TRANSCRIPT - Sky News AM Agenda > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria


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Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield

TRANSCRIPT - Sky News AM Agenda

with Kieran Gilbert


5 October 2015


E & OE


Subjects: Sydney shooting, tackling violent extremism, media laws, anti-syphoning legislation.


Joining me now is Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. Thank you for your time. Such a shocking crime and you heard just there from Jihad Dib the Labor Member for Lakemba. Very supportive of the response of Prime Minister Turnbull and Premier Baird, but such a complex situation when you’re talking about an individual 15 years of age.

Kieran the nation has been absolutely shocked. And it’s good to hear your previous guest. Because this is not a time for partisanship. All parties in all parliaments are as one on this issue. But I think one of the interesting things here is, teenagers we know at that age they’re exploring, they’re looking for meaning and purpose. Ultimately they’re looking for something that’s bigger than themselves. And unfortunately there is this other option that is now out there for teenagers to embrace, a cause that’s bigger than themselves. What we need to do is to make clear that there are other options, that there are good options as opposed to this unequivocally bad option, which numbers of teenagers are embracing. We’ve got to emphasise again that we’re a pluralistic society and that we’re a good society and that there are good and great things that are bigger than the individual that teenagers can embrace. I think the Prime Minister’s right that really families are the front line in this particular effort. Families are in the best position to notice when something’s not right, but also in the very best position to make clear to teenagers that there are good things in this life, there are good things in this world and they should be embraced. 

The fact that the Prime Minister and Premier Baird held that phone hook-up with community leaders, apparently this happened at the behest and the recommendation of the intelligence agencies who say that those groups, those leaders are on the front line of providing intelligence to our security agencies.

It has to be a community effort Kieran, there’s no place for an us and a them. We’re a community, we’re united in all its elements, in all its faiths, it all its world views. United against this very small, but significant, number of people, who are seeking to disrupt our way of life. So the only way that we will succeed is if we work as a community together.

The Foreign Editor of the Australian Newspaper Greg Sheridan writes this morning about the language around this issue. He says that no one could doubt Tony Abbott’s abundant good will in this area, that his rhetoric had become a little clunky. A constant repetition of the phrase the death cult was off putting. What do you make of that sort of analysis, is that pivotal to the way this unfolds or, what is your take of the analysis that’s been around this issue?


Look I’m not going to reflect on any of our political leaders, current or former, in relation to the challenge that we face as a community. I think that there has been good will and good effort on the part of the former Prime Minister and also his predecessors from the other side of politics. This is not a time that we should be looking to split hairs. This is a time for us to be focused on the challenge we have in front of us.


Let’s look at something in your portfolio, as Cabinet Minister as congratulations on your promotion, we haven’t spoken since your promotion to Cabinet. The media laws, they’ve been vexed for many many years. You say you want to generate some good will and although maybe not unanimous support, some sort of support from the industry before you move ahead on this. Could you expect change to media laws before the election, is that possible?

Kieran I haven’t placed a timeframe on this process. I hope to bring to the communications portfolio the approach that I had in my previous portfolios, which is one where I am extremely consultative, where I want to hear the views of the various players. But at the same time see change happen, see reform happen. And with media law we have a series of arrangements, a series of laws which were really designed for a pre-internet age and in a pre-internet age. It was a time when technologies were more stable, when business models were more stable. And the current laws are coming under increasing pressure as a result of technological change, and that technological change is opening up new options and new avenues for consumers, who are themselves challenging the existing laws. So I want to talk to the main players, I want to get their views and see if we can reach a broad consensus on creating a legislative framework, a regulatory framework, which reflects the world that we live in today.


As you pointed out recently in the last couple of days, you say it’s like people focusing on railway gauges while planes started to fly overhead. They’re antiquated, that’s the bottom line aren’t they?


They’re antiquated, and what we have to do is balance on the one hand wanting to have diversity and to enable media operators the opportunity to have the business models that they want, and for consumers to access their information in the way they choose. We’ve got to balance that on the one hand, and on the other hand making sure that we have viable media businesses that can actually provide that diversity and provide those opportunities for consumers to consume their media in the way that they choose. So that’s the balancing act and that’s the task that I’m embarking upon. But I’m not someone that’s going to make any unilateral or declaratory statements in this area. This is something that’s got to be worked through very carefully.  

Obviously for subscription television like we’re on right now, there is an interesting, the anti-syphoning laws being looked at in terms of sporting events. Declaring that subscription television, interest in that. I ask you the question again, is that something that is antiquated? That needs to be looked at? Revived, reviewed? For a modern context where there are so many avenues in which broadcast sport can be done.



Well the anti-syphoning legislation came into place at about the time that subscription television was coming on line. And it was in response to a community concern that nationally significant sporting events might not be available on free to air. There is a list, as you know. From time to time things come onto the list. From time to time things come off that list. As a general principle we support nationally significant events being available on free to air. But I think something that’s probably not appreciated is that the legislation does not mandate that the free to airs have to purchase the rights to nationally significant sporting events that are on the list. And the legislation doesn’t even dictate that if they have those rights that they’re bound to show the programs. And also the legislation doesn’t prevent part, or all of those rights being on sold to subscription providers. So, look, it’s something that will be raised with me as I talk to different operators about media reform, absolutely.


Senator Fifield, Communications Minister, Appreciate it, we’ll chat to you soon.



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