24 February 2017
Subjects: Airport security, Coalition government
Darren Chester: There is no greater responsibility on the federal government than to provide the safety and security of our people. That is why we are working hard in the Parliament to protect Australian travellers in particular our seaports and our airports from the threat of terrorism or the threat of serious or organised crime. We have introduced two pieces of legislation in the Federal Parliament, passed by the House of Representatives, which will crack down on those people who have committed serious crimes who may well be involved in the importation of illicit drugs or the importation of illegal firearms from actually holding an MSIC or ASIC card in the first place.
On top of that if they do manage to secure an ASIC or MSIC card we are going to make sure there are random checks for people so we can keep an eye on security right across Australia at our airports and seaports.
Question: Tony Abbott last night and his comments and reactions this morning—Mathias Cormann described it as deliberately destructive and completely unhelpful. What do you make of those comments?
Darren Chester: I think the Australian people are sick of politicians talking about politicians. They want us to focus on the job that we are doing, in my case delivering infrastructure Australia needs. I am out here every day working to improve our road and rail connectivity, working with state governments, working with communities to provide better infrastructure right across our nation. Quite simply the Australian people are not interested in what politicians think about each other.
Question: The interpretation has been that Tony is trying to make a comeback to become Prime Minister, what would the National party's position be at a change of leadership in the Liberal party?
Darren Chester: Former Prime Ministers have an exalted position in the Australian public life. Obviously, Tony Abbott reached the highest level on the land, and that was a great achievement. Now he is serving as the Member for Warringah, and he should focus on that job.
Question: Can you expand on that? What is your message to Tony Abbott at this moment?
Darren Chester: It is not for me to give messages to former Prime Ministers other than to say Tony Abbott is the Member for Warringah, a backbencher in a successful Coalition government. We are getting on with the job of delivering everything we said we would do in the last election. Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce are leading a strong and united team. Tony Abbott is part of that team as the Member for Warringah and I think he should focus on doing that job to the best of his ability.
Question: Is there an element of frustration within the National party at your Coalition partner's behaviour?
Darren Chester: The Nationals aim to provide a strong and stable base within the Coalition. We have a united team working every day to support regional Australia. We want to see a stronger, safer, better regional Australia where everyone can get ahead. That is what we are trying to do and we will work with our Liberal colleagues as much as we possibly can and I encourage them to remain focussed on the issues that are important to Australian people. The Australian people want us out there working to get more jobs, working to improve health and education services, working to get the infrastructure they need to get home to their kids in a timely manner. That is what we need to be focussed on and I am determined to make sure of that as part of the Coalition government, that is what I do as a Minister.