TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National Breakfast > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield

TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National Breakfast

with Fran Kelly

 

30 September 2015
7:40am

 

E & OE

 

Subjects: Prime Minister, NBN Satellite launch, media reform, ABC

                                                                       

 KELLY:
 
The countdown is on. Tomorrow morning Australia’s $500 million NBN satellite, nicknamed Sky Muster will blast off from earth. Its mission is to provide high speed broadband to more than 200,000 households in regional Australia, and fix persistent internet black spots in the bush.

Once this satellite was labelled by Malcolm Turnbull when he was in Opposition as unnecessary, a Rolls Royce option he dubbed it. In Government it’s being described as a game changer. The Minister responsible for Communications now is Victorian Senator Mitch Fifield. Mitch Fifield welcome to RN Breakfast.


FIFIELD:
 
Good morning Fran.

KELLY:
 
Mitch Fifield before I come to Sky Muster and I’m keen to do that. Can I just ask you about politics because there’s still a lot of it washing around. In terms of those comments from Tony Abbott yesterday on 2GB. You were one of Malcolm Turnbull’s lieutenants in the leadership spill. Do you agree with Tony Abbott’s statements yesterday that the push came before the Canning by-election because the Government was heading for a strong win in the seat and that would’ve really disapated the tension and any case for a change of leadership.   

FIFIELD:
 
Fran, Party Room ballots are difficult issues for anyone involved. The collective of the Party Room determined that we should have a new leader. We do. We are not looking in the rear view mirror. I, with all of my ministerial colleagues, are focused on the business at hand. In my case Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts. I’ve got a big agenda ahead of me and I’m certainly not looking in the rear view mirror.

KELLY:

Sure but can you rule out for people that this was rushed? To get before the Canning by-election because you didn’t want the case to disappear for a move?

FIFIELD:

Fran, in the days after the ballot I gave a couple of interviews to provide some context about the matters that had happened. I’m not proposing to add to that. I think from this point forward it’s a matter for commentators and historians.

KELLY:

Okay let’s move to the launch of Sky Muster. How soon will Australian in remote and rural Australia see an improvement to their internet speeds?

FIFIELD:

Fran the good news is in the first half of 2016 Australians in regional areas will be able to access services via Sky Muster. Which is the first of two satellites which NBN will be launching. You could be forgiven when talking about satellites and names like Sky Muster for thinking that it sounds a bit like something from a James Bond movie. The name itself was actually thought of by a school girl Bailey Brooks who lives on a station in the Northern Territory. Her painting, her depiction of the satellite will actually be on the rocket that will launch into the sky. So full credit to Bailey for that work of art. But also to she and her classmates for coming up with the name Sky Muster.

KELLY:

Indeed that’s a lovely thing. Well it is true that in Opposition Malcolm Turnbull didn’t think Sky Muster was necessary. In fact he labelled it the Rolls Royce option. Said it was too expensive, Labor’s planned two satellites for $620 million, these aren’t cheap. But the Governments proposing, the NBN proposed rather two satellites for $500 million each. We don’t need this?

FIFIELD:

 

Fran there were many things that were in train when we came to office. I think Malcolm, as Communications Minister did a terrific job in recasting the rollout of the NBN. Australians are going to get the NBN 6 to 8 years sooner then they would have under Stephen Conroy’s model. And also, the NBN will cost tens of billions of dollars less as a result of the NBN under Malcolm, the newish Management and Board adopting a policy really of being technology agnostic when it comes to how to roll the NBN out.

KELLY:

I’ll come back to that. I mean it is true though that nevertheless it is costing a lot more than Malcolm Turnbull thought when he was in Opposition. But to stick with Sky Muster and what it’s going to do. We spoke recently of the programme to Geoff Morton the Mayor of the Diamantina Shire Council in outback Queensland. He maintains what his district needs is not a satellite, it’s an NBN delivered by optic fibre, rather than satellite. Let’s have a listen.

            MORTON: What we need for these outback towns is mobile reception, voice communication for safety, for tele health, we need the high speed internet and the NBN doesn’t provide any of that at all.

KELLY:

Geoff Morton the Mayor of the Diamantina Shire Council said the NBN via Satellite, via Sky Muster won’t deliver the mobile reception and the high speed broadband options the outback needs. Is he wrong?

FIFIELD:

Sky Muster will deliver high speed broadband for Australians in regional areas.

KELLY:

In the Diamantina Shire?

FIFIELD:

Well, around Australia. There will be 101 beams coming from each satellite to locations throughout Australia and even to offshore Australian territories. So, we will have 25 Mbps download from Sky Muster. So, that is high-speed broadband.

KELLY:

And, that is enough to give the Diamantina Shire the mobile reception and the high-speed Internet it needs for tele-health and those things?

FIFIELD:

This will meet the bulk of needs which people in regional Australia have and the good news is this is coming soon. This is coming soon. We are talking about the first half of 2016 that people will start to access these services.

KELLY:

Minister, you mentioned there that the government is tech-agnostic when it comes to the NBN, not wedded to any one solution. Can we assume from that that there actually now will be more fibre to the home rolled out under your NBN than was originally thought, originally promised, it will be closer to what Labor had originally promised? Which is only going to heighten the cost, I guessed but is that what we are looking at?

FIFIELD:

Because the NBN is technology agnostic it will pursue those technological solutions which can get NBN to people the quickest and at the most reasonable cost. That means the current proportions between the various technologies are not set in stone. Things can evolve over time.

KELLY:

You are listening to RN breakfast, our guest is Mitch Fifield, he is the new Communications Minister. Minister, you have already placed media ownership laws, which is always pretty dangerous terrain for any government to traverse, back on the agenda. Earlier this year Malcolm Turnbull was talking about abolishing the reach rule and the two out of three role to basically deregulate media laws in an era where digital options are overtaking all the old players. Tony Abbott was not keen on pushing that because there was no real agreement from the media players. Now you are saying you only mean to seek a broad consensus rather than unanimity in proposing these changes. So, are you going to push ahead with this?

FIFIELD:

Well, look, it is not so much that the government is pushing ahead with this, it is that technology is pushing ahead. Technology isn't standing still. The way that consumers seek to access and consume their media isn't standing still. The laws that we have were essentially cast in a pre-digital era when particular business models were much more stable, because there were just natural limitations as to how people could seek to access their media. So, what is really driving this debate, what is really driving this discussion is technology and consumers.

KELLY:

So, are you going to push ahead with this even if not all, I mean, the media bosses don't agree? Kerry Stokes doesn't agree with Channel 9, Rupert Murdoch doesn't agree with the free to airs, are you going to push ahead with these changes? Do we need these changes?

FIFIELD:

Well, I guess my point is, at some point in the future the laws that we have will become redundant. At some point in the future consumers are going to work their way around the regulations that are there and seek to craft…

KELLY:

Are you going to leave this then?

FIFIELD:

Well, my point is that as a government it is entirely reasonable and appropriate that as a result of these obvious facts we seek to see if there is a better way, if we can find consensus on a more rational legislative framework that recognises the reality of the world that we live in.

KELLY:

And, just finally Minister, you have described the Coalition on the ABC as quote, 'like being in a long-term relationship’, saying there will be the inevitable ups and downs. That is probably fair. Prime Minister, then Prime Minister Tony Abbott said once that the ABC quote 'barracks for everyone but Australia', do you think that? That our news and current affairs division are anti the interests of Australia?

FIFIELD:

I think that with the ABC, it can be a mistake to look at it as a monolith. The ABC is comprised of many different elements and I think that there are many different cultures in the organisation. I think the ABC Canberra bureau has a culture of its own and I think people generally find that they are pretty straight. ABC regional radio has a different and closer relationship with the communities that it serves. Maybe there are many different cultures in ABC Ultimo. So, look, I think it could be a mistake to see the ABC as a monolith. Obviously, there are things that the ABC has said and done that I haven't agreed with over the years. And I think it is entirely appropriate for ministers of the day to call the ABC on those things that are beyond the pale. The ABC has statutory independence, therefore there should be no issue with ministers of the day saying what they think about the ABC as they would about any media organisation.

KELLY:

Minister, thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast

FIFIELD:

Thanks, Fran.

                                                                         

 

Media contact:

Luisa Anderson | 0417 309 812 | Luisa.anderson@communications.gov.au