TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop interview
Parliament House, Canberra.
20 January 2016
E & OE
NSW Liberal Party, media reform, ABC
Minister, there’s obviously a lot of talk today about preselection issues in
New South Wales, is this pulling your party apart a good look in the public?
The Liberal Party has
open, transparent and democratic preselection processes. It’s the Party members
who have the say, which is in contrast to the Labor Party, where unions will
direct blocks of people how to vote. There’s always speculation before
preselection rounds, particularly when there’s been a redistribution, but the
ordinary Party processes will take their course.
Is this a push by moderates to knock off some of the big name conservatives in
New South Wales?
Look, the Liberal Party is a broad church and whenever you have preselection
nominations open, there will be a range of commentary in the papers. But
ultimately the preselectors choose the candidate that they think is the best
person to be the Party’s flag bearer.
Isn’t there the
danger here that the Liberal Party could lose some well-respected and very
experienced people because of the emerging fight within the party?
The preselectors in my experience, get it right. As someone who’s been a
preselection candidate before, you mightn’t always like the decisions that they
take, but look, they invariably make the right call. And branch members are
sophisticated individuals who take into account the Party’s electoral prospects
and that’s one of their key considerations.
Minister, are the Nationals being realistic or over demanding in terms of their
push for safeguards, particularly on news services, but more generally on
services delivered to regional Australians under your proposed media changes?
I think that my Party Room colleagues, regional Liberals and Nationals have a
genuine and legitimate desire to make sure that there is good local news
content in the regions. It’s something that we perhaps take for granted in
metropolitan areas. But local news is important. We do have license conditions
at the moment in certain markets for a certain level of local content. Many
regional TV providers provide content in excess of that at the moment. And in
any changes to media law, it’s important that we can provide reassurance that
there is, and will be, protection for local content.
So is your aim as Minister to maintain, broadly, the current levels of services
delivered to regional Australia. Or might you ask in return for relaxation of
other laws that broadcasters actually deliver more to their audiences than they
Well the bottom line is that we don’t want to see a diminution of what is
provided in regional areas at the moment. What else there may be in addition to
that, that’s something that we’re currently taking a look at and having
conversations with the regional TV operators and with my parliamentary
When will we see the legislation, Minister?
Well when I am confident that it has good prospects of passing through the
Senate. I think one of the things we’ve learnt over our first couple of years
in government is that the starting point for legislation really needs to be the
Senate. It shouldn’t be the last thing a Minister thinks about, it should be
the first thing a Minister thinks about. Which is why I’m spending time talking
to my crossbench colleagues, spending time talking to my own Party Room
colleagues as well.
Would you be willing to split the bill to allow the passage of the reach rule,
if not the two out of three rule?
Look I’m keen to see both the reach rule and the two out of three put forward
as a package. But look the Senate has a mind of its own and it’s the Senate as
a whole that ultimately decides whether a package is split or whether a vote is
put on a bill as a whole. So I’m keen to pursue a package, and that’s my
On the timing issue, can this wait until after the next election if the Senate
can’t get its act together? Or are the economic needs of some of the players in
this such that it’s got to be done this year?
I think it’s
important to move quickly. There is no question that media laws are outdated.
That’s something that’s accepted by my parliamentary colleagues. It’s accepted
by media organisations. That being the case, let’s get on and do it so the
media organisations can configure themselves in the way that best supports
Minister, given that we’ve known many of the media companies we now have and
that employ us for many years, how different do you think the media landscape
will look in a year or two compared to the way it is today?
The media landscape, even putting aside any change in the media law, is
changing day by day. We have Nine and Seven who have commenced live streaming,
which really is 100% reach. So that in itself renders that particular media law
redundant. But I wouldn’t want to predict what the media landscape will be,
because it’s changing so quickly.
The Deputy Prime Minister has taken a bit of a swipe at the ABC today and said
that amid all this discussion about what sort of news services would be
available in regional areas, there isn’t any express provision outlining what
the ABC should be doing in terms of news, in particular TV news. Is that a fair
criticism considering the ABC does have the biggest regional footprint of any
Well the ABC is there to service all Australians, and that includes regional
Australia as well. The ABC has a terrific reputation in regional Australia. I
think regional radio in particular is much loved by the community. It’s
important for the ABC to make sure on an ongoing basis that it is continually
reviewing what it does and how it does it, to make sure that it really is
servicing all of Australia.
If you are going to put any sort of provisions in there for commercial TV
networks to up their game in regional areas, are we likely to see any changes
to the ABC and its charter?
Well the changes to media law that I’m looking at is a separate exercise to the
ABC. I’m not currently looking at any legislative or structural change to the
Do you have a view on Bridget McKenzie’s private members bill on the ABC,
changing the board structure?
Look, I encourage my parliamentary colleagues to put forward their ideas as to
how the ABC can best service the community. Bridget McKenzie has put forward a
private Senator’s bill that has some propositions in it, including mandating a
couple of positions on the ABC board to be filled by people from regional
Australia. As a private Senator’s bill it doesn’t represent government policy,
but I’m very happy for a debate as to how the ABC can best service all of
Minister, could Tony Abbott ever be Prime Minister again?
We have a good Prime Minister in Malcolm Turnbull, and I fully expect that he
will be in that position for many years to come.
Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.firstname.lastname@example.org