around as a Federal Government project? Watch this space?

Jamie Briggs: Well, we're not going to let South Australia miss out, let me put it that way. And we're not going to let regional South Australia miss out, let's be clearer. The $25 million that's there is in our Budget; it hasn't been spent by the state government, it refused to spend it. So we will spend it directly on projects in regional South Australia, particularly when it comes to road issues; we're now looking at ways we can fund upgrades to ensure that South Australia- regional South Australia gets the benefit of this program. Or this money, I should say.

Matthew Abraham: Minister, are people like you, and Chris Pyne, and Simon Birmingham, just feeling the heat of a well-targeted political campaign? You're worried about your seats, particularly Chris Pyne. Or, are you saying to the Prime Minister look, when you go to your, sort of, your retreat…

Jamie Briggs: Camp David.

Matthew Abraham: Camp David, yeah. With Jay Weatherill [indistinct], don't trust this guy. It's a bit like the Labor Party hugging the Greens in Tasmania—they'll burn you. I mean what, or are you just- is this just- you just cranky? And Tony Abbott might say well yeah okay, you're a bit cranky, but he is a Premier and we've got to look after them.

Jamie Briggs: He is a Premier, and he does represent South Australia, and he represents a state which is getting billions of dollars more from the Federal Government out of this Budget than they did the last. But yet all we hear from Tom Koutsantonis particularly are, frankly, fibs and distractions. I mean last week you had Tom Koutsantonis claiming on your program that the Torrens Junction project in the infrastructure spend—the Torrens Junction project which has sat there now for four years mind you—we had spread the money over an additional year, we had put the money out. Well we put the money out because the state government official charged with- the senior state government official charged with negotiating the budget had asked us to do that because they don't know what they want to do with the project at the moment. I mean, this is- you've got this situation where you're waking up to Tom Koutsantonis on radio on Friday morning calling the Prime Minister a liar because we haven't apparently [indistinct]…

Matthew Abraham: [Interrupts] I don't know if he used those words though.

Jamie Briggs: He did. He said on Triple M the Prime Minister was a liar about the 10 years' funding for the upgrade of the South Road corridor. Now the reason we haven't agreed to additional South Road money yet is because the plan that we paid for last year is sitting with Stephen Mullighan, who refuses to release it.

Matthew Abraham: Well standards were a bit low at Triple M last week.

David Bevan: They've had a tough week.

Matthew Abraham: [Indistinct]. But the main thing is that Jars doesn't interrupt people, because that would be a real sackable offence if you interrupt people.

Jamie Briggs: The point here is there are grenades being thrown at a government which is providing more. We want to build the South Road- upgrade the South Road corridor in a decade, Stephen Mullighan and I have been talking for months about the plan and when we can release it. It is with Stephen Mullighan as we speak to be released.

Matthew Abraham: Okay.

David Bevan: Okay.

Jamie Briggs: Now that is the project that Koutsantonis is now claiming that we're not agreeing to fund. So this is what we're dealing with on a daily basis. So yes we're frustrated, but what we're saying is that South Australians are not going to miss out because we've got a state government that wants to act like a political operation, and not a government.

Matthew Abraham: Jamie Briggs, Minister, thank you, for Infrastructure and Development, Member for Mayo.

David Bevan: We're told that Jay Weatherill should be responding to this. This is from the state government. But he is unwell today, he will be available tomorrow, but that's why we've only got a statement. So if we can bring the Premier to you tomorrow then we will.

Matthew Abraham: And Premier we've got two words for you: black elderberry.