6PR, Drive Interview with Oliver Peterson

Oliver Peterson: In town today is the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, and I speak of Alan Tudge, who joins me on the program live this afternoon. Welcome back to Perth, Minister.

Alan Tudge: G’day, Ollie - how are you going there?

Oliver Peterson: I’m fantastic. What have you been doing over this side of the country today?

Alan Tudge: Well, this is the first time I’ve been in Perth since I’ve assumed these new portfolio responsibilities and largely it’s been a listening exercise to understand some people’s concerns around population, around traffic congestion and where the hot spots are, and also talking about some of our infrastructure expenditure which we’ve got going on.

So, at the moment I’m on the road heading out to Mandurah to catch up with Andrew Hastie and he’s got some particular projects which he wants to show me out there as well.

Oliver Peterson: Alright. I actually saw a little video of yourself and Christian Porter on social media accounts today talking about a freeway upgrade and asking the State Government to come to the party.

Alan Tudge: Yeah, well this is the Mitchell Freeway extension, so it would extend it up to Romeo Road, which is a really important extension because there’s so much growth up in that corridor. And the frustrating thing is both- we actually had an agreement with the State Government to each contribute $107 million and we signed that, we jointly announced that back in April.

The state’s actually, though, reneged on that and now wants us to cough up a lot more money and we’re a bit frustrated by that, so we’re calling on the State Government just to honour the commitment so that we can get that extension done.

Oliver Peterson: You’re hoping they match your commitment of $107 million - surely with an extra $4.7 billion with the GST now flowing to Western Australia after your Senate colleagues passed that today, they might be able to find the money.

Alan Tudge: Well, exactly. And I should point out: it’s a really exciting day for Western Australia because that GST deal passed the Senate just today and that does mean $4.7 billion extra going into Western Australia.

So, there is the money there for the infrastructure projects. And on this particular one, Ollie, it’s- normally you have a bit of argy bargy when you’re negotiating these projects, but on this occasion we actually had an agreement struck that we’d each pay 50-50 for the Mitchell Freeway extension, we announced that - there’s a joint media release which has gone out in relation to it.

But now the State Government has pulled back and said: no, no - we actually want the federal government to pay 80 per cent and we’ll just pay 20. We just want them to live up to the initial agreement struck so that we can get on and build that freeway extension.

Oliver Peterson: Well, before you joined us, Minister, we were actually asking all of our listeners this afternoon to tell us why they deserved to be recognised as the person or the particular group of people who were able to fix WA’s share of the GST, because all of your colleagues right across the political divide today have claimed it is all down to them.

Alan Tudge - is it down to you? Are you the reason why WA’s now got a greater share of the GST?

Alan Tudge: [Laughs] No, no. I can’t claim the credit on this one, Ollie.

Oliver Peterson: You’d be the only person who isn’t claiming credit, Minister.

Alan Tudge: I must admit that all of my federal Liberal colleagues were absolutely determined on this and every time that we got together in Canberra in Parliament House, this would be the number one issue that Ken Wyatt and Steve Irons and Christian Porter and Andrew Hastie would be raising, as well as the other colleagues there.

So, we are glad that we’ve been able to fix it and it’s not at the expense of any of the other states - we’ve found new money, and in part we can find new money because the economy’s growing strongly, but it does mean more money for Western Australia to fix up what was an unfair situation beforehand.

Oliver Peterson: And speaking of your colleagues here in WA, how do you think this will now help your Liberal colleagues and their re-election chances when we do go to a federal poll next year?

Alan Tudge: Oh, this was all about just making the GST formula fairer, to be honest. I mean, when Western Australia got down to 30 cents in the dollar, clearly that wasn’t a fair and reasonable proposition.

I mean, I used to- every time I came over to Western Australia before we’d signed this agreement, I mean, every single person on the street would be raising it with me, not just my parliamentary colleagues.

So it was an important issue, it was unfair and we’ve now fixed that, and it does enable Western Australia therefore to power ahead, to continue to build the infrastructure which is required, and we’ll continue to support those infrastructure efforts as well with dedicated dollars.

Oliver Peterson: Now, Alan Tudge, you are the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, and I know that what you’re working on at the moment in lots of conversations you’re having right around the country is in regards to Australia’s population and there has been some discussion around potentially giving the states a little bit more power in regards to particularly skilled migrant numbers.

Is this something you’re prepared to negotiate with all the different various state and territory governments?

Alan Tudge: Yeah, this is something which we’ve flagged that we want to examine further and discuss further with the state governments because at the moment, Ollie, as you can probably understand, we at the federal level control the most important population growth lever, and that is migration, and that accounts for about 60 per cent of Australia’s population growth.

At the same time, the states are largely responsible for developing the infrastructure and the schools and the hospitals et cetera to cater for that population growth. And we want a closer relationship there and that involves asking the states to bear more considered views as to what their population growth numbers, driven by migration should be.

So that’s what we’ve indicated, to have a much more bottom up approach to migration if you like, rather than us setting the top line number and then pushing it down to the states for them to cope with. And I think if we get a closer alignment between the migration numbers set at the federal level and the infrastructure plans developed at the state level, then we’ll get greater liveability of our cities.

Oliver Peterson: Yeah. And that’s something you and I have discussed before Minister in regards to the population growth you’ve experienced there, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney versus the challenges we face here in Perth.

Because at the moment, we’re not booming as much as Sydney and Melbourne are, so we need to find a way to bring more people here and there’d be more jobs for them to obviously work in and hopefully, we start to see our own house prices start to move in the positive direction once again.

Alan Tudge: In the positive direction. Yes, a very different situation here in Perth compared to the eastern cities. In the eastern cities you’ve got, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, absolutely booming from the population perspective.

I mean, Melbourne grew by 2.7 per cent last year which was about 125,000 people added. Now that’s one of the fastest growing cities in the English speaking world. Whereas here in Perth, you grew by about 20,000 people which is about 0.9 per cent growth. So some of the discussions I’ve been having even today – how can we support stronger growth here in Perth, including using migration as a lever in a strategic and targeted manner, where the jobs are available?

There certainly are in some of the regional locations and some of the mayors have been speaking to me saying that they can’t get workers, so please help us. And so we’re obviously working closely with them to support their ambitions. But where there are good plans there and there’s jobs which are there to be had and we want to support those businesses too, to be able to find people to fill those jobs.

Oliver Peterson:

Absolutely. Alan Tudge, I’ll let you get on with your afternoon. Enjoy your function with Andrew Hastie. Thanks for your time.

Alan Tudge: Thanks very much Ollie.

Oliver Peterson: That’s the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge.