Transcript, Mornings, ABC Radio Melbourne, Interview with Jon Faine

Subjects: Infrastructure spending; tax cut package; Constitutional Recognition for Indigenous Australians.

Jon Faine: Alan Tudge is the Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure, and Population. He's a Victorian Minister in Scott Morrison's Federal Government, Coalition Federal Government, and in the Fin Review today, he also says it's the states that are causing lag and delays in building the infrastructure that we're told will also help put the economy back on a stronger footing. He joins me this morning, as will shortly the State Government's Infrastructure Minister.

Mr Tudge, good morning to you.

Alan Tudge: Good morning Jon.

Jon Faine: What is the evidence that the state governments are dragging the chain and holding up infrastructure investment in Australia?

Alan Tudge: Well I don't think that's a fair characterisation of what I've said. I’ve outlined in an article today in the Australian Financial Review. And in essence, my main message there was that we have enormous amounts of infrastructure going on right now across the country, including in Victoria, record amounts, by both the federal level and the state level.

But if we want to do even more, there are a number of opportunities there, some of which of course involve the state governments, because ultimately they're the ones that actually do the physical building of the infrastructure, whereas we’re the primary funder on many of them.

Jon Faine: The Victorian State Government actually is spending more in the forward estimates on infrastructure than the Federal Government for the whole of Australia. How can you say that, for instance, the Victorian Government's not doing enough?

Alan Tudge: Well again, that's not my characterisation. I'm merely saying that…

Jon Faine: I’m not asking if it’s your characterisation, I'm asking you when the Victorian Government is spending more than the Commonwealth, how can you say the states aren't doing their share?

Alan Tudge: But Jon, you’re putting to me a false assertion there. So what I'm saying is that at the federal level, we're putting record funding into infrastructure across the country. $100 billion over the decade, and the amount of money which we're spending this year is double that of what we came into office.

The State Government is also investing record amounts in infrastructure here to Victoria too, and on many of these projects we’re partnering really well together. The biggest one of those is the Airport Rail Link, $5 billion each. That's in the planning stage at the moment, construction will begin in 2022, and we want to get that built as quickly as possible.

We've also got though, Jon, and this is one of the things which I’m in discussion, in good discussions with my state counterpart, as is the Prime Minister with the Premier, over the smaller-scale suburban projects.

Now, if you fast-track those ones, you can get $5 million, $20 million into local suburban communities, and it makes a real difference to those communities in terms of the jobs which it creates. And of course, it fixes up those congestion pinch points at the same time. So they're the types of things we really want to get cracking on and we're having good discussions with the states at the moment in relation to those.

Jon Faine: One of the problems that the unexpected win in the federal election has posed for Scott Morrison, and you as one of his senior ministers, is going to have to, you're going to have to solve some of these problems, is that you don't really, you didn't really come out of the election campaign with a blueprint, did you? You weren't expecting to be back on the government side of the Parliament, so you got caught by surprise.

Alan Tudge: Well Jon, again, I wouldn't agree with your characterisation there. I mean, we've got a massive blueprint in terms of our economic agenda. Now that includes obviously the big tax plan which we've just passed the Parliament, which delivers tax cuts to millions of Australians. A thousand bucks into their pocket as soon as they get in their tax return this financial year.

In addition, this $100 billion infrastructure program that's over a decade, that's a massive part of our agenda. We've got defence expenditure going on. We've got all sorts of other programs underway as we speak, Jon. So I don't agree with that. And my message though is in relation to the infrastructure expenditure. We've got a massive program going on and people see this across Melbourne. Many of those projects are supported by federal money.

Jon Faine: And finally, before we hear from your state counterpart, the humiliation of your colleague – the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt at the National Press Club – publicly committing the Government to a process of constitutional recognition and then getting cut off at the knees the next day by the Prime Minister.

Alan Tudge: Well Jon, again, I’m not going to agree with your assertion there. He made he made a carefully calibrated speech there. You should read the speech. He's an exceptionally good Minister and I think he'll do a great job in terms of navigating that…

Jon Faine: But what do you tell us about the dysfunction behind the scenes when one of your senior Ministers makes a public commitment one day, and then he's undermined by the Prime Minister's office the next?

Alan Tudge: Well again, I disagree with your assertion. I mean, we've got a commitment to working through a process towards constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people, and Minister Wyatt, the first Indigenous member of the Cabinet, the first Indigenous person who's an Indigenous Affairs Minister, is carefully working through this. Now, it’s not a simple matter, constitutional recognition. We have to bring the community along, and we just have to take it steadily, consult broadly, and that's exactly what he's going to do.

Jon Faine: Thank you for your time. Alan Tudge, Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure.

Alan Tudge: Thank you.