Transcript of Interview—SkyNews—News Day

Interview

WTC021/2015

31 July 2015

Topics: Wreckage on La Reunion Island, TPP, Bronwyn Bishop and Adam Goodes

Laura Jayes: Welcome back to News Day. Well it's a case, an aviation disaster that's really baffled the world until now. And authorities are becoming increasingly confident that washed-up debris is linked to the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Authorities will examine that suitcase that's washed up on Reunion Island to determine if it may have come from the airliner, but it has been handed to police and investigators and the arrangement have been made to retrieve it, but the Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss is co-ordinating the Australian arm of the search for MH370. He's playing down speculation that the suitcase is related to this aircraft. I spoke to him a little earlier, and I began by asking him about this latest clue.

Warreen Truss: Well I think it's less likely that the suitcase is related to the MH370 incident than the aircraft part that has been identified. The aircraft part is almost certainly a small piece of the wing of a Boeing 777, and MH370 was, in fact, was conducted on a Boeing 777. But the luggage didn't seem to have any marine life on it, so it's a little more doubtful that that is associated with the incident.

Laura Jayes: What is the process of confirmation now then? How long will it take to actually get that confirmation that this is a part of MH370?

Warreen Truss: Well this is a matter that's in the hands of the French authorities, because La Reunion Islands are French territory. The Malaysians also have a primary interest because Malaysia is the flag of the MH370 aircraft. So this will be in their hands. It's my understanding that it's intended to move the aircraft wing part to Toulouse in France for further investigation. But there are a lot of photographs now which may aid a much earlier positive identification. The key thing is for the part to be looked at by experts to confirm that it is a part of a Boeing 777, and then the next issue is to try and identify whether this part actually came from the aircraft that operated flight MH370.

Now I don't think that should necessarily take a long time, but it is possible that there's nothing on the part that specifically links it to the individual aircraft.

Laura Jayes: So Australia- well, the French and Malaysians are taking over this investigation in term of the debris that has washed up, but what is Australia's ongoing capacity? I understand we've offered our ongoing assistance, but how will that- what form will that take?

Warreen Truss: Well our primary role will continue to be the search. The search is being undertaken in Australian search area, and so our primary effort will continue to concentrate on locating the aircraft. If this wreckage is confirmed to be a part of MH370, it helps to confirm that we're searching in right place; it will certainly confirm that the aircraft came to grief in the Indian Ocean. The currents from our search site move broadly towards the area of Reunion Island—not directly, the currents move north and then across the Indian Ocean and then south, which is consistent with debris being found on the northern side of La Reunion Islands.

So, those are all further guidance that we're searching in the right place. That will be our main effort, our main responsibility, but we'll continue to use our expertise in this field wherever we can, and as requested by the Malaysians and the other countries that are interested in this whole search exercise. This has been a major international effort, we have skills, and we will certainly do what we can to contribute in relation to identifying this wreckage. But our primary role will be focused on actually searching for the aircraft on the bottom of the ocean west of Western Australia.

Laura Jayes: And Mr Truss, you say you believe you've been looking in the right spot—well, will this debris, if it's confirmed to be MH370, help you at least narrow the search, and do you know how much you can narrow the search? Is there possibly a chance that our searchers have been over the area where the crash might be and have simply missed it?

Warreen Truss: I'm not sure that this finding will actually enable any refinement of the search area. It is 16 months since the aircraft disappeared. This piece of debris has travelled a very, very long way. So I don't think it will be possible to back-trace where it came from. We're still going to have to rely on the satellite data to refine the area; we continue to do that, we're confident that we're searching in the right place. The equipment we have is the best in the world, and if the aircraft is there and we pass over any wreckage we should be able to find it. And I'm confident that will happen. There is still a significant part of the priority search area that we haven't yet looked at. The weather conditions are not good at the present time and so we're not able to spend a lot of time in the search area. But as winter passes there'll be another renewed effort and we have committed to cover double the area of our original search, and I'm still confident that we'll be able to find the aircraft in that area.

Laura Jayes: Have you made contact with the families of the six Australians on board though, and I know you're confident that you will find this aircraft, but what's your message to them? Is there a chance that this wreckage could be so deep down in the ocean that it may never be able to be recovered?

Warreen Truss: Well recovery is a different issue from actually finding it. Our first exercise is to try and find the wreckage, and we will know once that's happened whether it's possible to recover it, whether there's value in actually recovering it or whether we can get sufficient information on how the incident occurred, just simply through use of photography and recovering key parts. But that's something for the future.

I certainly agree with you that this is a time when we think especially of the families of those who've lost loved ones on board. They have gone through a very, very difficult year. This is another stressful time, as more information has become available, and we certainly feel for them and those who have Australian citizenship, or for whom we have a special responsibility. We've been in contact with them, and offered further support through these difficult times. We're determined to keep them well-informed, to make sure that they have confidence that everything possible is being done to help find their loved ones and to give them closure through these very difficult times.

Laura Jayes: Deputy Prime Minister, a few issues around politically at the moment as well, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations getting to the business end in Hawaii at the moment. Some of your colleagues—Nat colleagues—have threatened to cross the floor if a deal isn't done for sugar cane growers in Queensland in particular. What are you expecting, are you trying to manage expectations of your colleagues?

Warreen Truss: Well we've done a lot of trade deals around the world, and many of them have not made much provision—if any provision—for sugar. And so it is important that this TPP, which is meant to be a very comprehensive agreement, does deal with the difficult issue of sugar, and particularly sugar into the United States markets.

Now Andrew Robb has given this a high priority, it deserves to be a high priority, and simply it won't be a TPP that's comprehensive and inclusive, unless there is a significant additional market access for Australian sugar.

Laura Jayes: Mr Truss, Bronwyn Bishop apologised yesterday over this expenses scandal that's been ongoing for three weeks. Is that good enough for you, and can she continue as her role as Speaker of the House?

Warreen Truss: Well I think Bronwyn has done an excellent job as Speaker in the House, in particularly trying circumstances. The Parliament has been especially unruly over recent times, and she's worked very hard to keep order. She's a woman who's contributed enormously to public life in Australia, and she enjoys my continuing confidence.

Laura Jayes: But are you comfortable with how she's handled the last three weeks?

Warreen Truss: Well, she's apologised, she's expressed regret about what's happened. Bear in mind, some of these things that have been talked about now happened as far back as 1999. The rules were very different way back then, and we're trying to judge things that happened at a different time according to the standards and rules which might be in place now. There's been a lot of changes to the rules in this area over the years. Members of Parliament certainly need to respond to community concerns in relation to travel and other expenses, and the Speaker has recognised that she made an error of judgement, she's apologised, she's doing a good job, and that needs to be the ultimate element in making a decision about who should be Speaker in the Parliament.

Laura Jayes: Just finally then, Mr Truss, if the rules have changed so much over the years, and there are still problems in 2015, do the vagaries need to be taken out of the expenditure legislation once and for all?

Warreen Truss: Well, I think there's been a lot of attempts to do that over the years, it's just that I think people have sometimes very exaggerated views of what should happen. There are some who would take the view that if a Member took a bus he was wasting money and should be walking. I think we've got to accept the fact that the pace of politics has moved on, Members of Parliament are expected to travel much more extensively than ever happened in the past. They've got to move from place to place, and do it quickly, and then be back to another venue to deal with the issues of the day.

They've got to be not only meeting with people, giving them time—because people are, in fact, the essence of our democracy, but they've also got to be able to make decisions and do their job. There does need to be some degree of flexibility in the way in which Members of Parliament can work and to do their job. And I think the public need to recognise that fact. But on the other hand, Members of Parliament have got an obligation to make sure that they do things as frugally and as carefully as they possible can.

Laura Jayes: And I do want to just ask you one more question, Deputy Prime Minister, on Adam Goodes. We saw an intervention from Mike Baird yesterday saying that the booing and the howling has to stop. What's your view on this?

Warreen Truss: Well I think that it's appalling that there'd be any kind of racial abuse, whether it be on the football field or whether it be in day to day life. The reality is there are a large number of Aboriginal footballers, they're very talented, and make an enormous contribution to the sport. There's been a particular concentration on Adam, partly I suspect because he has been an outspoken individual in relation to making sure that Aborigines are respected for their talents and their contribution to our country.

Now, he should be commended for that. He should be commended for his willingness to speak out, and respected for it. And I think that there is a need for Aboriginal footballers, as well as others in the community, to sort of demonstrate and to use their success as a model for other Aboriginals so that we can indeed move forward. To ensure that black and white Australians are contributing to our country and given appropriate recognition for their success.

Laura Jayes: Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, thanks so much for your time.

Warreen Truss: You're welcome.