Transcript – ABC Adelaide Interview with David Bevan

DAVID BEVAN:  

Good morning, Minister. 

ALAN TUDGE:

G'day, David.

DAVID BEVAN:

How much money is coming our way? 

ALAN TUDGE:

Listen, South Australia will absolutely get its fair share but there are two components to our announcement today, David. The first is an additional $1.5 billion nationally of new money to get projects going immediately, smaller-scale projects that have to start this year; and then, second, and perhaps more substantially actually, is a commitment from national and state leaders to fast-track 15 mega projects, where we want to fast-track the assessment process because it will unleash 66,000 jobs, nationally. And, of course, one of those mega projects is the Olympic Dam's expansion. That's one of the ones which we do want to fast-track to unleash those jobs which will come out of that.

DAVID BEVAN:

Okay.  Is that the only mega project in South Australia? 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Well, we have only announced so far just half a dozen of the mega projects, one of which is the Olympic Dam. We haven't announced the other ones just yet.

DAVID BEVAN:

So are there others in South Australia? 

ALAN TUDGE:

That will all be announced in due course, David.  I had a feeling you might ask me that question but they will be announced in due course.

DAVID BEVAN:

Right.  Well, if there aren't, you can just rule it out and we won't be in anticipation, Minister, of all these generosities.

ALAN TUDGE:

Certainly, the Olympic Dam one and that's a massive project, as you know. It is about a $3 billion expansion and that is going to mean thousands of jobs. The problem with some of these mega projects is that sometimes they take three or four years to get properly assessed and approved and we want to halve that time and that means if you halve the time, obviously the jobs come on more quickly and that's exactly what we're trying to do.

DAVID BEVAN:

Okay. So how much money are you giving to the Olympic Dam project? 

ALAN TUDGE:

It's $3 billion of investment. Nearly all of that, of course, is private investment and for all of the 15 national projects – it is a combination of private investment plus public investment. The key thing on our behalf, and working with the State Government, is to expedite the assessment project. So we're not waiting years and years before the jobs come.

DAVID BEVAN:

Okay, so how much are you giving BHP to expedite its plans up at Roxby? 

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, it's not giving them money, as such. It's us working jointly with the State Government to expedite the approvals process. So that's the key thing.  Rather than money handing over to BHP, it's us actually putting more money into the assessment process; less duplications and more in assessments.

DAVID BEVAN: Well, let me rephrase the question, then. How much money are you putting towards the Olympic Dam project? 

ALAN TUDGE:

I don't know the answer to that, David. If any to be honest, that's not directly within my portfolio responsibilities. But my understanding is that it's largely BHP that's investing in that money, the $3 billion expansion.

DAVID BEVAN:

Look, I'm sorry, I thought you said the government's announcing today $1.5 billion in new money for mega projects.

ALAN TUDGE:

No, two points. There is $1.5 billion of new money for smaller-scale projects to get going immediately; i.e., this year.

DAVID BEVAN:

Right.

ALAN TUDGE:

Separate to that, we have committed to fast-track the assessment and approvals process of 15 mega projects, one of which is the Olympic Dam.

DAVID BEVAN:

Okay, so you might not give them any money? 

ALAN TUDGE:

That's what I'm talking about. I don't think there is any public funding in that project, as such.  That's why I was a bit hesitant to answer in relation to that question.

DAVID BEVAN:

You're just saying that you're going to help the State Government fast-track the approvals process for Olympic Dam, so whatever they are going to spend up there, they'll spend it sooner.

ALAN TUDGE:

More quickly, exactly.

DAVID BEVAN:

Okay.

ALAN TUDGE:

Because the key challenge, as you know and your listeners know, the key challenge at the moment is jobs. Treasury forecast that we're going to have north of eight per cent unemployment just in the June quarter and it could be higher. Now, that is catastrophic levels of unemployment which we are absolutely not used to. So, jobs are our focus.

DAVID BEVAN:

So should people be confident that the approvals process, which presumably is there for a good reason that if it's going to be fast-tracked, that we're not going to get up something at Roxby Downs that’s well, is bad for the environment.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, I know that's one of peoples’ concerns and the answer is that the standards aren't being reduced but the bureaucracy will be. Environmental approvals are actually one of the things that do take the most amount of time.  And at the moment, though, we have Federal environmental approvals as well as state environmental approvals. And our objective here is if we reduce that duplication so it can be done more quickly without reducing the environmental protections, without reducing the public consultation which has to occur.

DAVID BEVAN:

Well, given the disaster that happened up in the Kimberley where those sacred Aboriginal sites, which are 46,000 years old, were blown up recently, some people might be a little concerned that you're streamlining approval processes for big miners. 

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, listen, I can appreciate those concerns and my reassurance is that the aim is to reduce the bureaucracy and the time taken rather than to reduce the standards. The standards still need to be high but if you can assess against those standards more quickly and have less duplication between state and federal governments because, you know, perhaps you have a one-stop shop approval process then, of course, you bring the jobs on more rapidly and that's what we're trying to do.

DAVID BEVAN:

Okay.

ALAN TUDGE:

Now, the Kimberley situation - sorry, the Pilbara situation was a very different one altogether because it actually was a lawful unfortunately, a lawful explosion. But, anyway, it's all sorts of complications in relation to that one.

DAVID BEVAN:

Well, it was just a disaster, wasn't it? 

ALAN TUDGE:

Certainly, I think that all concerned are thinking "How did this happen?" but it actually, from what I understand it, was a lawful process. But I think the State Government and the mining company concerned are going through it, looking at those processes so that type of thing cannot happen again.

DAVID BEVAN:

All right. One report I read is that when people woke up to what was actually going on, the mining company turned around and said "I'm sorry, we've riddled the place with explosives, it's just too dangerous to go in there and pull them out and press the plunger”.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, that's my understanding. I don't know the ins and outs of what happened. I do know there has been approval from the Aboriginal Traditional Owners, but some time ago and anyway, the outcome is the outcome, unfortunately.

DAVID BEVAN:

All right. Well, let's get back to money.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah.

DAVID BEVAN:

Because you're talking about $1.5 billion in new money for small-scale projects. What are we going to get out of that? 

ALAN TUDGE:

The smaller-scale projects, shovel-ready projects and there are two components to this. One will be road safety projects, typically they're in regional areas where $500 million is allocated for that; and the other billion is for smaller-scale, shovel-ready projects, often they're in the urban areas in Adelaide. South Australia will get its proportionate share of that $1.5 billion which South Australia, five to ten per cent of the population, so it’s a proportionate share.

DAVID BEVAN:

So we should get about eight per cent? 

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, that's right.

DAVID BEVAN:

Eight percent of 1.5 billion and if Stephan Knoll has got his skates on.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, we have been working closely with Stephan Knoll and Premier Marshall to develop these projects.  They had given us the list of projects which are shovel-ready and can be done immediately.

DAVID BEVAN:

Can you name any? 

ALAN TUDGE:

I can't, but we'll be announcing those very shortly. In essence, that was the criteria. We said to them "We want to get money out the door to create jobs. Tell us which projects you can start this calendar year" because if they are not starting this calendar year, we are not interested.  They have to be shovel-ready. They have to be able to begin soon so that we can get the jobs going.

DAVID BEVAN:

All right. Minister, before you leave us, Lance from Port Augusta wants to take you back to Olympic Dam.  Good morning, Lance.

CALLER LANCE:

Good morning, David.  Good morning, Minister.  Can you tell me, Minister, where are you going to get the water from for the expansion for Olympic Dam? Is that the Artesian Basin or where are you going to get it from? 

ALAN TUDGE:

Lance, that is a good question and I don't have the answer to that.

CALLER LANCE:

Why not? 

ALAN TUDGE:

I'm not the Minister responsible for that particular project so I'm not across the ins and outs.  I just have some overarching responsibility for the funding associated with the large-scale projects and obviously the approvals process, which we are talking about today.

DAVID BEVAN:

Okay.  Well, Lance, thank you for your call. Minister, thank you for your time. 

ALAN TUDGE:

Absolute pleasure, thanks David.