11 May 2021

TUESDAY, 11 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: Political panel with Zed Seselja; Budget; ACT Infrastructure spend; Childcare; NBN.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Time for our regular political panel on a Tuesday. We are joined by ACT Liberal Senators, Zed Seselja. Zed, good morning. 

CENATIEMPO: And Alicia Payne, the Labor Member for Canberra is with us. G'day, Alicia. 


CENATIEMPO: Now, can I ask both of you this, are either of you planning to get a ComCar to Parliament House today?
PAYNE: Ha ha, no.
CENATIEMPO: Lucky, because those Muppets from extinction rebellion have glued themselves to the gates of the depot at Fyshwick. Because apparently democracy is not that important, letting you guys go to work, not that important. Extraordinary. 
SESELJA: Stephen, I've got a few seats in my car. So if any politicians out there need to lift, just let me know, I might do a bit of a swing through. 
CENATIEMPO: I might, Mirko from Canberra Toyota if you're listening, can we get, we'll get a few Toyotas and we'll go and pick them up and take them up the Parliament House because the hybrid BMWs are locked in a depot. Zed, Budget gets handed down tonight. Now, there's been a lot of announcements about funding for the ACT already. Why does the government insist on leaking all of this stuff before Budget day and then still have a lock up? 
SESELJA: Well, look, I mean, there's obviously still a lot to go. And there has been some great announcements for Canberra, you're right. I mean, just to answer directly your question, I think that there is so much in the Budget. I think it is good to tell a bit of a story as you're going through and one of those parts of the story is just how much we're spending on infrastructure here in the ACT. So the announcements we had yesterday about duplication of William Hovell Drive, duplication of Gundaroo Drive, upgrades to the Beltana Road, come on the back of investments we announced this year already in light rail and Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. So that's a combined $300 million infrastructure spend in Canberra, but it's it's part of a $1.5 billion spend. It's a record spend by the Commonwealth Government in Canberra, because I think, and certainly the Federal Government thinks that investing in infrastructure is an important part of our future, of our economic recovery. It creates jobs but it also, when you upgrade roads, when you upgrade institutions, as we are in Canberra, while people can get to and from work more quickly. And when you upgrade, of course, and expand the War Memorial, there's a lot of tourism jobs to go with that on a much loved institution. So there's a lot in this for Canberra. And I think the Budget's going to be really focused on the economic recovery, which of course is starting to get into full swing. 
CENATIEMPO: Now, Alicia, of course, it's your job to say that this Budget's terrible no matter what's in it, what would you like to see for Canberra out of tonight's Budget?
PAYNE: Well, of course, I welcome the funding for Canberra that Zed talked about, even though, as he says, a fair bit of it, or the majority of it had already been announced earlier in the year. But my question is, is when is this funding going to be delivered? Because we need that stimulus right now. And last year, the government didn't spend $1.7 billion of infrastructure funding that they said they would. And some of these projects aren't scheduled to start until next year or later or are still in design phase. So I think we really need to see, you know, that funding starting as soon as possible. And so, Zed, when will the funding be delivered for Canberra? 
SESELJA: Well, I think the answer to the question, Alicia, is that most of those we've announced when it comes to road projects are joint projects with the ACT Government. And so we make the funding available, and then obviously, the ACT Government does a lot of that design work, as is happening, for instance, with light rail. So that work will happen, is happening and in fact, if you look at the investments and things like the Monaro Highway, the detailed design work is happening. We're seeing funds committed to the Tuggeranong Parkway, the Molonglo Valley bridge, so, yeah, we're getting that money out the door. And of course, as you know, Alicia, during the crisis, we were putting forward all sorts of shovel ready projects as well, which we were funding. So we're funding the small projects, we're funding the large projects. And it's a record investment in Canberra, I mean, there's never been a Federal Government, probably in the last 40 or more years, which has invested more in Canberra than this Liberal National Government.
CENATIEMPO: Alicia, this is probably right up your alley is the talk about funding for childcare and it's  a considerable investment in an important, important industry that is going to help particularly women get back into the workforce. Surely as a pragmatist and you're one of the more pragmatic members of this Parliament, you can't think that Labor's policy of giving..
CENATIEMPO: ..people, well, I like to think you are, happy to give plugs here or there, but you can't possibly think it's a smart idea to give people earning half a million dollars a year a leg up?
PAYNE: Well, our policy actually will, this is a bit of a misconception that, you know, people are really focused on the fact that our policy does go up to people earning a family income of $500,000 a year but the reason for that is, is this is a policy about allowing people, particularly women to get back to work. It's not a policy, which needs to be targeted to those on the lowest incomes. And therefore this, our policy, which we announced in October last year, compared to the Liberals' policy, actually will benefit 97% of families, many more families, because the Liberals policy only benefits families who have two or more children in childcare at a time. And that's actually, you know, many people, their children are only in daycare for a small overlap of time, at the same time, or, you know, not at all. So, our policy is about really giving people that support they need to get back into the workforce and really addressing those costs, and it is a much bigger investment than what the Government are offering. 
CENATIEMPO: Zed, there's been some criticism from backbenchers, from Government backbenchers, suggesting that the policy only focuses on those people that want to go to work and doesn't help out mothers who want to make the choice or families who want to make the choice where one of the parents will actually stay at home. There's, there's some fair criticism in that. 

SESELJA: Well, look that's, I mean obviously that's always been a point of debate. We do believe in choice and supporting people, whether they're choosing to stay at home, or whether they're choosing to go back into the workforce and what our policy does. And there's a real difference there. I mean, Alicia talked about, you know, that the people on half a million dollars a year, I mean, our focus is on those who really need the assistance. So all through and this has been over the last few years, we've had policies which have incentivised those on low and middle incomes, given them the most support, it hasn't been a high priority for us, for those on half a million dollars a year as the Labor Party are doing. But that second child, of course, getting extra subsidies and particular, when you're on the lower middle income. We know how expensive it gets when you have multiple kids either in childcare, or many of us know, of course, if you're paying the school fees, as well, so this is really targeted at those who really need the assistance and helping people get and make that choice. I think people on half a million dollars a year as a family probably have a few more choices in front of them and need a little less government assistance.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, you've been campaigning fairly hard for NBN upgrades here in Canberra, several Canberra suburbs are in line to get those upgrades. I'm not one of them, because I live in an apartment block where they have this thing called fibre to the basement so I'll never get the upgrade no matter what. But you must be happy with the results of that.

PAYNE: Well I do, I am pleased that the Government have responded to my campaigning and that of my ACT Labor colleagues, but there's still many other suburbs that need this upgrade. As you say, and Stephen, if you need to get in touch with your local member about your internet, I'd be happy to follow that up with you. But the suburbs that were announced were Banks, Campbell, Conder, Dickson, Gordon, Hume, Lyneham, O'Connor, Reid and Turner. So that's great, but there are many that are still missing out. So I think it's still fair to say that we still have the worst internet of any capital city and we're gonna keep putting the pressure on the Government about that because it really, as our nation's capital, we really should have access to much better NBN than we currently have. 

CENATIEMPO: Well, I know both of you have got a busy day ahead of you. I'll probably bump into you up on the Hill this evening. Alicia Payne, Zed Seselja, thanks for your time this morning. 

SESELJA: Thanks very much, guys. 

PAYNE: Thanks Stephen, thanks Zed. 

CENATIEMPO: All the best. Zed Seselja, ACT Liberal Senator and Alicia Payne, Labor Member for Canberra.