ABC CANBERRA MORNINGS WITH ADAM SHIRLEY
WEDNESDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2022
SUBJECTS: BUDGET 2022, INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING IN THE ACT.
ADAM SHIRLEY (HOST): One man who had a very clear line of sight on a lot of the Federal Government’s decisions, spends, cutbacks and ultimately final Federal Budget for this year is Dr Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury. He’s also the federal member for Fenner here in the ACT. Dr Leigh, thanks for your time today.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES, AND TREASRY ANDREW LEIGH: Real pleasure, Adam. I’m still reeling over this Dr Who decision.
LEIGH: Like you, I grew up on Tom Baker and the like, and the idea of it not being part of the ABC and the BBC is very strange.
SHIRLEY: Much like a Federal Budget perhaps – tough decisions have to be made. I mean, you probably won’t talk to us about the things you wish your colleagues, including Finance Minister Katy Gallagher had stumped up for but didn’t. What is your read of what the ACT and broadly Australia will do out of this?
LEIGH: Well, for the ACT, you’ll remember the Coalition budget earlier this year where we got less than a fifth of our fair share of infrastructure spending. That changed last night with a fair share of infrastructure spending going to the ACT - $86 million for light rail, the Scrivener Dam upgrades $38 million, $15 million for the AIS arena, $5 million for the Garden City cycle route, $5 million for the Gorman House Arts Centre, and a range of other smaller projects.
So with Katy Gallagher in the Finance portfolio the ACT is definitely not forgotten and is central to what we’re envisaging for revitalizing the country. And also the investment in ongoing public service jobs, scaling back on those unnecessary consultants and contractors, investing more in stable, full-time public service jobs after a decade of cutbacks in the public service which saw a tenth of the public service go.
SHIRLEY: So a couple of listeners have raised the Canberra Hospital, Woden CIT, separate to, I think – what is it – the hostel at Woden as well. Did you as a government consider or look at better funding for a hospital and health system which you know is desperately overstretched?
LEIGH: We’re certainly working closely with the ACT government on their priorities, and that was why we invested in that youth foyer at the Woden CIT campus and why we’re also investing in active engagement through the University of Canberra’s sports hub precinct.
SHIRLEY: But health and the hospital. I mean, you know any family or individual knows that the real difficulties in getting good care on time in the ACT right now.
LEIGH: Absolutely. So the budget includes investments for a Medicare urgent care clinic on the south side. And that will aim to take pressure off Canberra’s emergency departments. And we’re working very closely with the ACT Government to try and get down those waiting times.
You know, I’m a dad, I’ve spent time sitting in emergency rooms with kids. It’s not fun. We’ve got to make sure that we do a better job in bringing down those waiting times and providing that important care.
SHIRLEY: Given the difficult financial outlook – and Jim Chalmers was at pains to spell this out in last night’s budget speech – the challenges that Australians will face in housing, health, power bills, why at this stage are you wedded to the stage 3 tax cuts?
LEIGH: Well, they’re not coming in for a couple of years now. Our focus in the budget last night was very much on multinational tax reform. Those are measures which I’ve been working on for a number of years in order to try and get multinationals paying their fair share of tax.
SHIRLEY: I can hear the bells ringing – I’m not sure how long you’ve got.
LEIGH: Yes, they toll for me, I’m afraid. It’s a division in the House of Representatives. I’ve got 4 minutes to make it to the floor.
SHIRLEY: I’ll run the clock as best I can. So I’ll have to be a bit truncated in what I was going to ask you. A big issue on climate change action, on funding of industries, $1.9 billion for a petrochemical processing plant in Darwin. Now, many thousands of kilometres away from Canberra, but why is this funding for a fossil fuel processing plant being prioritised over other measures?
LEIGH: Look, I don’t have the specific details of that project. But I certainly know there’s a lot of money in the budget for climate change measures. The Rewiring the Nation Plan, powering the regions and making sure we’ve got more EV charging stations on national highways. We’re committed to that 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 because we know that the climate change challenge is Australia’s jobs opportunity.
SHIRLEY: Yeah, I wonder, though, on priorities, and if your stated priority as a government is to make a serious inroad into our carbon footprint, why nearly $2 billion for fossil fuel providers?
LEIGH: Adam, I don’t have the details of that specific project in front of me, but I can certainly say that we are strongly committed to action on climate change. You see that in the community batteries programs, you see that in our willingness to invest in making sure we make the transition to renewables, offshore wind, solar, we’re making sure that we invest in a clean energy future and get the jobs that go along with that. And with that, I think I do need to make it to the chamber and cast my vote.
SHIRLEY: Dr Leigh, we’ll have to catch up another time – the bells are ringing. Thank you for your time today.
LEIGH: That would be great. Thank you, Adam. Take care.
SHIRLEY: Dr Andrew Leigh there a truncated interview given the commitments that he and members of parliament have when those bells ring, otherwise their vote isn’t counted.