SKY News Live Newsday

Interview

DCI094/2017

28 November 2017

Subjects: Terror arrest, aviation security, banking royal commission

Laura Jayes: Joining me now is the Transport Minister Darren Chester out of Canberra.

Darren Chester, thank you for your time. First of all, just on this terror story in Melbourne, it was only a couple of months ago where we saw a plot thwarted that would have involved a plane at Sydney Airport. What has the Government done in those intervening months to step up security?

Darren Chester: Well, good afternoon, Laura, and I guess the announcement today that there has been a plot uncovered is further reinforcing the Government's view that obviously maintaining national security, providing our intelligence agencies, our security agencies with all the resources they need to keep us safe has to be our number one priority, and in fact, is our number one priority.

So I congratulate the security agencies for the work they have done today, and in terms of the aviation threat, obviously since that alleged plot at the Sydney Airport, some steps have been taken—some of which would be visible to the public and others which wouldn't be. There has been an escalated level of bag checking, explosive trace detection, that type of activity. We have also commissioned a review by the Inspector of Transport Security just to assess whether there are other things we need to do.

It is one of those policy areas, as I am sure your viewers would appreciate Laura, that is constantly evolving. It is not a set and forget area; it is one where you have got to keep ahead of the game, and we are working to make sure that every reasonable protocol, every reasonable regulation or security provision we can put in place is put in place to keep the travelling public safe. It is an area of public policy which obviously receives a lot of focus and a great deal of attention, and I am pleased to see that it is working so far, but we can never be complacent.

Laura Jayes: Darren Chester, we have just heard from Ian Macdonald in the wake of the Queensland election result. He has told Sky News that he believes that Malcolm Turnbull is losing conservative voters, and he's only appealing to people that will never vote for him. Do you agree?

Darren Chester: Well, no, I don't, and I actually don't agree that we can actually put tags on people in terms of their voting habits. When I travel around regional Australia—and I probably do that more than most, because I am the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, I have got a lot of road projects, a lot of rail projects that I am out there working with local Members on, and we have got thousands of projects being delivered right across regional Australia—when I am out there, people aren't attaching themselves to left and right tags or policy tags or whatever it might be.

Laura Jayes: But what are they saying about Malcolm Turnbull though? Is he finished?

Darren Chester: No, not at all. No, Malcolm Turnbull is not finished. Malcolm Turnbull will lead us to the next election, and he will win that election, because we will actually start realising that we need to pull together, need to fight together, need to back the captain of our team. As I travel around regional Australia, there is no love for Bill Shorten. There is no love for him whatsoever. They see him as a wrecker, they see him as someone who is shifty, and they see him as someone who has sold out blue-collar workers for green votes in the city.

Now, what they say to me about Malcolm Turnbull is for god's sake, guys, don't change leaders. We don't want a revolving door at the Lodge. We want you to get on with your job of delivering everything you said you would do at the last election, deliver all that infrastructure we want. So it is the roads, it's the rail, it's the airports. It is those sorts of things they want to see built in their community, and they want us to see us stop fighting amongst ourselves. And we have got to do that, that is up to us. That is up to us as members of the Coalition, members of the National Party, members of the Liberal Party. Back the captain of the team and actually get out there and deliver everything we said we would deliver.

Laura Jayes: So, if you stop fighting amongst yourselves, does that include the banking commission of inquiry or banking royal commission as well?

Darren Chester: Well, our policy is not to have a royal commission into the banks, because we are out there right now putting more regulatory burdens in place to provide more protections for customers. We are already doing it. I mean, there are a lot of additional steps being taken by the Treasurer and the Finance Services Minister to make sure that additional protocols are in place in response to people's concerns.

Laura Jayes: But Darren Chester, it is the Nationals party room who are growing louder with these concerns, so those backbenchers don't believe—Barry O'Sullivan—they don't believe that actually this is the right way to go. Llew O'Brien, another one of those. What do you say to them?

Darren Chester: To be fair, Laura, you are saying The Nationals Party Room. The Nationals Party Room hasn't met to discuss this issue. We will meet on Monday to discuss this issue, and I am not going to front run my colleagues and what they may say or not say. There are two, maybe three of my colleagues talking about this publicly at the moment, expressing their view. I have got another 19 colleagues; there are 21 people in The Nationals Party Room.

Laura Jayes: Yes, but Barnaby Joyce is the leader—in exile at the moment, outside of the Parliament—and he has left open this opportunity for The Nationals Party Room to support a banking commission of inquiry. Would you support that?

Darren Chester: And Barnaby said that the Party Room would discuss the issue, and that is the right way to go about it. I mean, what I was indicating, Laura, is that there are a range of steps already being taken by the Government to provide extra layers of regulatory certainty, around the banks—more protections for customers—steps that we have been taking over the last 18 months, which wouldn't have been taken if we had have gone down this path of a royal commission. As the Prime Minister himself has indicated, everything would have been kicked down the road, and that is what Bill Shorten is suggesting, saying let's kick it all down the road. Let's have an expensive lawyers' picnic. Let's spend $150 million on a royal commission, and right now we are actually implementing changes which are making a difference. So whether it is the requirement for the banking chief executives to appear before the Parliament's Standing Committee on Economics and answer the questions straight from the people's representatives. Whether it is the extra burden on the executive regulations, for them to make sure they are meeting the culture that is expected of the community. There are a lot of things that have already been going on in this space well ahead of any proposal for a royal commission.

Laura Jayes: Well, there is some evidence that banks are starting to be better corporate citizens because of the things you list, but what would be wrong with doing all those things that the Government has promised it would do, including a parliamentary inquiry and changing the regulations, changing the rules and trying to instil a different culture? What would be wrong with having a royal commission? Is it just the problem that Cabinet and people like yourself have argued against it for so long, and if you back-flipped, you would be giving Bill Shorten a win?

Darren Chester: Well, not at all, Laura. If I could be convinced that spending $150 million of taxpayers' money on a lawyers' picnic would actually achieve anything, then I am happy to have that discussion and be convinced. But right now, in a time when the Treasurer and the Finance Minister quite rightly indicate to me as an Infrastructure Minister that money is tight and they don't want to see any waste of resources, that $150 million could be building better, safer roads in regional communities, roads that would save lives in my community. I would rather spend that $150 million on those better, safer roads, than filling up the pockets of lawyers in Sydney and Melbourne.

Laura Jayes: Okay. Good luck in party room on Monday then. Darren Chester, thanks so much for your time.

Darren Chester: Thanks, Laura. All the best.