Transcript of Interview: 774 ABC Melbourne Drive with Rafael Epstein

Interview

BPC027/2015

20 May 2015

E&OE

Rafael Epstein: Let's ask Jamie Briggs, he is the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure so he's part of Tony Abbott's team but the Federal Liberal Party have been speaking to the State Liberal Party while they are in Opposition. Jamie Briggs, good afternoon.

Jamie Briggs: G'day Raf.

Rafael Epstein: It is unusual isn't it and perhaps odd to speak to the party who lost an election when a big issue was the East West?

Jamie Briggs: No, look I think obviously we've got a similar political colour…

Rafael Epstein: Sure.

Jamie Briggs: …I've known Matthew for many, many years and so we talk about different issues regularly. I think in this case Matthew is trying to be a guardian for Victoria if I can put it that way. He's trying to find a way to ensure that Victoria gets the infrastructure spending that it deserves and we very much appreciate the fact that he's got interest in that respect. I think equally, we are also talking to the Victorian Government it must be said and there were discussions last week…

Rafael Epstein: Okay, so what's going to happen do you think, what's—I mean, is—are you only going to give money to the Western Distributor if the State Government puts forward some money from its own coffers, is that the basic position?

Jamie Briggs: Yeah, that's part of it but we actually need to see what the Western Distributor proposal looks like and we still haven't seen that. I'm in Melbourne tonight and I'm meeting with Transurban tomorrow to discuss actually what their proposal is.

Rafael Epstein: Oh well, I'm interested. So, would they give you all of the paperwork that they have given the Government?

Jamie Briggs: Well look, I hope so. Yeah, certainly I hope so…

Rafael Epstein: That's the intention, okay.

Jamie Briggs: …we haven't at this point and in the letter back from the Prime Minister last week to Premier Andrews, the Prime Minister requested that. He said that we want to work with the Victorian Government; we want to see the detail of this proposal. We're not inclined to support this project unless we've got the Victorian Government at the table and that's consistent with what…

Rafael Epstein: You mean financially at the table?

Jamie Briggs: …we're doing…

Rafael Epstein: There's a prob…forgive me for interrupting but there's a significant problem there, isn't it, that Transurban are interested in this because they can extend the existing CityLink tolls—I think it's 15 to 17 years…if the Victorian Government coughs up some cash, there's less in it for Transurban in the long term. So, that could kill the deal.

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, that's a commercial decision for Transurban, obviously. We're not about commercial decisions. We're obviously about getting the private sector involved in these projects because it does bring that additional level of capital and they bring, you know, what would Melbourne be like without the CityLink project, the original CityLink project which, of course, gave birth to Transurban back in the 1990s. But equally, we have an obligation here to commuters and to industry in Melbourne and we want to see that…

Rafael Epstein: Does the obligation include Victoria has to cough up cash, I mean, or is the obligation…

Jamie Briggs: Yes it does.

Rafael Epstein: …I think at the moment, 25 per cent of the population, 12 per cent of the infrastructure funding that's enough of a reason just to give it to a project that passes the cost benefit test isn't it?

Jamie Briggs: Look, Victoria deserves more, absolutely, but we can only fund projects which are there and you would be the first on my back Raf, if we were funding projects without a cost benefit analysis. So, you know, this is…

Rafael Epstein: Oh, you've just left me a gigantic opening there, Jamie Briggs, because Tony Abbott committed $1.5 billion to the East West without a business case and that business case still has—the final business case for the East West Tunnel, still has not been to Infrastructure Australia.

Jamie Briggs: Well, it did go to Infrastructure Australia. There was…

Rafael Epstein: The complete business case has not gone, I've checked on that.

Jamie Briggs: There was a proposal that went to Infrastructure Australia. Now, Infrastructure Australia looked at it and assessed that it had a cost benefit analysis of over one so it did have that approval process. But the point is still valid. We want Infrastructure Australia to have a greater role in assessing projects in the future. That's why in the next couple of days, we'll be releasing the Infrastructure Australia audit which will give an indication about across the country where infrastructure is at and from there we'll enter into discussions with the states, local government, afternoon ABC presenters, the community about what should be in our 15 year plan which we intend to release at the end of the year and that is exactly designed to develop this pipeline, to develop a priority list that we can work with the states about co-funding to ensure that we have got—we are addressing—what the infrastructure audit really says is that we've got a really good problem in Australia…

Rafael Epstein: Okay, yeah.

Jamie Briggs: …which is we've got growth. Particularly in Melbourne we've got very substantial growth and you know as Matthew Guy has pointed out regularly—certainly likes to point it out to New South Welshmen that Melbourne will become a bigger city than Sydney in 20 years…

Rafael Epstein: I know, yes.

Jamie Briggs: …now that means there are huge pressures on congestion, there's huge pressures on productivity, unless we get the infrastructure spend right and…

Rafael Epstein: Can we…

Jamie Briggs: …what we're worried about—sorry, Raf, go.

Rafael Epstein: Oh look, I just wanted to try something that's either aggressive or assertive, I'm not sure which. However, this is really about adding a 1.5 billion to your Budget bottom line and improving that deficit figure, isn't it?

Jamie Briggs: No.

Rafael Epstein: …that money's going to come to Victoria at some stage…

Jamie Briggs: No, it's not, no.

Rafael Epstein: …adding the 1.5 billion is just about your numbers.

Jamie Briggs: No, it's not. No, it's about—you can't fund air, you've got to have a project to fund and, you know, we don't have at this point in time anything which is shovel ready in Victoria. There's often the discussion about potential Melbourne Metro proposals. There is still no proposal for Melbourne Metro. There's been nothing put to us…

Rafael Epstein: There's no paperwork on that to you?

Jamie Briggs: There's nothing at all, there's no case for it yet. In fact, as I understand there's till work being done on the potential route, how it will go to Swanson Street, what depth, it'll go under Swanson Street and look, that's not a surprise. These big infrastructure projects take some time…

Rafael Epstein: Take time.

Jamie Briggs: …they take too long, we think in Australia and we want to work out ways to improve the pace of delivering this infrastructure…

Rafael Epstein: Okay.

Jamie Briggs: …but in the end, Melbourne needs investment. And the Abbott Government wants to be spending money here. That's a key part of our economic plan.

Rafael Epstein: Okay. We'll see where it all gets to. Thank you for your time. Enjoy your meeting with Transurban.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks Raf, really appreciate it.

Rafael Epstein: Jamie Briggs is the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure. He's part of Tony Abbott's team, part of the Federal Coalition.