Transcript of Interview: PVO News Day—Sky News



16 June 2015


Peter van Onselen: Alright, Jeb is running for president, but we've got our own Jeb, Jamie Edward Briggs, as our Assistant Infrastructure Minister, he joins me now live from Canberra. Thanks for being there. What do you make of Bill Shorten's reaction? He's polarising the debate between super and pensions, and I've got to say from a voter perspective, even though I don't like what he's doing, you guys are going to be on the wrong side of this one I would have thought, holding up million-dollar tax-free receipts of super, yet cutting pensions to 300,000 Australians.

Jamie Briggs: Well no look that's not quite right. Obviously what we've said is that the superannuation scheme is an extremely important part of our retirement planning, and what it means is that it takes a lot of pressure off the pension system. Every time you dip into the superannuation scheme of savings from Australians, you in effect will put more pressure on the pension system. And that's why we want a consistent policy approach.

Peter van Onselen: [Interrupts] Sure but, Jamie Briggs it's not quite right. I mean, sort of, moguls with masses of properties in their super portfolio don't pay any tax on it. That's the kind of loophole you could get rid of, but you're not.

Jamie Briggs: Well, what you're talking about there is an extremely small percentage of people who have a lot of assets. But changes actually catch a lot of people who are not that wealthy and who have worked hard and put their own savings away for the future. So we're talking here- this should not be a battle between those who have and those who have not, which is what the Labor Party want to do. They've moved away from the Hawke and Keating legacy, and they've moved to- back to the old-fashioned Labor us versus them.

Peter van Onselen: I agree with that Jamie Briggs, I agree with that. But I think it could well be popular. I mean, their labelling of your side is that you're wanting to cut pensions for people on as little as $26,000 a year, and that is your policy, yet their argument is what about super? You don't want to have anyone paying tax on that no matter how many hundreds of thousands of dollars they earn each year out of their superannuation account. It's a tough one for you politically.

Jamie Briggs: Well look, reform is always tough but the right direction is important for the country. And what we've seen in the last few weeks is Mr Shorten say he was happy to sit down and work practically through reforms to the pension, including this proposal in the budget. And instantly we have Mr Shorten opposing it. I mean, that press conference just tops off what has been a pretty horrific few weeks for Mr Shorten, and it doesn't get any better. We've got him starring this evening in The Killing Season, in the killing of one prime minister and then next week he's killing the second.

Peter van Onselen: [Interrupts] Stop advertising one of our rival networks Jamie Briggs. I've got to move you on now from that one.

Jamie Briggs: Well, people can watch.

Peter van Onselen: Now, I want to ask you about your portfolio though. I do want to ask you about infrastructure.

Jamie Briggs: Sure.

Peter van Onselen: We haven't got a lot of time. The infrastructure Prime Minister; it costs a lot of money to build infrastructure at a time when you're meant to be paying down debt, how do you walk and chew gum on that one?

Jamie Briggs: Well it's important that we involve more often, the private sector, in the—particularly big projects, nation-building projects. It's going to be increasingly important not just in Melbourne and Sydney but our other capital cities that the private sector has a role, because as you say taxpayers' money is finite, but the need is great.

The infrastructure audit showed that unless we deal with congestion issues in our city we will cost ourselves some $53 billion per year by 2031. So, we are asking Infrastructure Australia to come up with a 15 year plan, we want to work with the states on a coordinated, coherent plan to address the infrastructure shortages, and start to address this with an economic focus on how we get best value for taxpayers money to build the projects which will help us grow.

Peter van Onselen: Labor says that all you're doing though is just re-announcing what they already announced.

Jamie Briggs: Well look, I know Anthony Albanese likes to take credit for pretty much every piece of infrastructure that's ever been built in Australia, from the Sydney Harbour Bridge through to the Adelaide to Darwin railway line, he's even trying to take credit for the Golden Gate Bridge at times in San Francisco. But the reality is under Labor what you saw was infrastructure spending on Pink Batts and overpriced school halls, not on roads and rail. There were a lot of announcements but there wasn't a lot of follow through.

What you've seen under Tony Abbot as infrastructure Prime Minister, as you like to call him, is actual follow through, not just announcements but the delivery of projects. And we're seeing that now. We're seeing WestConnex Stage One up and away, NorthConnex up and away, the Western Sydney Infrastructure Package up and away, two projects on South Road in Adelaide up and away, projects in Perth happening. You're actually seeing shovels in the ground, projects being delivered—and that's what being the infrastructure Prime Minister is all about, delivering the projects we need to ensure we've got the economy we want.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Alright. We're out of time Jamie Briggs, but just promise me you're going to stop calling him the infrastructure Prime Minister, it's such a slogan, you don't need to do it. Thanks for your company.

JAMIE BRIGGS: Always a pleasure PVO.