Transcript—Sunrise

Interview

DCI013/2017

18 January 2017

Subjects: Underwater search for MH370 suspended, expenses, Cabinet reshuffle

David Koch: Transport Minister Darren Chester joins me now from Melbourne. Minister, why end the search now, why hasn't it been extended further?

Darren Chester: Well Kochie you are right, this has been quite an historic effort in terms of the search, there has been 120,000 square kilometres of the Southern Indian Ocean searched to date. The meeting last year in July, when the Malaysian, Chinese and Australian Governments met to discuss the future of the search for MH370, at that meeting it was resolved that the completion of the highest priority search area—so the area that the experts were telling us we were most likely to find MH370—at the completion of that search area, in the absence of any credible new evidence leading to a specific location of MH370, we would suspend the search at that time. So that is the decision that was made in July last year and the search vessel, the Fugro Equator, has finished its last sweep overnight and has started returning to the Western Australian coast line.

David Koch: Alright, so you are saying there's no more credible evidence of any other areas because everyone has a view on it and there were recent scientific examinations of debris, drifting patterns, and sort of pointed to another area. So you're saying that's not credible?

Darren Chester: Well no, sorry David, I need to be more specific than that. What we are saying is that in the absence of any credible new information leading to a specific location. There is other evidence out there in terms of the drift modelling which is guiding our search now. So the debris that has been located, the three items of debris that have been positively identified as coming from MH370, along with other debris which is of interest to us. The modelling of that debris, the drifting, has indicated we are in the right area—the general vicinity if you like—but we're talking about a vast piece of ocean. The 120,000 square kilometre area was regarded as the highest priority search area. The experts have certainly said there are other areas you could go to next if you were going to continue the search—if you had resources available for that. But there's no one saying to me we know where MH370 is and this is where you should search next. It is a tragic and sad reality, Kochie, that we may not find MH370 for the foreseeable future. In years to come there may be or months to come there may be breakthroughs in terms of new information or new technology, but right now we are in a position where we can't find it.

David Koch: Hey, while we have got you. The Australian newspaper is reporting on your colleague, Attorney General, George Brandis, this morning, saying he spent $12,000 of taxpayer money for a trip with his son to Western Queensland to look at his family tree—his family history. Should George Brandis go today, when the PM reshuffles his Cabinet? This is sort of the Sussan Ley type travel expense issue, isn't it?

Darren Chester: Well Kochie, that is the first I have heard of that report, I haven't seen that. Now the Prime Minister picks his team. I don't obviously seek to tell the Prime Minister how to pick his Cabinet. He'll make those announcements at some stage in the near future. And if I'm fortunate enough to continue as the Transport and Infrastructure Minister, I look forward to doing that, but I'm certainly not going to give the Prime Minister advice on who should be in his Cabinet.

David Koch: Okay. Have you put your hand up for a change of job today?

Darren Chester: I actually regard my job as the best job in the Cabinet. I get to build stuff right around Australia; infrastructure that changes people's lives, and in many cases with road safety, actually saves people's lives. So I love the job I've got. If I'm fortunate enough to continue in the future in that role, I'll certainly look forward to doing that.

David Koch:Very diplomatic response, Minister. Thank you for that.