Transcripts

July 12, 2016

Subjects: Election Campaign, Coalition Agreement, 45th Parliament, The Nationals

KIERAN GILBERT:
With me now National Party cabinet minister, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester. Darren Chester that captures the sense of things pretty much does it? You guys are pretty happy with the way things went at least from a National Party perspective?

DARREN CHESTER:
Well, pretty much Kieran. We’ve had a good result within our National Party. Obviously in the Coalition more generally we are very happy where we have got ourselves to a position now where it looks like we are going to be able to form majority government. The results coming through yesterday from central Queensland with the seats of Capricornia and Flynn trending our way. We’re still very hopeful the seat of Herbert with Ewen Jones there in Townsville may come back to the Liberal Party as well so it looks like we are going to be able to form that majority government. So it’s a good result. In many ways we got through by the skin of our teeth, we acknowledge that. It’s been a tough election campaign, but bottom line is for the Nats I guess, we have gone ahead by one it looks like and we are looking forward to getting together as a team now and working through what our priorities might be for the next term of the 45th Parliament.

KIERAN GILBERT:
So do you agree with Matt Canavan that the Nats basically saved the Liberals in this campaign?

DARREN CHESTER:
Well, I don’t put it quite like that. I mean we form a Coalition Government. Our contribution to that is going to be 16 lower house seats. So, you know, obviously we need the 60 or 61 Liberal seats to form that Coalition Government. It’s a partnership arrangement obviously us doing well, making sure we didn’t go backwards in any of our seats. Barnaby Joyce’s effort in seeing off a formidable campaigner in Tony Windsor was a pivotal moment in the campaign, just as Luke Hartsuyker’s effort to hold off Rob Oakeshott. Rob Oakeshott attempted to come back as an independent, another pivotal moment. Kevin Hogan in the seat of Page, heroic effort to hold off Janelle Safin seeking to return into the Parliament. And then in central Queensland, Michelle Landry, Kenny O’Dowd, George Christensen had everything thrown at them by the union movement and they have withstood the challenge. So there’s a lot of heroes in The Nationals in the sense of what has been achieved but you don’t rest on your laurels. Now is an opportunity for us to deliver for regional Australia. We have a responsibility that comes as a regionally based party to make sure that regional Australia gets a fair share of Government resources, gets the infrastructure it needs, the service delivery we need to grow into the future.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Sure

DARREN CHESTER:
So it’s exciting. Today is going to be a great day but it is just the starting point of a great term in Parliament.

KIERAN GILBERT:
I want to ask about your priorities, National Party priorities in terms of Ministers and so on. What you might expect to get, but just in terms of, if we can just look back for a moment at the campaign, why was it so close in your view and what’s your take on some of the Liberal Party internal criticism that you’ve heard over the last week or so while the result has been in limbo?

DARREN CHESTER:
I am always a bit concerned when we have the Monday morning quarterbacks re-prosecuting the case for the game that was played on the weekend and the benefit of hindsight is a very, a very obvious thing when it comes to sport and to politics. I think that these sorts of assessments of your campaigns are something that should be quite rightly done internally. In the National Party we will go through seat by seat, workout what went well, what didn’t go so well. I am sure the Liberal Party and the Labor Party will do the same. I think undoubtedly the misleading and deceptive conduct around Medicare was an issue in many seats but at the same time you’ve got to look at your own campaign. Did we do as well as we could have in combating that when we first realised that was what the Labor party was going to do? So I mean you’ve got to…

KIERAN GILBERT:
[Interrupts] …Why was it an issue in some areas, like why was it, on that specific issue of Medicare why it was such a big issue in say northern Tasmania or Western Sydney, yet in your area and in Page and in various other National held seats it doesn’t seem to have been as damaging electorally?

DARREN CHESTER:
It was as big an issue Kieran. You have to understand in the way the resources were poured into those seats. The Labor Party quite strategically poured money, people, resources into those targeted areas. In my seat of Gippsland, for example on election day, the Labor Party failed to hand out how to vote cards in half the ballot booths, so they were non-existent on the ground and they got quite a poor primary vote. They got a 20% primary vote as a direct consequence. They targeted their resources in a very strategic manner. Unfortunately, when you look at the longer term, when you see this type of misleading, deceptive conduct rewarded with a return at the ballot box by, you know, a strong vote it tells the party operatives that that is how you win votes in the future. So it is something that we, as a political class, as people who work in this building, as people who care about our democracy, how we allow those sort of campaigns in the future to influence an electoral outcome. Now, and the reason we know it affects the electoral outcome, when we look at the postal votes and the absentee votes coming in, in seats like Flynn and Capricornia, they’re very strongly favouring the incumbents in Michelle Landry and ken O’Dowd, yet they got smashed on the booths on the day where that Mediscare campaign was in full operation. So they are almost like a time capsule of five or six days previously before the Mediscare campaign really ramped up. So, these are difficult questions we are going to have to grapple with however I think the Australian people would rather us campaign in a more positive manner, put forward ideas for a strong Government, a stable Government and we’ve got to do that into the future.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Now for the Nationals today, given your proportion of the party room has increased, as a proportion of the Liberal and Nationals combined you would expect at least one more minister, would that be in Cabinet?

DARREN CHESTER:
That’s a decision that comes about through the negotiations. As you would understand it’s all about the numbers and it looks like we are going to be on 21 or 22 depending on how the Senate vote falls out in Queensland. So we will be in a stronger position proportionally and the numbers will decide whether we get an outer ministry extra position or a cabinet ministry extra position. That’s still to be decided as the numbers flow through in the next few days. What it is…

KIERAN GILBERT:
What about the issues, what about the portfolios? What are your, what do you want to see the National Party have a say in, in terms of the key portfolios for your constituency?

DARREN CHESTER:
The key portfolios for The Nationals are pretty well understood across the nation. We obviously are passionate about the outcomes for agriculture and water policy, my own portfolio in the previous parliament in transport and infrastructure, critical issues. Regional development held by Fiona Nash has been very important to us and it will always be important to the National Party because we want to see regional communities grow. Nigel Scullion in the portfolio of indigenous affairs, he’s had a critical role to play in trying to lift our indigenous communities out of poverty, out of some of the welfare traps they have fallen into, and provide a prosperous future for them. So these are portfolios we are, we, you don’t just collect them like presents at Christmas time, and it look at them and say how wonderful it is. You’ve got to make them work and deliver outcomes for regional Australia so we want portfolios…

KIERAN GILBERT:
Would you like Nigel Scullion to stay? Because, there’s been some talk that he might go.

DARREN CHESTER:
Well, there is paper talk today. I haven’t had a conversation with Nigel for a month or so we’ve both been very busy on the road. Nigel is a valuable colleague and a highly respected colleague in the work he’s done trying to firmly deal with some of the issues in the indigenous portfolio but also compassionately work with the health and education challenges he faces. He, I can’t think of anyone who has been more passionate about the plight of indigenous Australians in this place since I’ve been here, so Nigel Scullion will make his decision and let us know at some stage in the future.

KIERAN GILBERT:
And my final question to you is a broader question in relation to your Coalition colleagues, given Malcolm Turnbull, has won do you think some of the commentary should be reconsidered now given that the fact that it may have been premature, given that in politics you said as in sport earlier, a win is a win.

DARREN CHESTER:
A win is a win Kieran. What the Australian people expect from us now, what they want to see from us now is a strong and stable Government working in their interest. They’ve sent us a pretty strong message at the ballot box. They’ve said we didn’t necessarily want to vote for all of the major parties. We’ve put you on notice a bit, listen to us we want you to focus on us. We want you to work on our interests everyday you’re in this place. Now I think Prime Minister Turnbull is well positioned. He is going to be the Prime Minister for the next three years. He is a in a position now to deliver that strong and stable Government Australians want. When I talk to the people in the main streets of my small communities, in the shoe shops, in the sporting shops, they’re saying the last thing we want to see is more changes in Leadership. We want you to back the guy you’ve got, provide the confidence, provide the certainty we need so that people are investing. These aren’t just words for them. You know, confidence, stability, certainty means jobs, means profits for their business, it means a good future for young people in regional communities so they want us to do a good job and Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce as a Coalition partner, we are well positioned to deliver the Government that Australia needs.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester, Thanks. We’ll talk to you soon.
- Ends -

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