ABC CANBERRA MORNINGS
TUESDAY, 12 APRIL 2022
SUBJECTS: AIS funding; Anthony Albanese.
ROSS SOLLY, HOST: Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities, and federal Member for Fenner. He joins us on the program. Good morning to you, Andrew Leigh.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Ross. It's so good to have you back in Canberra. It feels like just the other day we were chatting on the radio, but of course, you've been away for nearly a decade.
SOLLY: What’s a few years between friends. Yes. I must say, it is really nice to be back in the national capital and it's really nice to have people saying that it's nice to have me back in the capital.
SOLLY: At least to my face. At least to my face, Andrew Leigh.
LEIGH: Gone, but not forgotten, you were.
SOLLY: Maybe. Now, you must be happy that we've got a commitment from the Morrison Government that there'll be some money coming forward for the redevelopment of the arena, or the refurbishment of the AIS Arena.
LEIGH: It's important to remember the AIS Arena is a Commonwealth asset, and so it’s under this government that we've seen them allow it to close, allow women's sporting events to be lost to the national capital, allow a national asset to be neglected and the people of Canberra to suffer. So this is really the Morrison Government stepping up and doing what it should have done years ago. But of course, doing it in an environment in which Zed Seselja is under threat from a former Wallabies captain whose number one promise is a big stadium in the city-
SOLLY: But as a local member though, Andrew Leigh, how often have you raised with Zed Seselja the possibility of getting some money to do this up, this arena?
LEIGH: I’ve frequently raised the issue of Commonwealth spending in the media and with the Morrison Government-
SOLLY: But how often have you raised, how often have you raised with Senator Seselja the possibility of getting some funding to redo the AIS Arena?
LEIGH: Entreaties from me to Zed Seselja are not the way in which I tend to act, Ross. Mostly I focus on making a public statement about the need for funding. Look at the last budget. In the last budget-
SOLLY: But he’s the only, can I just say that he is the only Liberal in the village. So if you want something done here, then he's the man - whether you like it or not, Andrew Leigh – that you’ve got to go knocking on his door. And some would see it's the role of the local member to go cap in hand, if you like, to the only Liberal in the village and say, ‘hey, we need some money to fix up the arena, can you have a chat to the boss, can you get some money our way?’
LEIGH: Ross, not everything is about partisan pork, and I tend to go directly to ministers where I've got an issue. I'll go straight to the sports minister-
SOLLY: But it’s not partisan pork, it's not partisan pork. It's you as the member doing what many would say is your, what should be your job, of going up and saying ‘we need some money for this and let's put politics aside and if you do this, then we'll give you a slap on the back and say tally ho off we go’.
LEIGH: I've frequently made the case for more Commonwealth funding in the ACT, Ross, and the case I made during the last budget was that the ACT had been badly dudded. With 1.6 per cent of the national population, we just got 0.3 per cent of the national infrastructure spend. Even if you add in today's announcement, we're still underdone by a factor of probably four. We've gotten much less than our fair share of infrastructure spending. And today's announcement by the Liberals is welcome. Labor, if we're elected, we'll match it. We will ensure that that that money flows-
SOLLY: So that’s a commitment? That’s a cast iron guarantee that that money, no matter who gets elected, will come?
LEIGH: That's absolutely right. But this is important. It's important the AIS is treated properly, but it's also important that we have a government which sees Canberra not just as a place to be given funding when Zed Seselja is under threat from a former Wallabies captain, but is a place which deserves its fair share of infrastructure spending. We didn't get that in the last budget. Even adding in today's announcement, Canberra is woefully underdone in terms of infrastructure spending. We’ve seen public service jobs cut. It's been a brutal nine years under this government for the ACT and today's announcement does nothing to turn that around.
SOLLY: Do you think long-term the future of the AIS Arena is with the Commonwealth, or should it be handed back – not handed back, but should it be given to the ACT Government, and although they said they don't want it on their own, they want you know the whole surroundings out there, do you think that's the future? The logical future for that area?
LEIGH: I do think it's important to have a conversation between the ACT and the federal government sorting out the future of the AIS. I spend a lot of time out there, whether it's swimming or on the AIS track. I did a 12 hour race on the AIS track a couple of weeks ago, so I'm aware of the importance of that facility for Canberra, but also the legacy of the Australian Institute of Sport and the fact that steadily one-by-one sports have relocated out of Canberra. That's been a challenge for that precinct. One of the things that frustrated me is that my entreaties to the sports ministers over the years have gone unanswered in terms of coming up with a long-term plan for the Australian Institute of Sport. I just haven't been able to engage the Morrison Government on that conversation.
SOLLY: Can I ask you quickly before we let you go, should your leader have known yesterday the unemployment rate and the Reserve Bank rate?
LEIGH: We all forget numbers and I'd much rather have a leader who when he makes a mistake owns up to it, a leader whose mistakes have to do with forgetting a number rather than forgetting to order enough vaccines. This time last year, Australia was running last in the advanced world for our vaccine rollout, and that's a mistake for which Scott Morrison has never owned up. Anthony Albanese will own up when he makes a mistake, and that's the kind of leader that Australia needs.
SOLLY: Andrew Leigh, I like that comparison. Good to talk to you this morning. Thank you.
LEIGH: Thank you, Ross. Take care.
SOLLY: Andrew Leigh, the local member and federal Member for Fenner on ABC Mornings.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra