4BC Drive (Early) Interview with Mark Braybrook

Mark Braybrook: The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in Brisbane until Thursday. Federal Cabinet will hold its first meeting of 2019 here in Brisbane, and the Prime Minister has said he will be making announcements each day with regards to spending, with regards to infrastructure and transport around the state. Today he spoke here in Brisbane at Brothers Rugby Club; he spoke about a jobs pledge. He also spoke about money that would be spent on transport.

Here's a little bit of what the Prime Minister had to say.

[Excerpt]

Scott Morrison: This includes funding to upgrade the intersection of Commercial Road and Doggett Street in Newstead, which is here in Trevor's electorate—well done, Trevor.

[Applause]

Scott Morrison: The Gympie Arterial Road, the Ipswich Motorway, and the Lindesay Highway corridors, and the park and ride facilities at the Mango Hill and Ferny Grove train stations. Very practical projects.

[Applause]

Scott Morrison: And as I move around South East Queensland, I'll be there with [indistinct] and I'll be there with others, I'll be making further announcements where these congestion-busting investments will be made. But, you know, it's actually not about the asphalt; it's not about the concrete; it's not even about the money—these are investments that will mean families can get around the table at night for their evening meal. Hands up who'd like to do that a bit more? I would.

[End of excerpt]

Mark Braybrook: Well, there's the Prime Minister speaking in Brisbane today. Alan Tudge is the Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Minister, who is basically in charge of implementing what the Prime Minister had to say today and joins me now. Minister, good afternoon.

Alan Tudge: G'day, Mark.

Mark Braybrook: Infrastructure—getting home, getting around, trying to break the bottleneck. How important is it in this election year?

Alan Tudge: Oh, this is important generally, particularly in our big urban centres of South East Queensland, Melbourne, and Sydney, where we do have considerable congestion. And what we're here to do is not only to announce the very large scale infrastructure projects which we've been doing over the last few years. In fact, $20 billion worth—but this week we're going to be announcing a number of smaller projects, just those localised pinch points which often can be real pains in the backside for people when they're trying to get home, and if we can fix those localised pinch points, sometimes with as little as $2 million or $3 million, you can really make a difference to people's lives, because they can save 10 minutes in traffic and get home earlier.

Mark Braybrook: Which is great, Minister, but I'm sure a lot of the listeners now would be saying: why does it always happen in the lead up to an election?

Alan Tudge: Oh, well it hasn't been. I mean, we've been announcing infrastructure projects non stop since we've been in government—in fact, over $20 billion worth for Queensland alone. Just in the last Budget we announced $75 billion worth nationally. This week, we're going to be announcing $244 million worth of very localised projects—and you heard a couple of those just mentioned by the Prime Minister then: the intersection of Commercial Road and Doggett Street in Newstead, for example.

Just a small intersection, but we know that it's a real bottleneck and we want to fix that, we want to fix a number of those other localised bottlenecks which complement the major infrastructure—highways and motorways and rail—that we're putting in place.

Mark Braybrook: One of those major projects is the Cross River Rail, which is very big here in South East Queensland. Will there be any money for that?

Alan Tudge: There won't be, and that's because the Queensland Government has said that it's fully funded, and so therefore our focus has been elsewhere. If they're fully funding that, it enables us to be able to put money into other projects.

We've got over a billion dollars, for example, into upgrading the M1, you know, such as the Gateway Merge on the M1 which people see being constructed right now; $300 million for the Brisbane Metro, the Gold Coast Light Rail, et cetera. We're getting on with these other projects and letting the State Government build that, and they say that it's fully funded.

Mark Braybrook: Well, the Premier would argue the reason they're doing that is because they're not getting any money from the federal government. Who do we believe?

Alan Tudge: [Laughs] Well, they've said for a long time that it's a fully funded project. Now, you wouldn't expect us- I mean, if someone says that something's fully funded, then you don't expect them- somebody else to then put money in, because it's already catered for. So, we've got our focus elsewhere.

Mark Braybrook: Now, with regards to your portfolio—Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population—it is one of the big issues in this country, in every city in the country, with regards to whether or not we have too many people living in our cities. How big an issue do you see it in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years to get it right?

Alan Tudge: Oh, I think this absolutely essential, and one of the real challenges we've got is we've got a lot of growth into those three major urban centres of South East Queensland, Sydney, and Melbourne, and yet quite slow growth elsewhere in the country.

So, part of our objective is actually to get a broader distribution of that growth. Now, there's a number of things that we can do on that front, which we're working on. It's using migration as a lever, to see if we can encourage more migrants to settle in those regional centres or the smaller cities, rather than wanting to all come to Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, for example.

Infrastructure's very important—some of our economic development projects in those regional towns and the smaller cities are critically important as well. We do those sorts of things, then it does just slightly ease the pressure off the big capitals and supports the growth aspirations of some of those other areas at the same time.

Mark Braybrook: Minister, the Government's handling of the economy is one of your strengths, but do you believe- do you think you're getting enough cut through with the voters, the fact that the economy is in better shape than people make out, and with the promise today from the Prime Minister that the debt will be cut over the next 10 years. Do you believe you're getting the cut through for people to understand the state of the economy?

Alan Tudge: Well, I think we need to continue to talk about this right up until the election, because there is a lot at stake at the upcoming election, which will be in the middle of the year. And the economy has been growing strongly; we have created 1.2 million jobs. We said we were going to create 1 million jobs. Everybody said: no way can you do that. Well, you know what? We have delivered 1.2 million, and the Prime Minister today is promising a further 1.25 million over the next five years. So there's very important commitment and we've got the track record to deliver.

The contrary, by the way, is an Opposition in Bill Shorten and the Labor Party who are promising $200 billion of new taxes on your investments, on small businesses, on your income, on your houses; you name it. And that has the effect of slowing down the economy and so you won't get that type of jobs growth if you start clobbering the economy, which Labor is proposing to do. So there's a big decision at stake later in this year.

Mark Braybrook: Is the Government the underdog?

Alan Tudge: Oh well look, polling would indicate that that's the case. I mean, the polling's narrowed a little bit but we never take any elections for granted. You always have to work hard to try to earn the respect of the people of Australia.

It's an absolute honour to be in Government and I think we've done a very good job in terms of managing the economy and keeping people safe and ensuring that we've got things like the infrastructure and the health services in place. And therefore, we'll be asking the Australian people to give us another go—to continue that effort.

Mark Braybrook: You mentioned the polls out today. Has that given everyone a bit of a boost? The Coalition up; Labor down a bit. I know that it doesn't really matter when it comes to election day, but the way the polls have been in recent time—has today's little rise given everyone a little bit of boost in the Government?

Alan Tudge: You'd always prefer to see the polls going in the upward direction for the Government rather than the downward direction, but there's still a long way to go before the election and we're focused on what we've got to do and this week the very firm focus of the Prime Minister—and I'll be supporting him up in Queensland this week—will be on this local infrastructure project, which often are very, very important things for the mums and dads trying to get home.

Mark Braybrook: Now Minister, just finally, a number of your colleagues have announced they won't be recontesting the next election. A number of senior colleagues for various reasons; can the Government afford to lose any more experience before the election?

Alan Tudge: I think to be honest, Mark, I mean this happens before every election where people have a think about whether or not they want to contest the subsequent election, and on both the Coalition side and on the Labor side we've had some senior people say that they're not going to contest.

I mean, on the Labor side you've had people like Jenny Macklin and Wayne Swan and Kate Ellis, Michael Danby; on our side a couple of people as well. And people do so, I think, for quite genuine reasons of wanting to spend more time at home with their families because their jobs can be pretty demanding in, in particular, Western Australia or more remote places like Queensland is you're away from home a lot.

Mark Braybrook: Yeah, I understand all that, but from a sporting [indistinct], Minister, you need that experience, don't you? You need people around you that have been there, done that and know how to handle the job. You know, to lose three key ministers in a week; you don't want to lose any more though do you?

Alan Tudge: We've got a sensational team though, Mark. It's headed by the Prime Minister, who's held many portfolios including the Treasury, Immigration, Social Services, before he become the Prime Minister.

The Treasurer himself has been in Parliament for over eight years now and a very experienced person as well. Right across the board we've got people who have been in Parliament for 10, 20 years before holding ministerial portfolios.

So that experience is there, but also when you do have a resignation it enables you to bring in new talent as well, and like in any organisation you're constantly trying to have an experienced team but also bring in new talent at the same time.

Mark Braybrook: Thanks very much for your time today and we look forward to tomorrow's announcement.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much, Mark.