Transcript, Sky News, AM Agenda

Kieran Gilbert: We’re joined by the Minister for Infrastructure Alan Tudge. Good morning to you, thanks for your company.

Alan Tudge: Good morning.

Kieran Gilbert: Yesterday you didn’t get much of the Labor Party’s attention when it comes to the infrastructure focus. Do you wonder why that’s the case?

Alan Tudge: What do you mean by that?

Kieran Gilbert: I guess they’re focusing on this issue and your agenda. What’s your response?

Alan Tudge: I’m happy about to talk about infrastructure every single day of the year because we’ve got a massive agenda, Kieran, as you know. A $100 billion program which only five years ago was a $50 billion program, now it's a $100 billion program rolled out over a 10-year period. And that means we've got major projects going on right now in every capital city. And this is not only just good for busting congestion and helping commuters, but of course it helps the economy as well, both immediately with jobs and also improves the productive capacity of the economy overall.

Annelise Nielsen: It was an interesting strategy by Labor in Question Time yesterday. They were being very specific about smaller projects. They wanted to know why the Bridgewater Bridge upgrade in Hobart didn't have a timeline to it yet.

Alan Tudge: Yeah.

Annelise Nielsen: What do you make of that strategy?

Alan Tudge: Well that's not a small project, that's in fact a massive project for Tasmania. It’s $461 million of funding from us. And it's like all these very big projects, they need to be worked through. You do a business case. In that case the business case has been done. But there were some technicalities which came out of it, some more work is being required, some geotechnical work.

Once we know that, then the State Government gives us the construction schedule and then we re-profile our money basically according to that schedule. Now, that occurs with every major project and the Labor Party knows this and yesterday they were just playing politics with these big projects. They did it exactly the same when they were in government and we're doing the same here. We take it steadily, assuredly, but we get the job done.

Kieran Gilbert: Do you think it's an interesting – as Annelise said there – a number of backbenchers asking the questions yesterday and keeping it tight. They want specific answers. This is probably a refreshing approach, isn't it, to Question Time?

Alan Tudge: Well as I said, as I said, they can ask questions about infrastructure every single Question Time and I would welcome it because we've got such a good agenda here.

Kieran Gilbert: One of the elements of the agenda that I guess remains unanswered is the East West Link. You're pushing so hard on that, you're a member in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne as well, but the State Government is not going to relent on this. So this is again a stalemate over one of the biggest spending initiatives you made in terms of infrastructure.

Alan Tudge: At the moment we've got more in common with the State Government than we disagree on, but that's the big one that we disagree on. And we still want to see this road completed. And as you probably know, at the last election we put $4 billion on the table which would enable the road to be built without the State Government having to spend a cent.

Of course, they're the only ones though that can actually do the construction. And so we rely upon them to do it, but they don’t have to spend a cent, and that's why we're pressing them to say let's just get on with it, because it's the only major freeway in Melbourne which comes to a full stop at the city rather than connecting up across the city to other freeways.

Annelise Nielsen: You can't say Victoria hasn't been putting a lot of money and emphasis on infrastructure. They've had their huge level crossing removal program rollout, and it was an election winner for them. Why not just give them the money for a project they actually want?

Alan Tudge: Well, in some respects we have. So this money is in what's called our contingency reserve. So it's not cash outlay as such. I mean, we massively increase the expenditure to Victoria over the last six to 12 months. An enormous number of urban congestion fund projects, as well as some of the major projects, such as for the Monash, we've got the M80, we've obviously got fast rail to Geelong, a $2 billon commitment that we want to get underway, as well as all sorts of other projects.

Kieran Gilbert: Have you learnt from the Andrews approach in terms of, as Annelise referred to there, the rail crossings? He admitted to getting rid of 20 in his first term, he got rid of 29, continuing now in the second term. It's been a big winner for him, both in an amenity sense, I guess, for people getting through and from work and so on, but also in a political sense because it breeds a sense of competence in the Government that they're getting things done. I guess your congestion busting fund could be seen in a similar light?

Alan Tudge: I mean, I give Daniel Andrews credit for the level crossing removal program. He's done a good job there and does make a substantial a difference to people's lives, and increases the capacity of the rail network because you can get more trains through and not worry about level crossings.

In relation to us, I mean, we're just targeting, we're acknowledging with this that a lot of the difficulty for commuters is not necessarily being held up on the freeway, but it's actually at a local intersection which needs to be improved. And that will cause them a 15-minute headache every single morning.

And if we can fix that, that will make a big difference to their daily lives as well as support the economy because tradies will be able to get through more quickly, businesses will be able to distribute their goods more quickly.

Annelise Nielsen: Just on the flipside of what Kieran was saying, it was a huge vote winner for the State Government, but is this the Federal Government getting bogged down on what should be state issues when you should be looking towards bigger goals?

Alan Tudge: Annelise at the end of the day, residents don't care who does the job. They just want the job done. So we've listened to them, they've said very loudly and clearly that they want their roads fixed, they want more money in public transport and that's what we're doing.

Kieran Gilbert: The Prime Minister earlier in the week said that he wants some discipline from the Coalition party room particularly in the context of things that you did take to the election, and in that context referring to superannuation and Newstart and people making their push on those particular issues.

Yesterday Senator Bragg in his first speech made his argument about superannuation, that the Government shouldn't be pushing through to 12 per cent compulsory super. Should he be cut a bit of slack because it's his maiden speech?

Alan Tudge: I think with your maiden speech people deem to get cut a bit of slack and superannuation has been one of the things that Andrew Bragg has a lot of expertise in, having worked in that industry. And he put that idea out, it's not on our agenda of course. Our agenda is very clear in relation to superannuation. But I think what it showed that Andrew Bragg is just another very, very capable individual that's come in for the Liberal Party and we’ve got a number of them.

Kieran Gilbert: But it's not sort of snubbing the Prime Minister's edict on having more discipline?

Alan Tudge: As I said, for the maiden speeches often people will float some policy ideas out there.

Annelise Nielsen: Did you put any policy ideas in your maiden speech?

Alan Tudge: I did, I did.

Annelise Nielsen: What were they?

Alan Tudge: I mean I talked a lot about education improvements, small business improvements, welfare reform, Indigenous recognition, infrastructure.

Kieran Gilbert: The point is it doesn't have to be a Government policy or an official Liberal Party policy for someone to articulate that in their maiden speech, that's the bottom line?

Alan Tudge: We've had a number of maiden speeches and they have been brilliant, many of the maiden speeches. We've got such a good cadre of people coming into the Liberal Party and National Party and even last night we had David Sharma who is just a stellar candidate, I think he topped the year in his HSC in New South Wales.

He was the youngest ambassador to Jerusalem, he's now a Member of Parliament and gave a beautiful maiden speech. He articulated some policy there as well, as have many of the others. And that's often the case.

Kieran Gilbert: But on superannuation, the Government's firm and will be sticking to the gradual increase of the superannuation guarantee?

Alan Tudge: Our position is incredibly clear on that. We took it to the election and that's what we're doing.

Annelise Nielsen: And I guess from the Liberal perspective what we've heard is that they just want to be having these conversation in the party room. But what is the concern about just having the conversation with the public and brining them along with you?

Alan Tudge: I know you always prefer it, Annelise.

Annelise Nielsen: So does the public, our viewers.

Alan Tudge: Our focus from the Government's perspective is obviously implementing the agenda which we took to the election and it was a big agenda. So that's what we're getting on with.

Kieran Gilbert: But isn’t the beauty of the Liberal Party, as we've been reminded many times by you and others, is that you're a broad church. You're allowed to have opinions.

Alan Tudge: And we’ll always have very robust discussions and people will differ from time to time in their views but our firm focus, led by the Prime Minister, is implementing our agenda. My firm focus is obviously alongside the Deputy Prime Minister is the infrastructure agenda, the cities agenda, implementing our population policies as well.

Kieran Gilbert: So should the PM just, you know, relax a bit?

Alan Tudge: I’m not giving the Prime Minister any advice.

Kieran Gilbert: Should he relax a bit about the backbench advice?

Alan Tudge: Kieran, I’m not giving the Prime Minister any advice here on your program and we’re focused on the agenda. I’m here to talk about infrastructure. I will talk about it day in day out. I'll talk about cities policy and population policy day in day out. And we've got a very big agenda and we're getting on with it.

Kieran Gilbert: Thanks so much. We’ll see you soon Alan Tudge, appreciate it.

Alan Tudge: Thank you.