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

Interview

BPC040/2015

06 August 2015

E&OE

Matthew Abraham: Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs joins us, as we talk about … the Prime Minister's been in town. He's says we've got the first prize with the frigates and there'll be a further prize in one way or another with the submarines.

There were a lot of shovels being flung around yesterday, a lot of dirt being flung around for the Torrens to Torrens project, the South Road upgrade. But the missing link is this Northern Connector. And there are broad hints being given that maybe this is going to happen too. Jamie Briggs is the Federal Infrastructure Minister, and the Local Federal MP for Mayo. Minister, welcome to the program.

Jamie Briggs: Good morning. Good to be on.

Matthew Abraham: Now, can we just clarify—the Northern Connector will be the bit of road, very expensive bit of road, that will make sense for a lot of roads that don't really go anywhere at the moment. And we're talking about the Port River Expressway …

David Bevan: The Superway.

Matthew Abraham: … The South Road Superway, and the Northern Expressway, the Max Fatchen Expressway. It's meant to pull all those together, correct?

Jamie Briggs: Yes, in essence that's right, and it's meant to be a much shorter and more efficient route for the freight industry particularly, to get to the port and get our agricultural products from the North, the mid-north, the Yorker Peninsula, through to the port much more efficiently without having to go down Wakefield Road and so forth.

Matthew Abraham: So where will this last missing link be?

Jamie Briggs: Well it comes off … in essence it comes off somewhere around National Highway 1, and cuts across the salt pans, if you like, for want of a better description, I'm sure that's not the technical description that's given to that area, and then connects to the top of South Road and also to the Port River Expressway. So it would be a much more efficient route for trucks particularly, trying to access the port will save quite a bit of time. So it is actually very important part of the corridor.

Matthew Abraham: And in constructing the Northern Expressway, they have done the right thing. There is a bridge there that's not being used at the moment, and that is designed to take the Northern Connector eventually.

Jamie Briggs: Yes, that's right. It's about a billion dollars, just short of a billion dollars and it's a green field site, so in that sense it is easier, and there are not particularly any difficult environmental issues out there, Stephen Mullighan assures me. The project can start quite quickly, and it has had quite a lot of planning, and Infrastructure Australia in the past has had a look at it and said it's a pretty good project, so …

Matthew Abraham: [Interrupts] How soon before you think work will start?

Jamie Briggs: Well we've got to come to a funding agreement with the State Government, and we've been working very hard. Stephen Mullighan and I have spent a lot of time together in the last couple of weeks, probably too much time together, and we've got close, but it's expensive and public budgets—or public finances are tight, as we regularly debate on your program.

So finding an extra nearly billion dollars between the two of us is proving challenging. We've been keen for the State Government to look to work also with the private sector and have a heavy vehicle charge as part of the mix, that's something that we're still working with the State Government on that prospect.

Matthew Abraham: So if they said well yes, we'll do that, we'll effectively have a heavy transport toll …

Jamie Briggs: Yes.

Matthew Abraham: It would happen … you could say right well let's do it?

Jamie Briggs: Yes.

Matthew Abraham: Right. And does the heavy vehicle industry accept this idea of a toll?

Jamie Briggs: They will accept it if it means that you get a more efficient journey and the price you pay is less than the current cost to operate the vehicles in the start stop manner that they do at the moment to get to the port.

What we've experienced, we've found in Perth, where we've done a similar thing with the Perth Freight Link is the freight industry is very happy to pay a charge if that charge indeed reduces the cost of operating their trucks, because it's expensive to stop and start trucks at traffic lights, you know, the wear and tear. And also on the road network when trucks take off, it causes a lot of wear and tear on the road networks. So the more efficient you can have the route, the non-stop element of the route, then clearly the benefits are there for the freight industry, and they certainly support that.

Business SA said they support it, I think the State Opposition's indicated they support this sort of approach. It is used in every other mainland city, and it's something which will help deliver additional infrastructure if we're able to adopt it.

Matthew Abraham: Okay, so Stephen Mullighan, if he's listening to the program right now …

Jamie Briggs: Of course he's listening.

Matthew Abraham: Of course he's listening. And if he has an epiphany, and all the jagged pieces fall into place, he says you know what, what Jamie Briggs is saying makes sense. If he rings you up after this program, says yes let's do it, we'll have the heavy vehicle toll, how soon could you start turning dirt?

Jamie Briggs: Look, I understand we could start turning dirt quite early next year.

Matthew Abraham: Because he knows that, doesn't he? He knows …

Jamie Briggs: Well, he tells me that. [Laughs].

Matthew Abraham: No, no, but he knows that if he could get approval for the toll then it would happen very quickly. So the log jam may be further up the food chain.

Jamie Briggs: Well there has been a series of discussions. And the Premier and the Prime Minister have had some discussions at Camp David a couple of weeks ago, they had some further discussions this week. We are working towards getting an outcome here. There are several bits of the South Road Corridor still to do, there's still a missing gap if you like between the current Torrens to Torrens project, which started yesterday with heavy construction, and the Superway. So that's another project worth somewhere around $800 million, and that's something we'd like to get done as well.

There is again, some efficiency if you can bundle up these projects and offer them to the market, you do tend to get better prices with the bigger projects. So they're the sorts of things we've been talking about with the State Government. But we are confident we're going to get an outcome, and we're going to get more projects, and it is important to get that green field aspect of this project underway, because it does make the economic case to the remaining parts of the corridor certainly a lot stronger.

Matthew Abraham: Well we could all do with the jobs that's for sure. Jamie Briggs, thanks for your time this morning.

Jamie Briggs: My pleasure, thanks guys.

Matthew Abraham: That's Federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs.