Doorstop interview

Interview

DCI093/2017

22 November 2017

Subjects: Tullamarine-Melbourne Rail Link, citizenship, Uber hack, award, taking action on banks

Paul Fletcher: I am very pleased to be here with my colleague and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Darren Chester, and we are here for an important stakeholder meeting this afternoon as part of the business planning process in relation to a potential rail link between Melbourne and Melbourne Airport; between the Melbourne CBD and Tullamarine Airport.

The Turnbull Government committed $30 million in the Budget this May towards this planning process for this vital rail link, and today we will be joining with representatives of the Victorian Government, as well as a range of stakeholders— representatives from the airport, from Southern Cross Station, from a number of the councils along the way—to begin some initial discussions about this important project as part of the work to develop a business case. That will be conducted under the auspices of a joint steering group of the Commonwealth and Victorian governments.

So this is about working towards developing a business case for a rail connection, a vitally needed rail connection between Melbourne CBD and Tullamarine Airport. Sydney has a rail connection between the airport and the city; Brisbane has a rail connection between the airport and the city; Perth is building a rail connection between its airport and the city; Melbourne doesn't have such a connection. A city of the scale and importance of Melbourne deserves such a connection, that is why the Turnbull Government has committed $30 million for a business case process, and today, at this very important workshop with stakeholders, joined by representatives of the Victorian Government, local councils, the airport, Southern Cross Station and others, we will kick off the very important process of getting this business case underway.

Darren Chester: Well, it is great to be here with my colleague, Paul Fletcher, and a world-class airport like Tullamarine needs world-class land transport links. The people of Victoria have been waiting for a long time for a rail link to their airport and we want to work with the local councils, with the industry, with the Victorian Government as much as we possibly can to make sure we deliver it as soon as we possibly can.

Question: Is this project real enough that we can put a timeline on it? Is there a date that we can see some of the construction starting, or a plan at least?

Darren Chester: Well, it is real enough that we have put $30 million of Australian taxpayers' money on the table for business case work, and we want to work with the community to make sure we get it done. We want to see plans come forward as quickly as we possibly can. The business case process now is underway. This industry stakeholders group meeting today is an important step in the process.

Question: Do we know when that plan will be ready to go and people will be able to look at it and see whether a rail line might go near their house or something?

Darren Chester: Our expectation is we need to work with the Victorian Government, that they need to get on board and be fair dinkum about this process—and we think we can get this done in 12 months—and get the Victorian public a design they can work with, and get on with the job of working out how we fund it.

Question: So 12 months, check back and there will hopefully be a plan?

Darren Chester: Absolutely.

Question: No worries. What was your reaction today to the latest Senate resignation?

Darren Chester: Well, we have put a process in place now to make sure Members of the House of Reps and the Senate go through a declaration process to clear this up once and for all. Quite frankly the Australian people are sick of it; I am sick of it. We have got other issues we are more focused on. It is about delivering every bit of our transport infrastructure plan. We are getting on with the job of doing that, but this has been a distraction, and we have got a process now in place to make sure that it is cleared up once and for all.

Question: Do you think there will be many more resignations as part of this citizenship disclosure?

Darren Chester: Well, I don't want to speculate on what might happen in the next couple of weeks, but there is a process now in place where Members of the House of Reps and Senators will make a declaration, a public declaration to their respective chambers, and it will clear up the situation once and for all. I think we have taken the right step to provide that level of transparency the Australian public want to see.

Question: There was news today about Uber having failed to disclose a hack. What has Uber told the Australian Government about this?

Darren Chester: Well I am yet to receive any briefing from Uber itself, but the message is pretty clear: Uber needs to come clean with its Australian customers. Have they been impacted by this, and what steps has Uber taken to make sure it doesn't happen again? So it is a question of, if you want to do business in Australia, you want to be trusted by the Australian public, if breaches like this occur, come clean with the Australian people and explain what steps you are taking to make sure you are protecting their data into the future.

Question: How concerning is this?

Darren Chester: It is always concerning when there are major breaches of this nature and that is why the Australian Government has $230 million put aside to work with businesses to prevent this happening into the future. It is why we have put in legislation that such breaches will be notifiable in the future, by February next year. The expectation is there will be a public notification if such a breach occurs. So we are taking steps to deal with what is a genuine threat to the information of the public, but Uber needs to make sure it is coming clean to the Australian people and let us know has there been a breach that has affected Australian customers or not.

Question: When you hear news like this, does it make you think whether the states should be able to review whether Uber can operate in Australia?

Darren Chester: Well, what it makes me think is that cyber-security is an emerging issue. In fact, it is a current issue, but one that is developing further all the time. We need to make sure we are taking every step we can to work when it comes to the protection of government data, but also the protection of private data, and that is a question of education, it is a question of taking appropriate steps. I think the Government has been working very seriously; my colleagues in Cabinet and the wider Ministry have been working to make sure that we have got protocols in place and that the $230 million from the Federal Government to work towards cyber-security improvements with the business sector is a good decision.

Question: Moving on, should Barnaby Joyce have accepted a cheque for $40,000 from Gina Rinehart last night or should he have handed it back on the spot?

Darren Chester: From what I understand, Barnaby was as surprised as anyone else when Gina Rinehart made that generous declaration. Barnaby is a great champion of Australian agriculture and I think the cheque was a huge surprise to Barnaby himself, and he has announced today he will be putting it back into public hands for use in the agricultural sector, so I think he has done the right thing.

Question: Yeah. Was he right to hand it back, or do you think it would have been fair if he had kept it?

Darren Chester: No, I think he did the right thing by handing it back. It was an unusual circumstance. I think he was very surprised to receive the cheque last night, and I think we have all moved on from that now.

Question: Do you have a message for your colleague Barry O'Sullivan, who is pushing for a Royal Commission into the banks?

Darren Chester: Well, the National Party is a robust party; we have lots of different views in our party. Barry has a different view to mine. It is not National Party policy to have a Royal Commission into banks, but Barry has a strong view on the issue and he is pursuing it, as he has every right to do, through the Senate. I have spoken to a lot of my colleagues over the past few days and I would have to say most of them—in fact, the overall majority of them—support the current plans of the Government.

We have put a range of integrity measures in place; we have put extra protocols around banking executives. We have taken steps to make sure the banks are on notice to behave appropriately. A Royal Commission would just be a lawyers' picnic; it would be a very expensive use of taxpayers' money. It would probably come back as a report finding exactly what we are already doing, the sort of things we are already doing. The Treasurer has made it very clear he has high expectations on banking conduct into the future, and we are taking a lot of steps to make sure that we meet the community expectation in that regard.

Question: And finally, you got a car here today, but do you hope to be getting a train here pretty soon, in maybe 12 months?

Darren Chester: We look forward to seeing a proper rail link to an international airport of Tullamarine's standard. I mean, this is a world-class airport, it should have world-class land transport links. The people of Victoria are demanding it from us. We want to see that developed as quickly as we possibly can. It has been the Turnbull Government that has taken the lead on this issue; we have put $30 million on the table for the business case and we want to make sure we can deliver it for the people of Victoria.