Transcript, Sky News Live, Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Annelise Nielsen

Kieran Gilbert: Let’s get more now on the debate around infrastructure. Joining us is the Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge.

The Finance Minister this morning when we spoke to him, Mr Tudge, said that he thinks that the RBA Governor’s comments have been over-interpreted. What’s your vide?

Alan Tudge: Well what the RBA Governor was saying is that we need infrastructure investment as one tool to keep the economy strong, and it certainly is a very big component of our economic plan. And we’ve massively increased our infrastructure investment from what was a $75 billion pipeline to now a $100 billion pipeline. So we’ve increased that by $25 billion just in the May budget.

So this is a record amount and it means we have massive projects going on right across the country as we speak. 150 major projects and about 1,000 small-scale projects going on as we speak. It’s the bulldozers going, it’s the bitumen being rolled out, it’s the concrete being poured. This is what’s occurring right now in our big cities and across the country.

Annelise Nielsen: The RBA Governor did flag that there is benefit to be gained from investing in the regions in particular. Does it seem like the regions would have a lot of confidence in the Morrison Government putting that infrastructure investment in when you’re specifically being touted as the Minister for congestion busting? That’s more of a big city issue.

Alan Tudge: Well, in some respects we’ve got two infrastructure Ministers now. I mean, that’s an indication of the importance of this to Australians as well as to the economy. Michael McCormack tends to look after the regional infrastructure while I look after the urban infrastructure. We’ve got record money though flowing out into the regional areas. I will say in terms of though where we can get new projects up and running very quickly, and that is with the Urban Congestion Fund money. Now, as you probably know, we announced a lot of projects.

In fact, 166 projects over the last six months which are typically in the 10 to 15 million or $20 million scale in suburb by suburb around the country. Now, those smaller scale projects are easier to ramp up and get going quickly and we want to see them done ASAP. I want to see them started tomorrow if possible, and I’m in discussions with my state counterparts to see how quickly we can roll out those medium-scale projects, $3 billion worth. Let’s get them cracking, both to help local residents as well as being further economic stimulus.

Kieran Gilbert: You’ve been talking about this overall envelope of infrastructure spending. But is there room to bolster that further? The Finance Minister this morning seemed to be suggesting a flexibility in the Government, if the time’s warranted, then you will deliver that.

Alan Tudge: Inevitably as budgets roll on, we re-examine what our expenditure outlook is. But I emphasise this point: that we are at record levels of infrastructure investment. I mean, this year just in transport infrastructure it’s $9.8 billion which is more than double what it was when we came to office just six years ago.

So it’s a massive increase. State governments are also spending record money on infrastructure, to the extent that many commentators are now saying that we’ve got some capacity constraints in the construction market, is what some people are saying. But what I’m indicating is that how can we get more going quickly right now, and that’s where the small and medium-scale projects is what we want to see happen immediately and that’s what I’m in discussions with my state counterparts about, to get those ones going ASAP. We’ve got the money there, $3 billion worth. Let’s get cracking.

Annelise Nielsen: When it comes to the RBA Governor’s comments though, will more of that money be going to the regions?

Alan Tudge: We do have record money going into the regions with what’s called the ROSI program and Michael McCormack looks after that. And that’s rolling out. We’ve got thousands of projects going on across the country in terms of small-scale projects as well as massive-scale projects such as Inland Rail and the Bruce Highway. Both of those are $10 billion projects.

Kieran Gilbert: Now in terms of the Government’s win this week on the tax cuts, it’s the big policy platform.

Beyond the tax agenda, what else is the vision of the Morrison Government?

Alan Tudge: Well the tax agenda is a massive reform. It delivers obviously $1,080 to individuals who earn less than $126,000 and that’s about 10 million people. They’ll get that in the next few weeks when
they put in their tax return. So that’s a massive bonus for those hardworking Australians, but it’s also important economic reform because it flattens out the tax rate and that creates better incentives for people to work harder.

I mean, in addition we’ve got a very large economic plan on top of that: the infrastructure plan which I’ve talked about; the free trade agreements which we continue to negotiate; industrial relations reform; continued record investments in schools and in training which are obviously important in terms of providing skills and improving the productivity of the workforce over time.

So, these are really important elements as well which bolster our overall economic plan.

Annelise Nielsen: When it comes to the next few sitting weeks of Parliament, we know they’re a little bit ways away, but it does seem like a lot of power is vested with the crossbench. Do you think that it’s giving them a lot of power, the agreements that have been struck with the crossbench so far? Is it going to be an ongoing challenge for the Government?

Alan Tudge: We have to work with the crossbench constructively, maturely, we’ve been doing that very well for many, many months now and we’ll continue to do that. And I think the fact that we could negotiate these significant tax cuts through the Senate with the assistance of the crossbench shows that we can actually work well with them and deliver good reform for Australians.

Kieran Gilbert: Alan Tudge, we appreciate that. Thanks so much. We’ll talk to you soon.

Alan Tudge: Thank you.