TRANSCRIPT - Sky News AM Agenda
with Kieran Gilbert
25 January 2016
E & OE
Tony Abbott, Australian head of state, tax reform, media reform
With me now the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.
What are your thoughts on that? The fact that Mr Abbott’s staying? Is it good
or bad news for the Government?
life has been marked by service to the community. I think regardless of where
anyone is on the political spectrum, that’s something that is respected and
acknowledged. He indicated that he would have a think about how he could make a
contribution in the future. He has decided that he wants to put his hand
up to continue as the Member for Warringah. And I think for all of us in public
life it’s important to acknowledge that the highest and first calling that you
have is that of a Parliamentarian. If you have the opportunity to subsequently
serve as a Minister that’s a great bonus. But the highest and primary calling
is that of a Parliamentarian.
Do you think he really wants to be in Parliament to be
a backbencher? He’d still have aspirations to join you in Cabinet wouldn’t
he? And to be your colleague?
I take what Tony Abbott says at face value, that he
wants to continue as the Member for Warringah. He wants to continue as a Member
of Parliament and to use that opportunity to serve the community.
Do you see any prospects for him returning to the
frontbench or Cabinet? Given his experience, his record as a Minister.
Former ministerial experience can serve people in
their capacity as a regular Member of Parliament. But appointments to the
Ministry and the Cabinet are entirely matters for the Prime Minister.
You’ve been there for a long time, Minister and we saw
the impact of having Rudd on the backbench. On the frontbench and backbench for
years after Julia Gillard, it was a destabilizing effect. Do you worry that
this might have the same effect?
Tony Abbott is someone who wants to make a positive
contribution to public life. Kevin Rudd is a unique individual and I don’t want
to speak ill of any former Prime Minister. But as I say, I take what Tony
Abbott says at face value.
Is it a distraction to have someone on the backbench,
a former Prime Minister as one person quoted in the paper in the Telegraph I
think today, calling him a standard bearer for the conservatives in your Party.
Is that a distraction for your Prime Minister?
Well I’m not
distracted and I don’t think Malcolm Turnbull will be distracted. It’s
incumbent upon every member of the team to focus on the goal. Which is to
present our case to the Australian people as we approach the next election. And
I’m sure that Tony Abbott will be part of that.
Given this has come at a time where there are bitter
preselection battles underway in New South Wales, is it going to stoke that
even further? That the recriminations out of the change of leadership.
whenever you have preselections opened up there’s always a range of public
commentary. Particularly the case in the wake of a redistribution. Which we’ve
had in New South Wales. The ordinary processes of the Party will take their
course, and regular transmission will be resumed.
Do you have any comments on some of those people who
are being mentioned here for possible challenge? Like Angus Taylor, Bronwyn
Bishop, Philip Ruddock? Any thoughts on any of those individuals, as to whether
or not they should or shouldn’t stay essentially?
I’m not in the business of commenting on any
particular preselection contests, but it’s incumbent upon each of us who are in
the Parliament to continually earn the trust, not only of the preselectors, but
also of the voters. In the Liberal Party, in contrast to Labor, we
don’t have trade unions directing delegates how to vote. Individuals make up
their own minds and that’s the process that will now follow.
We’ll now briefly move on to some other issues. On the
eve of Australia Day the seven of eight State and Territory leaders, signing a
declaration of support for a Republic. The only one that didn’t WA Premier
Collin Barnett is a republican anyway. What do you make of this? Will this
generate some new momentum towards this?
Kieran I’ve long been someone who wants to see an
Australian at the apex of our constitutional arrangements. In 1999 I thought
then that if the referendum didn’t succeed it would probably be the best part
of 10 or 20 years before the proposition was put again.
We are nearing that now aren’t we?
We are, we’re getting very close to two decades.
How quickly time passes. But my view is that this proposition won’t seriously
be re-examined for so long as the Queen is on the throne. So I think until that
time, what we see today is the annual pre Australia Day republic story.
But this adds a bit more gravitas to it doesn’t
it? This story, in the sense that you’ve got every State and Territory leader,
we know the Prime Minister’s view. But would he be reluctant to embrace this
right now given, it’s not a first order issue for most Australians and he, well
what we know is a first order issue for him is the tax reform and tax reform
argument and his re-election bid.
It’s not a priority for the Government. That's
absolutely true. And I don’t think there is any point in a government expending
energy on a proposition that doesn’t really stand any chance of success in the
near future. The circumstances need to be right. And I don’t think those
circumstances will present until after the Queen's reign is over.
You agree with the Prime Minister on
that. Let’s look at the issue of taxation. And the Treasurer yesterday,
late last week was talking about a tax mix switch. Yesterday reiterating his
priorities here, he’s not ruling anything out, but one thing he did seem to
indicate wasn’t on the table was a broadening of the base. Increasing
the rate, that was a most likely scenario. As someone who did work
for Peter Costello during that period of the introduction of the GST. Do you
think you need several months to prosecute the case? Whether there is a GST or
not, to prosecute a major tax argument?
need time to make the case for change. To explain to the public what’s wrong
with the system and what you propose to do to fix the system. What we want to
do is have a tax system that rewards effort. Unlike Labor, we’re not
looking at tax reform as a way of raising more revenue. That's not the
objective. But yes, you do need time. You do need months. The election isn’t
due until about September. So we will have time to put a case to the
Australian people. And any significant or substantive changes that we want to
make to the tax system, we will certainly take to the electorate. Because
it’s important to do that, it’s important to explain, it’s important to get the
mandate of the people.
you can’t make any announcements right now, and I don’t think any final
decision has been made. But given the lived experience of the consumption
tax, people have lived with it now for many years, do you think that that will
soften the difficulty, ease the difficulty for a government arguing any
increase or change?
you’re presuming a particular proposition as part of the tax reform. We haven’t
yet settled on what the elements of tax reform will be. You’ve heard Scott,
you’ve heard the PM say, we’re leaving things on the table. That's appropriate
because we want to have
a fully-fledged debate. Labor aren’t interested in
a fully-fledged debate. They just want to play politics with this.
They want to run scare campaigns even before there’s a proposition.
Yeah ok, and
as Communications Minister, the report today suggesting that you’re going to
cut the license fees for your air broadcasters. Can you take us through your
thinking on this? Is that going to happen?
interesting to look at the license fees that TV and radio pay. They were
introduced in the late 50’s. They were like the original super profits tax in
an environment where the only options for people were print, radio, or TV.
There was no other broadcast media, so TV and Radio were in a very strong and
dominant position. Obviously things have changed a heck of a lot since then.
There are larger ranges of media options for people. In recognition of the
changed landscape, in 2013 the license fees were cut in half. We’ve indicated to
both radio and TV that we’re prepared to examine license fees in the
context of the coming budget. And that’s what we’re doing.
current climate for them in terms of the commercial sense, what about the other
elements that you’re looking at? How soon can we expect changes to the
reach rule and other media reform?
I don’t want
to let the grass grow in terms of media reform. It's something that has been
debated for a long, long, long time. I’ve been in this gig for
about four months, I’m keen to bring something to the Parliament early
In the first
week or two?
Oh look, it
won’t be that soon. A bit of work to do before then. But, yes, I want to get on
thanks for your time I appreciate it.
Justine Sywak | 0448
448 487 | Justine.firstname.lastname@example.org