28 June 2017
Subjects: Government investment in infrastructure, current political environment
Darren Chester: It's great to be here at the National Infrastructure Summit where I've just been talking about the Government's ten year plan for $75 billion of investment in infrastructure right around Australia. We're not just talking about major projects in our capital cities, but also our regional areas, our $8.4 billion equity investment in the Inland Rail project. For 100 years people have been talking about this project for so long but we are getting on with the job of delivering it. There's our $5.3 billion equity investment in the Western Sydney Airport, another project which will shape our nation for years to come. We're getting on with the job of delivering the infrastructure that our kids and our grandkids will thank us for. These are projects that will create jobs during the construction period, but also provide longer term benefits right throughout Australia. Again not just in our cities but also in our regional areas. Just yesterday I was in Victoria with the Prime Minister and we were able to announce $1.6 billion in regional rail programmes and it's great to see the Federal Government coming on board with the lion's share of that funding. Again these are projects that will change people's lives and they'll save people's lives. They'll change lives by reducing congestion and improving productivity and they'll save lives by taking some of those cars off our roads and allowing people to travel throughout our regional areas on a better passenger rail network. So we've got exciting plans for the future and it's great to be here having those discussions with some of the leaders of the industry.
Question: So obviously there's been a bit of a fallout from the Christopher Pyne comments. Do you think there should be a reshuffle on the frontbench?
Darren Chester: Decisions about Ministers and senior roles in the Government are quite rightly made by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Deputy Prime Minister. I'm not going to do a running commentary on those roles, it's up to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to decide who gets to serve in these great positions within our Federal Coalition Government.
Question: Do you feel confident if there was a reshuffle that you would hold on to your portfolio?
Darren Chester: I feel confident that right now as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport I'm getting on with the job of delivering an infrastructure program that Australians want to see. Australians want to see better roads, better rail, new airports—they want to see a government which is focused on policies which will make a difference in their lives, they don't want us talking about individual personalities.
Question: What's The Nationals' view though of the turmoil within the Liberal Party?
Darren Chester: Well, politics is a team sport and we need to play as a team, we need to focus on the issues that matter for Australians. In this case, for me, it's infrastructure. People are focused on can we build better road networks in their communities, can we improve the rail system, are we getting on with the job of the Western Sydney Airport and the answer to all those questions is ‘yes’. We're focused on policies that will deliver real outcomes in people's lives and I'm not even interested in this personality politics. Quite frankly it bores people and it bores me.
Question: But it's quite soon after the government was elected that there's talk of a reshuffle, it's not been long since they've been in government.
Darren Chester: The media like to speculate about a whole range of things. I know we have a united Cabinet working very well together, Prime Minister Turnbull has done a great job in having a consultative approach to dealing with these big issues. In my role as Infrastructure Minister he has been very supportive and backed me on a whole range of projects which we've been able to deliver now, whether it's the Inland Rail project or the Western Sydney Airport or the $1.6 billion for regional rail in Victoria. The Prime Minister has backed me 100 per cent and I appreciate his support and his encouragement on these projects that will make a real difference in peoples lives. Speculation about future jobs and future roles quite frankly doesn't interest me and I don't think it interests the Australian people.
Question: What do you make of Tony Abbott's behaviour recently?
Darren Chester: As I said, politics is team sport. We need to play as a team, we need to work together to deliver the outcomes that Australians want. Australians are focused on having a government that delivers for them, they're not interested in internal political games.
Question: Do you have any advice for Tony Abbott?
Darren Chester: I've long since given up giving free advice to my colleagues.