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

 

7 December 2015
8:35am

 

E & OE

 

Subjects: Innovation statement, media laws, North Sydney by-election, Tony Abbott, Ian McFarlane

                                                                                                                                   

GILBERT:
 
The Communications Minister Mitch Fifield joins me now. Minister thanks very much for your time. It’s important that the Prime Minister gets this right today. There’s been a lot of rhetoric around the need to be innovative and agile and so on, today the detail.


FIFIELD:
 

Kieran I think you and your viewers, and business and the community will be very pleased with what they see in the innovation statement. Ultimately what it’s about is making it easier for people to raise capital. Making it easier to collaborate. Putting more focus on STEM education and also looking at the way that government can lead by example in these areas. So we’re taking an approach which I guess you could call sector agnostic. Innovation is something that is manifest throughout every sector and we shouldn’t forget areas like agriculture where there’s incredible innovation happening. So there’ll be a lot of good news today Kieran.

GILBERT:
 
There’s only so much government can do as you know to make people take the risks, but the one thing you can do as you alluded to there is to lead by example. And I know the British Government, certainly that’s been a big focus of theirs in terms of the way they run their government services.

FIFIELD:
 
That’s right and when Malcolm was the Communications Minister he established the Digital Transformation Office, brought out to Australia a terrific guy Paul Shetler to head that. And the objective was basically to reengineer the way that government delivers its services because too often, government when designing and engineering processes does that which suits government rather than that which suits the citizen. And that also includes the interface between business and government. And when Malcolm became Prime Minister one of the things he did was to put the Digital Transformation Office into his Department so that you’ve got a central agency and a Prime Minister who is going to be driving that innovation and I’m fortunate to have the role as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government. So keep an eye out for a few things in relation to the DTO as well.


GILBERT:
 
Alright so why is Australia, why have we been so bad at commercializing RND? It’s something we just haven’t done well. The research has been there, the breakthroughs have been there but the commercialization of those breakthroughs has been lacking compared to comparable countries.

                                                                        

FIFIELD:
 
Kieran I think what it ultimately comes down to is the culture that you have. The business culture. The innovation culture. It’s not as well developed as it is in places like Israel for example. There are some great success stories, but what the objective of the innovation package is, is to make a major contribution to helping to create that environment, that culture that is conducive. And there’ll be a number of elements that will go towards collaboration between the research sector and the commercial sector. So that good ideas can be commercialized. And Kieran I think it’s also important that we don’t get fixated on any particular sector. I think one of the mistakes of our predecessors, Labor over many many years when they were both in government and in opposition, was that they used to talk about old industries and new industries. The old was farming and mining and the new was tech. Now we love tech. But you don’t have to pick. You don’t have to choose. You can embrace mining, you can embrace agriculture and you can embrace the tech sector as well. What we want to have is a broadly based economy and having a culture of innovation, we want to see new ideas, new start-ups across all sectors.  

 

GILBERT:
 
Now on a few other issues today, in your portfolio, the media laws. There’s been a lot of speculation about the government moving in this regard when it comes to the two out of three rule, the reach rule, also the anti-syphoning list when it comes to what sport can be broadcast on pay television versus free to air. Can you give us an update on where this is at? Is it going to go to Cabinet this week?

                                                                                              
FIFIELD:
 
Kieran I never talk about what might be going before Cabinet or when. But I’ve made very clear over the 12 or so weeks I’ve been the Minister that I think that our media laws are outdated. That technology and consumer choice is rendering them day by day, week by week progressively more redundant. We should allow the freedom for media organisations to configure themselves in the ways that best suit them and best suit consumers. And abolition of the reach rule, abolition of the two out of three rule are things that I’m looking at. I’m very keen in the New Year to bring something to the parliament that can set our media laws up to reflect the world that we live in today.

                                                                                                                             

GILBERT:
 
On the anti-syphoning, I guess a disclosure might be necessary here. But given we are on Foxtel it’s pretty obvious that we arte broadcasting on that platform. In that context can you give us a sense of where that’s at, when it comes to anti-syphoning? This is the big sporting events that are quarantined to free to air at this point.

 

FIFIELD:

Well Kieran there are numbers of propositions that are put to me by different media organisations on the subject. But what is I think universally agreed amongst all the players is that there are certain sporting events which Australians hold very dear. And which no government would propose be removed from the anti-syphoning list. So the propositions which are being put to me are really ones that I guess are around the edges because there is wide agreement on the importance of having nationally significant sporting events available free to air.


GILBERT:
 
The North Sydney by-election at the week if we look at a few other issues before we wrap up. A big swing, double digit swing against the Liberals. This is meant to be Turnbull’s heartland, small l liberal territory North Sydney. What happened?

                                                                      

FIFIELD:

Kieran it’s a by-election. By-elections you have swings against governments. I want to wait and see when the final results are in. Because when the Labor party isn’t running, it’s not necessarily immediately clear on what basis the two party preferred vote should be done. So look I want to see what the final results are when they come in. But no surprise, by-election swing against the government. Old story.

GILBERT:

If this happened to Abbott when he was still Prime Minister the knives would have been out, but Turnbull the honeymoon, is it over? Given the result at the weekend?

FIFIELD:

Well I’ve never characterised the initial period of Malcolm’s Prime Ministership in the way that you have Kieran. I think he has got a good reception. I think he has changed the mood of the nation. I think he’s changed the tone of the government. And that’s important because we want to be in a situation where we can communicate with the community. Where we’re not in an adversarial situation constantly. Sure, we’re in politics and we have our political opponents and you want to pick your moments and you want to pick your fights. But Australians want to see the government of the day getting on with the job of doing the people’s business. Malcolm and the team have been doing that, and I think that’s been well received.

 

GILBERT:

Do you think that there’s room for Tony Abbott in a ministry under a Turnbull Government? This is something Greg Sheridan in the Australian this morning is suggesting that it would be in Malcolm Turnbull’s interest to bring the conservative wing of your party with him by putting Abbott back in to Cabinet is what he’s saying today.

FIFIELD:

I don’t know what’s in Tony Abbott’s mind about his future. We have a good Cabinet team at the moment. What the configuration of that team is in the future is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister.

GILBERT:

Do you think he’s got a role to play? Tony Abbott into the future in the parliament?

FIFIELD:

Well ultimately Tony Abbott’s future in the Parliament is a matter for him.

GILBERT:

Let’s finish up now with Ian McFarlane someone who believes he’s got a future in the Parliament, he wants to be back in the Cabinet. Is that all out of self-interest? Was that all selfish moves by him? The efforts to defect to the Nationals, what do you make of that?

FIFIELD:

Well if someone is seeking to move Party Rooms the onus is on them to give an explanation as to why they are doing that. I don’t know if Ian is motivated by a philosophical issue, if he is motivated by a policy issue. It’s ultimately up to him to explain the rationale for his move. Obviously we as a Liberal Party would have preferred that Ian stayed in our Party Room. But ultimately what happens from this point is a matter for the Liberal National Party of Queensland.

GILBERT:

It does look like blatant self-interest though doesn’t it?

FIFIELD:

Well look I’m not one who has ever been keen to provide a running commentary on my colleagues. Ultimately the onus on each and every one of us in the Parliament is to explain our own actions and to account for them and that’s true for Ian as well.

GILBERT:

Mitch Fifield appreciate your time this morning. Thank you, we’ll chat to you soon.

ENDS                                                                         

                                     

Media contact:

Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.sywak@communications.gov.au