PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 24826

Interview with Leon Byner, Radio FIVEaa, Adelaide

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/09/2015

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 24826

Subject(s): Delivering the Northern Connector

LEON BYNER:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Leon, it’s lovely to be with you and your listeners.

LEON BYNER:

Now, tell me about this Northern Connector – almost $1 billion project. Three things I’d like to know: How many jobs is it likely to create?

PRIME MINISTER:

About 500.

LEON BYNER:

You’ve obviously done the analysis as to what it’ll mean for South Australia’s economy – could you go through that for us?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sure, Leon. Look, this will link up the Northern Expressway with the Superway and is a very important element in the upgrade of the whole North South Corridor which we want to see as a freeway standard or expressway standard road well within the decade. We’ve got the Darlington upgrade, which will start soon. We’ve got the Torrens upgrade, which is already underway. We’ve now got the Northern Connector, a 15 kilometre length of expressway, which will benefit 50,000 motorists a day, will cut out six sets of traffic lights and a lot of congestion – that’ll start early in the new year. So, this is a really important announcement – $800 million from the Commonwealth, $200 million from the state. And obviously there’ll be 500 direct jobs, but there are always spinoffs – employment spinoffs – when something like this happens.

LEON BYNER:

And, again, this is a good thing for SA. It’s been mooted that it would happen, but there are some who would say “Well, this is kind of a consolation for the submarine project where clearly it may or may not be viable that South Australia get to build the subs”.

PRIME MINISTER:

What I’ve said on the subs is that we will let this competitive evaluation process run its course – as we should. And our objective is to get the best possible sub, at the best possible price, maximising local involvement. That’s always been our objective and let’s see what we have to say in the not too distant future here, Leon. You might remember, but I probably should remind your listeners that I was in Adelaide just a few weeks ago to talk about a $40 billion surface shipbuilding industry, not just shipbuilding but fleet building, focused here in Adelaide. So, there’s been good news on ships, just as today there’s good news on roads.

LEON BYNER:

We, in South Australia as you would know, Prime Minister, have quite a significant unemployment problem – far worse than Australia. In fact, 0.01 down federal overall, but we’re looking pretty bad. In fact, we’ve got more unemployed people than we’ve had in the last 20 years. Is this project, is that part of your remedy to try and kick-start the economy?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes it is, Leon. I don’t want any states to be in the doldrums. I think South Australia has a great future – medical research, your universities, your agricultural sector. There is so much potential in South Australia, sophisticated manufacturing, this State has a really big future. Obviously there was some disappointment when the Olympic dam expansion didn’t go ahead quite as originally expected. There’s obviously disappointment that some iconic manufacturers will close down in the next few years. But today’s announcement and the other announcements on fleet building are a sign that the Commonwealth has faith in South Australia and will do everything we can to ensure South Australia’s future is much better than its past.

LEON BYNER:

Is there any other economic news that you’ll have in the relatively near future up your sleeve that concerns SA that will further our economic development?

PRIME MINISTER:

Obviously, the North South Corridor and getting that up to expressway standard within a decade, there’ll be continuous announcements on this over the next few years. I expect that there’ll be more defence announcements in the months ahead. I can’t really wave a magic wand and get BHP to commit to the Olympic dam expansion, but obviously I can do things that make it easier for businesses like BHP to invest in South Australia and when we abolished the mining tax, when we abolished the carbon tax, when we cut red tape, when we set up a one stop shop for environmental approvals, when we do our best to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which will restore the rule of law on construction sites. All of these announcements are about making it easier for businesses to come to places like South Australia and say “Let’s invest and let’s employ”.

LEON BYNER:

Prime Minister, there’s a lot of speculation now that Access Economics have released another report talking about the good things that might ensue if the GST was risen to say 15 per cent. Now, at the moment the states have all got to agree otherwise you can’t do anything, but it would be possible, if the Government so chose, to actually legislate to take the states’ veto away. You wouldn’t be considering that, would you? 

PRIME MINISTER:

No – and look, one of the things that I said again and again under the former government was that no country has ever taxed its way to prosperity and I don’t think anyone ought to be under the illusion that whacking up the GST on its own is some kind of an economic nirvana. Tax increases on their own are not good at all, they’re the last thing that we need, but what I’ve said is that you would only ever contemplate a GST – and we don’t have any plans to bring one in, we haven’t ruled it out because we’ve got this comprehensive ongoing tax reform white paper process underway – but you would only contemplate a GST if there was an overall lower, simpler fairer tax system and that’s the only context in which it should be contemplated. This idea that we can somehow whack up taxes and everything will be right, well it doesn’t work that way, does it, Leon?

LEON BYNER:

Prime Minister, I’ve got to ask you this, and that is that in the last week or so the Government have not had a great week in the media and now there’s information suggesting that members of your own Cabinet are backgrounding journalists. Are you concerned that there could or might be a leadership challenge?

PRIME MINISTER:

Can I just take issue, Leon, with not having a great week? Last week was a terrific week – a really, really good week. For one thing, we had new unemployment figures out that showed that, except in South Australia, unemployment was down and employment was up. We’ve got more than 300,000 new jobs created in our economy thanks to good employers and good workers since the election. So that was good news last week.

And the other good news was that Australia did the decent thing in terms of the Syrian refugee crisis. Not only are we doing what we can to target the terrorists who are driving people out of Syria but we will provide resettlement for an additional 12,000 people from the Syrian conflict zone and this is Australia at its best. This is Australia at its best and I suppose the Canberra games which get played constantly but never by me, that’s, if I may say so, Australia at its worst. I want to see more of us at our best and less of us at our worst.

LEON BYNER:

So, Prime Minister, I just want some sort of response to the fact that there is a lot of speculation out there, some of it coming from within your own side, that there will be a leadership challenge.

PRIME MINISTER:

As far as I’m concerned, what we will see this week and every week is more good government – more good government – and today’s announcement is part of good government and I’ll leave other people to play Canberra games if they must, but I won’t.

LEON BYNER:

Ok. Just quickly, what is it about SA that makes us substantially worse for unemployment? What strikes you as being our Achilles heel?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, in the long run, I think South Australia’s future is really, really good. At the moment, you’ve got, I suppose, a bit of despondency because of the Holden announcement, the Toyota announcement, the fact that the Olympic Dam expansion didn’t go ahead as originally envisaged. But, look, this road announcement today is part of our commitment to create jobs in South Australia. The fleet build announcement from a few weeks ago, again, part of our commitment to create jobs in South Australia. I believe in South Australia and South Australians, I have faith in this state and its people and I think that all we need, really, is for South Australians to believe in themselves the way this Government certainly believes in them.

LEON BYNER:

Do you think the Weatherill Government are doing a good job in governing our state?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s not my job to offer gratuitous criticism of a state government and my job is to work constructively with the state government, even state governments of different political persuasions. Steven Marshall, my friend and colleague, will obviously have plenty to say about the State Government and that’s his duty. Where he thinks the State Government could do better it’s his duty to say so and he’s doing an excellent job as the state Liberal leader, but my job as the national leader is to work with the state government we have to try to produce a better country by having better and stronger states. So that’s what I’m doing today: I’m working with Premier Weatherill on a subject where both of us are totally committed, namely the upgrade of the North South Corridor within a decade. Steven Marshall is every bit as committed to that as the Premier and, in fact, it was Steven Marshall who said that when there was a bit of a dispute between the Commonwealth and the State about the Darlington upgrade and the Torrens upgrade, Steven Marshall said to me, “Well, Prime Minister, why not do both?” and I said, “Steven you’re absolutely right, that’s exactly what we should do”, and we did.

LEON BYNER:

Prime Minister, thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much.

[ends]

Transcript - 24826