Transcript of Interview: 6PR Drive with Adam Shand

Interview

BPC044/2015

19 August 2015

E&OE

Adam Shand: Let's talk to Jamie Briggs who's the Assistant Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development in the Federal Government with his view. Good afternoon, Jamie.

Jamie Briggs: Adam, it's great to talk to you about this again.

Adam Shand: Indeed it is. So, you reckon The West has got it wrong? That they've read the wrong parts of this report? Give us your view.

Jamie Briggs: Well, they've exaggerated claims. I mean what we want Infrastructure Australia to do, which of course under this Government is an independent agency, is to do a very detailed assessment of taxpayers' funded projects and this is obviously a very substantial amount of taxpayers' money funding for what is a vital piece of infrastructure. The report shows that contrary to the claim in The West Oz that it's got less economic benefit it actually shows it's got an economic benefit of 2.5, or a cost benefit analysis, which is very, very high for this type of project.

Adam Shand: If I could just cut in though, previously the claim was $5 worth of benefits for every dollar spent on it.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah for one section; the Roe 8 section of it, when you add in the additional parts of it. And if you'll let me explain why that is; that is because we have to create a new route, if you like, after Roe 8 to get to the Fremantle Port because a Planning Minister in the past, who just happens now to be in the Federal Parliament, the Member for Perth, sold off what was a protected corridor.

Adam Shand: Yes.

Jamie Briggs: Now this means that we have to spend millions, and millions, and millions, and millions more than we ought to have had to had she not sold off that corridor. So, if people want to look and blame someone for the fact that the West Australian Government, the Australian Government have to spend more than they would have in the past to fix this problem to ensure that we've got this link to make Perth roads more productive, look no further than Alannah MacTiernan. She's the person who's cost Western Australian taxpayers more than they ought to be paying.

Adam Shand: Well, that's politics, that's politics indeed. But I reckon, I reckon the most…

Jamie Briggs: No, no, that is the reason it's costing more, that is simply the truth about why it's costing more.

Adam Shand: Okay, I reckon one of the most important issues Infrastructure Australia has highlighted is the fact that there were 12 options that were looked at too, and none of them were actually looked at in relation to linking it to the Outer Harbour Project, because obviously Freo Container Port is going to reach maximum capacity and there will have to be some consideration in the future towards the Outer Harbour, Cockburn South, yet the planning for this did not, in any of those options, look at that link.

Jamie Briggs: Well, but that's an assumption that Freo Port won't continue to operate. Of course it will; it's a very, very valuable asset. It's an extremely important port, and it will continue to operate for many, many years to come. That this is the advice of the Western Australian Government who manage this infrastructure. So, if there's new port facility in Western Australia the assumption that it completely replaces the existing port facility is flawed frankly. So…

Adam Shand: But isn't it also flawed to do an assessment on these projects without looking at the fact that… and the timeframe is closer to 15–20 years according to objective judges on the capacity of Freo Container Port. So, it seems strange to me that there wouldn't be consideration given to integrating that with the… knowing that there is a finite point for Freo Container Port.

Jamie Briggs: Well, again, when it gets to a capacity operation, presuming even your judges as you've put it are right, it doesn't mean it stops operating. And therefore having an effective freight network through Perth is actually completely and utterly vital. It's not just vital for the freight industry, it's also vital for commuters. We've talked before Adam about effective public transport through Perth…

Adam Shand: Yes.

Jamie Briggs: …now the reality in Australia is that the majority of public transport miles are carried by bus. Now if you want a more effective bus network, you want trucks off the other freeways, and this is exactly what this Perth Freight Link does. It has a dedicated road network for trucks, which will mean that the remainder of the network is freed up for commuters for public transport. It's a great outcome for people; they won't be competing with B-Doubles from the Pilbara when they're trying to drive and pick their kids up from school.

Adam Shand: Yes, you mentioned Alannah MacTiernan's part in the problems here, but she's been trying to get information out of the Government for some time. It has to go to a… virtually a Senate Inquiry to get that information. Why have the State Government and your department, your Government, been so reluctant to reveal the hard numbers involved in this project?

Jamie Briggs: Because of commercial in confidence. We're involving the private sector for the first time in Western Australia in a road project, and I think it's terrific that Colin Barnett and Dean Nalder are leading the way in this respect because it means we're getting more investment in infrastructure because of it. But that means there's obviously negotiations which go on with the private sector. Like all state governments, Labor, Liberal or otherwise—right across the country, the former Labor Government federally, these things are dealt with in a commercial in confidence manner. And that's exactly what's happening here. I suspect even when Ms MacTiernan was the Planning Minister in the Western Australian Government some years ago, she would have dealt with this in exactly the same manner as what she's now arguing against. But I…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] But can you see how public confidence in this project is critical to it going forward and the lack of transparency is hurting its image?

Jamie Briggs: I don't think there is a lack of transparency. I think what there is…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] sorry, you just said information's being held back because of commercial in confidence reasons. So you can't have it both ways.

Jamie Briggs: Well, no. Well, certain information but I'm not sure that's the sort of information that most people—that they…

Adam Shand: Well, what are the traffic forecasts for instance?

Jamie Briggs: Well again that's information that is clearly commercial in confidence because that clearly gets to the arrangements the private sector will put in place in respect of the…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] okay, so can I ask you…can I ask you, are those traffic forecasts done and have they been shared with the private sector?

Jamie Briggs: Well, that work is being worked through by the Western Australian Government. Again, what we're trying to do is get the correct route, the best route we can get, right into the port…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] so we don't have traffic forecasts then?

Jamie Briggs: …what we are doing is actually doing the proper planning because we have to work out the best way through because there's no corridor that was once protected through Perth, through Fremantle, I should say that we now have to either go through existing road network…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] yep.

Jamie Briggs: …which is obviously contentious. Or we have to look at tunnel options, which are…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] yes. Because you're bringing Perth's first toll road here.

Jamie Briggs: …yes.

Adam Shand: And toll roads around the country have suffered from one major issue—and I'm sure you know what it is—that these traffic forecasts are never achieved and people lose their money. And so it's a critical issue that you guys can come up with reliable traffic forecasts that actually are achievable because otherwise you won't get a private investor anyway.

Jamie Briggs: Well, Adam, that's a couple of big assumptions there. City Link is the most successful—one of the most successful toll roads in the world. In fact, Transurban…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] Clem7, Lane Cove Tunnel, you know, the list goes on.

Jamie Briggs: …okay. No, no, that's two—what's the third?

Adam Shand: There are plenty.

Jamie Briggs: No, no, tell me; what's the third?

Adam Shand: But you know as well as I do the traffic forecasts are not being achieved.

Jamie Briggs: No, no. You tell me what's…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] toll roads are not being built… toll roads are not being built around the world… toll roads are not being built around the world because of this factor.

Jamie Briggs: …no, that's wrong. That is absolutely wrong. And I mean…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] alright. Okay then give us the traffic forecasts. If you've got them and they're solid, and they work, give it to us then.

Jamie Briggs: Adam, calm down. The first thing I would say is when the private sector is involved in these negotiations, when the route is finalised, we deal with the MacTiernan problem that we face, the private sector will be investing with confidence. Yes, there's been two or three…

Adam Shand: [Interrupts] Cross City Tunnel? That's the third.

Jamie Briggs: …I'll name the third one, the Cross City Tunnel [indistinct].

Adam Shand: Yep, there's three.

Jamie Briggs: Well done. What they don't mention of course is the M7 in Sydney, which is a very successful project. The WestConnex project which is being built in Sydney, which will be a very successful project.

Adam Shand: [Talks over] The Hills Motorway, which struggled to make a profit for years.

Jamie Briggs: Well, not at all.

Adam Shand: Yes, it did.

Jamie Briggs: You may have an ideological…

Adam Shand: No, no, I've got a factual… I've got a factual opposition to this sort of stuff.

Jamie Briggs: …well, that's fine mate but ultimately, if you look across the world, private sector investment in roads is very important and is successful a majority of the time. Sometimes, the private sector gets it wrong. That is the reality of investing. And smart people, like Macquarie Bank, got it wrong on one of the projects in Brisbane and they acknowledged that, but ultimately what taxpayers want is the most investment we can get for the best network we need. And that's exactly what's happening here in Western Australia. Now what the Western Australian department is doing, in conjunction with the private sector, is firstly getting on with the Roe 8 project, which has been talked about since the 1950s.

Adam Shand: Yep.

Jamie Briggs: And now, working out the best way to deal with the MacTiernan problem we've got, getting into Fremantle Port. Now, that it is complicated, it is expensive, and it's more expensive than it ought to be because of the issues that we're left with by someone who didn't plan for the future. And that's exactly why in the future we are looking to have an Infrastructure Australia 15 year plan, which identifies corridors, which protects corridors, so we don't have these problems going forward.

Adam Shand: Okay, well I'd love to talk to you again soon, Minister…

Jamie Briggs: Of course.

Adam Shand: Assistant Minister, when you have the traffic forecasts. That'll be a great day; we'll be able to talk…

Jamie Briggs: It'll be a terrific day, and we'll talk the day we're there for the opening of this project.

Adam Shand: Okay, thanks for your time.

Jamie Briggs: Good on you Adam, thanks.