Sky News Live, Newsday. Interview with Laura Jayes

Laura Jayes: Welcome back to Newsday. Joining me now live here in the studio is the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge. It’s good to have you on the show in this new portfolio.

Alan Tudge: G’day, Laura.

Laura Jayes: You’ve got quite a bit on your plate. How is the new regime? Is it better or worse than it was?

Alan Tudge: Certainly, Scott Morrison is a very strong leader. He’s decisive, he’s consultative and I think he understands suburban Australia and I think he’s doing very well and I think the polling is indicating that.

Laura Jayes: Okay. Yeah, we did see a Newspoll today. You’re still well behind though. Can you [indistinct] next election?

Alan Tudge: Well, or course we can. I mean, it’s still—what, if the election’s going to be next May, what’s that—eight or nine months away? And as you say, Laura, a week is a long time in politics; nine months is an eternity.

But we’ve got our work cut out for us, but I’ve got to say, Scott Morrison’s got off to a very, very strong start and I think that the more the people see of him, the more that they will like him.

Laura Jayes: And that’s interesting you say that because many of your colleagues within the Parliamentary Party say that as well. So, you know, is it becoming clearer why you needed a change of Prime Minister the more you see of Scott Morrison?

Alan Tudge: I just think that Scott is a very authentic individual. I think his instincts are good, he’s a good decision maker and that he’s leading a united team, and that’s what we need. We need to stay united between now and the election and concentrate on the things which matter to the Australian people.

And I think he can also very clearly and articulately lay out the contrast with the Labor Party. Now, the Labor Party, as you know, they want to put up taxes on almost everything that moves, whereas we want to lower taxes, make it easier for people and give people a sense of security.

Laura Jayes: Well just on that—authenticity and instinct—they’re two things that are repeated by some of your colleagues. Are they two things that Malcolm Turnbull just didn’t have?

Alan Tudge: Oh listen, Malcolm was a strong leader in and of himself. Everybody comes with their own characteristics, but I’m focusing on Scott Morrison as Prime Minister.

Laura Jayes: [Talks over] Are you looking for authenticity and instinct at the top?

Alan Tudge: Oh Laura, I’m just not going to go into that. I mean, we’ve—Scott Morrison is Prime Minister, he’s doing a great job in terms of leading our party and, as I said, I think the Australian people is taking a good, close look at him and I think when they see him they are liking what they see, and it’s nine months till the election.

Laura Jayes: Well let’s talk about Badgerys Creek. The first sod was turned today.

Alan Tudge: [Talks over] It was. It was.

Laura Jayes: [Indistinct] we’ve got the two thumbs up from action man, Scott Morrison. A couple of weeks ago he was lamenting to senior colleagues that there weren’t projects and announcements ready to go. Is this one of those announcements? Did you do some quick work behind the scenes to get this done?

Alan Tudge: No. This is a massive announcement today and this has been planned for some time, obviously, in terms of actually starting the project build, and this is going to mean 11,000 jobs in the short-term, about 28,000 jobs operationally.

But importantly, it means a second airport for Sydney, in Western Sydney, and it’ll be a full-service airport from day one. What that means is you’ll have the low-cost carriers as well as Virgin and Qantas, as well as international airlines from day one in 2026, and that means you’ve got more choice as to which airport you want to go to, it means you’ve got more convenience—if it’s more convenient to go there—and because there’ll be greater competition, that puts downward pressure on airlines prices as well, which is important.

Laura Jayes: I was going to ask you about that because Qantas and other major carriers have been complaining about the monopoly behaviour of Sydney Airport. Does this solve all those problems in and of itself, or does there need to be more reform? Is there a greater role for the ACCC, even with Badgerys Creek?

Alan Tudge: Well listen, the ACCC will always keep an eye on the economy more broadly, including airport policy, but this does provide important competition into the Sydney market. Importantly, it adds massive capacity, of course, because what will be opened in 2026 will be an airport the size of Adelaide’s airport—10 million passengers each year.

And above and beyond that in the decades ahead a second runway will be added and eventually we may well get to an airport which is more the size of the larger United States airports. That’s the scope and capacity which this site has.

Laura Jayes: Is that the problem, though, in 2026 having a capacity in Western Sydney of an airport the size of Adelaide? I mean, Western Sydney is the third largest economy in Australia. Don’t you need Badgerys Creek to have bigger capacity from the word go?

Alan Tudge: Not from the word go we don’t, and there’s been a lot of planning into this. But initially…

Laura Jayes: Why not? Why not though?

Alan Tudge: Well initially there’ll just be one airline—one runway which is built, a 3.7 kilometre long runway, and it will be able to accommodate 10 million passenger movements initially.  Down the track we’ll be building a second runway, and the forecasts are by 2060 it will be able to accommodate potentially up to about 80 million passengers, which is slightly bigger than Los Angeles airport.

Now, that’s a long way into the future but we are thinking long-term. The short-term project though with $5 billion of federal money which this government put in place and got going, we’ll build the single runway, open in 2026 with the rail connection, with freeway connection. This is a massive project that will be so good for Sydney and so good for Australia.

Laura Jayes: It certainly will be. We’re talking at a time though where population growth is a source of some anxiety within the population, particularly those in the big cities. You’ve been talking about spreading that migration and the number of migrants.

We had last year permanent intake of 160,000 in the last financial year. You’ve spoken about getting more people to the regions. But how will that practically work? For example if you have a migrant family that goes out to Dubbo and they start working for a big company and then they—that company wants them to transfer to Sydney, how do you stop that?

Alan Tudge: There is—we’ve got—the major population problem that we have is that nearly all the growth is in Melbourne, Sydney and south-east Queensland. And there we have very rapid growth, and yet meanwhile the rest of Australia is growing very slowly and so ideally we’d have a broader distribution of that growth and then we wouldn’t have the same type of pressures which those three big capitals are feeling right now.

Now, having said that—and I’ll get to your question—but what we announced today with Western Sydney airport, which is part of a broader Western Sydney development actually assists with some of those congestion pressures as well because the idea is to create, in essence, a larger centre around Western Sydney where people will be able to work, live and play all in Western Sydney and that means they’re not putting pressure on those major arterials.

Getting back to your question about migration though, yes we can put conditions on where people will work and will reside while they’re on a visa. So visas…

Laura Jayes: [Talks over] So a visa class? But how would that visa class work? How can—and is it geographical?

Alan Tudge: In essence—in essence until…

Laura Jayes: [Talks over] Or does it have a line?

Alan Tudge: Well in essence Laura whenever—until someone’s a citizen they’re on a visa, and when they’re on a visa you can attach conditions to them. Now, we attach…

Laura Jayes: [Talks over] So how would you do that?

Alan Tudge:… we attach all sorts of conditions already, including some people be sponsored into, say, South Australia presently under one of the migration schemes.

Laura Jayes: But is it state-by-state? I mean, it’s easier when you have state lines…

Alan Tudge: Sure.

Laura Jayes:… but how do you make it a regional city divide?

Alan Tudge: Well, we’ll get there…

Laura Jayes: Oh, come on. Give us the details, Alan Tudge.

Alan Tudge: We’ll get there, but certainly—I mean, one of the states—I was speaking to the South Australian Premier…

Laura Jayes: But can you do that? I don’t expect you to give me the detail now—well, I do—but…

Alan Tudge: We can do that is the answer, Laura.

Laura Jayes: Right, okay.

Alan Tudge: But I’ll just say this point. I mean, we’re not just talking about the regions but we’re talking about the smaller states because there’s a state like South Australia which only grew by 10,000 people last year. Melbourne grew by 10,000 every 25 days.

Now, the South Australian Premier, I’ve spoken to him. He wants to significantly grow South Australia from a population perspective and including using migration as the lever. So we’re working with him as we are with the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, as we are with other premiers and chief ministers.

Laura Jayes: So would you create special tax zones, so you have big corporations…

Alan Tudge: That’s not something on our agenda, no.

Laura Jayes: No. Why not?

Alan Tudge: Well, that would be up to the Treasurer in any case but it’s not on our agenda at the moment.

Laura Jayes: It has been flagged in previous elections. I think Kevin Rudd did it.

Alan Tudge: I think Kevin Rudd flagged that. I think it lasted about five or ten minutes then, I think Laura. Or what was it, half an hour [indistinct].

Laura Jayes: [Talks over] It did, it did. But what’s wrong—what’s wrong with the basic premise of it?

Alan Tudge: It’s not something which we’re looking at Laura in terms of different taxation arrangements.

Laura Jayes: [Talks over] Because it just wouldn’t work or do [indistinct]?

Alan Tudge: I mean, we’ve got one unified national taxation arrangement at the moment as you know. Different states have different payroll tax arrangements. We want to see payroll tax go down, and some governments may want to do that. But we certainly have the overall ambition of trying to get a broader distribution of that population growth.

Laura Jayes: Okay. Well, when will we see the details on this? Before the end of the…

Alan Tudge: [Talks over] Well, we’re working on the policy at the moment Laura, so you may well see some things by the end of the year. Certainly it will be well before the election.

Laura Jayes: Okay. Alan Tudge, thanks so much for your time today.

Alan Tudge: Thanks Laura.