Transcript - ABC News Breakfast

LISA MILLAR:

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to outline his blueprint for the economy post-COVID in a speech later today.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

It's also likely that he'll unveil a list of projects worth around $1.5 billion to safeguard scores of jobs, working with the States and Territories to identify priorities.  We're joined now by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Michael McCormack from Canberra.  Good to see you this morning.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Now, tell us about these projects and how quickly work could begin on them?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, there's a couple of important things that the Prime Minister is going to outline in his address to the Committee for Economic Development for Australia and as you've just said, $1.5 billion for roads that aren't necessarily the major roads but they're certainly important linkage roads for regional Australia – Princess Highway – that type of road.  And as part of that $1.5 billion commitment, there's $500 million specifically for road safety measures.  So that's line marking and making sure that the roads are what they need to be because, of course, we are all working towards zero 2050.  We're all working towards making sure that we've got no deaths on the roads.  That's the vision.  The international community has set the date 2050 but, of course, we'd like to have no deaths on the roads right now, Michael.  Everybody understands and appreciates that. 

But, of course, also in the Prime Minister's speech he's identifying 15 major projects we're going to fast-track, what we do as far as assessment approvals, because if we know one thing, if we've learned one thing from COVID-19, it's the ability and the necessity to be able to fast-track some of these projects to get jobs, to get people back into work.  It's all about jobs.  It's all about the JobMaker scheme and really, really pleased that infrastructure is going to be such a focus today and going forward.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay, when you're talking about fast-tracking that means overcoming some of the roadblocks to these developments.  Some of the roadblocks include environmental approvals.  Are we worried here that environmental corners will be cut?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Not at all and it was the States who actually pushed this, as I met with them on a very regular basis, twice a week in most weeks we've been meeting and certainly it was also the Labor States who were pushing this point.  Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland were amongst those who were pushing the point that we need to make sure that we fast-track approvals.  In some cases, there had been years and years to get approvals done for projects, whether it's resources, whether it's roads, whether it's infrastructure, dams, the like.  We want to make sure that to get people back into work, to get through this COVID-19 situation and get as many people back on the tools and back in high-vis and back on the job as possible, then we need to cut that, obviously, from, you know, in some cases from three-and-a-half years down to, the goal is about 21 months. 

So, there's still the necessary environmental approvals taking place.  There'll still be all those necessary cultural and heritage issues addressed.  But what we really need to do, Michael, is fast-track some of those projects so that we can actually see real action.  We're a Government which doesn't only build things, but we want to build them in good time. That's the objective.