ABC Goulburn Murray Breakfast

Interview

DCI072/2017

09 August 2017

Subjects: Regional fuel prices, Airport Security.

Joseph Thomsen: Transport Minister Darren Chester has called into the program. Minister, good morning.

Darren Chester: Good morning, Joseph.

Joseph Thomsen: And I imagine to comment on what we were just talking about—the fuel price inquiry and regional fuel prices.

Darren Chester: Actually, Joseph, I thought you had me on to talk about aviation security, but I'm always happy to chat about fuel prices, which obviously are a real concern for a lot of people in our regional communities. Obviously we drive longer kilometres than people in the city, and so our businesses, our lifestyles are impacted on by the price of fuel. In the last couple of years, the price has come down a bit, but the disparity between the city and the country areas continues to frustrate many of our people.

Joseph Thomsen: We will see what happens with this inquiry. We are, at the moment, looking at potentially paying more—on another topic—more for our airline tickets because there might be a ramping up of security. Can you give us some more detail on that?

Darren Chester: Absolutely, Joseph. What we have undertaken to do in the wake of that terrorism plot, which received a lot of coverage in the last couple of weeks, is to do a review of the security at Australian airports, including our regional airports. Not in response to any specific threat, I must stress, it is more a precautionary measure to make sure we have our security settings right.

It is a bit premature to be talking about additional costs, because I certainly want to make sure that we are maintaining the affordability of regional flights as much as we possibly can, but safety has to be our number one priority. So we need to work with the aviation sector, work with the councils—who in many cases run these regional airports—and work with the travelling public to make sure that they have confidence in the safety of our system.

We have a world-class aviation system, but as you are aware and your listeners are all aware, there are a small minority of people right now around the world who seek to do us harm and are aiming to attack aviation right throughout the world, and we need to make sure we're protecting the safety of the travelling public. There's 137 million passenger movements in Australia every year and we want to make sure that continues to happen in the safest possible way.

Joseph Thomsen: If there is increased security, what exactly is it going to be doing beyond what's taking place at the moment?

Darren Chester: Well, there's a range of options that people are talking about. There are security measures at our regional airports and our metropolitan airports, some of which are highly visible, like the scanning of your baggage or the scanning of individuals…

Joseph Thomsen: And we did increase security a couple of years ago at a lot of regional airports.

Darren Chester: Absolutely. So some of these things are highly visible to people, and others aren't even seen by the public, and that's part of the security response, to make sure we do a lot of things that people may not even be aware of. So we need to look at all the measures that are in place and make sure we've got the settings right.

Each of our major regional airports already is required to have a transport security program detailing how they will manage security of their operations, and that is reported back to the Commonwealth on an annual basis. So this is not—and I don't want people to be becoming worried about this—it is not something we are doing in response to a specific threat. It is more about a precautionary measure to make sure we are responding to the circumstance we are faced with now.

Joseph Thomsen: How much could this add to a regional air ticket out of somewhere like Albury Airport?

Darren Chester: Well, I think it's premature to be talking about cost, Joseph, with all due respect. I'm not planning…

Joseph Thomsen: Well, people care about it.

Darren Chester: I know, but I'm not proposing new measures to put in place. This review is intended to see—are our settings right, are we on the right track, or are there other things we need to look at. Now, it's a question of constantly evaluating and monitoring the situation, as people would expect us to do. I mean, the fact that we've been able to intercede with 13 terrorism plots in the last few years is a great result from our security agencies. They're out there every day. Those men and women are working tirelessly every day to gather information and foil this type of activity. At the other end of the equation, at our airports themselves, we need to make sure we are protecting the safety of the travelling public. So I'm not talking about extra costs or extra measures at this stage. It's more about assessing where we are now and are we responding appropriately to these new and emerging threats.

Joseph Thomsen: Okay. We look forward to the outcome of that review. Darren Chester, thank you very much for being with us. Darren Chester, Federal Transport Minister.