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

CONTACT SENATOR FIFIELD

Click here to email me

Electorate Office
42 Florence Street
MENTONE VIC 3194

Phone: 03 9584 2455
Phone Toll Free
(Vic only): 1300 797 110

Parliament House Office
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6277 7480




Media Releases

Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield

TRANSCRIPT - Sky News

The Latest with Laura Jayes


2 March 2016

7.35pm


E & OE

Subjects: National security, media reform, nbn


JAYES:

Joining me now is Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, also Cabinet Minister. Mitch Fifield, how serious is this leak in your eyes?

FIFIELD:

The leaking of any classified material is always serious. It’s important that governments, regardless of persuasion, can have confidential deliberations, particularly on issues of defence and national security. And it’s entirely appropriate that the Secretary of the Department of Defence has initiated an inquiry.

JAYES:

This leak has obviously done some damage to Malcolm Turnbull and his position, at least perhaps have the aim of doing that. What do we take from this? What is the public take from this leak? Is it all happy families inside the Coalition at the moment? Or is it still a problem with a leader and a former leader?  

FIFIELD:

Obviously anyone who releases classified information isn’t trying to be helpful. And I think the Defence Minister made it very clear today that it has been the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force, of the Secretary of Defence that has been accepted in relation to the submarines in the white paper. We are a good and a cohesive team. We don’t know where this particular leak came from. That’s why it’s important to have an inquiry.

JAYES:

Is it sustainable – and this will be my last question Minister, because I did get you on to talk about media reforms – is it sustainable that you do have former Prime Minister in Tony Abbott really running his conservative agenda on different issues? He’s rightly doing it inside the Party Room at times but also there is comments in newspapers.

FIFIELD:

I think former leaders of the Party and former Prime Ministers have a right to make comment. I think John Howard is the model for former Prime Ministers and former leaders as to the manner in which they should engage in debate.

JAYES:

But he bowed out of politics, Tony Abbott’s still on the backbench.

FIFIELD:

I still think that there are particular rights which former leaders and Prime Ministers have, but also particular responsibilities.

JAYES:

Okay, media reform Mitch Fifield. This is a package that I think has been a long time coming. You’d agree with that, even Labor agrees with that. What is the process going forward here? How does the inquiry? Or how will the inquiry be conducted? How long is it likely to take?

FIFIELD:

Legislation has been introduced into the House of Representatives. What’s known as the Senate Selection of Bills Committee has met and that will be referring the legislation to the Senate Communications and Environment Committee for inquiry. It will be an inquiry that will go for probably six weeks or there abouts. So that’s important. When you have legislation of this nature it’s appropriate that the various interested parties have the opportunity to comment on the legislation. And it’ll be a good process.

JAYES:

So there will be public submissions as well I imagine? There seems to be on the fringes some concerns about mergers that might be in the works. News Corp and the Murdoch empires control over media is often cited. But this could have a beneficial impact, couldn’t it? To the likes of Fairfax for example?

FIFIELD:

Well the whole objective in the getting rid of the 75% audience reach rule and the 2 out of 3 rule is to make sure that our media laws reflect the world we live in. Now these rules were basically created in an analogue era, where the options really were print, radio or TV. We have an incredible array of new sources that are now available online. I know that there are some people who are expressing concern about possible loss of diversity, but I think we’ve never had a wider range of sources for news. Also, we’ve kept in place what is known as the ‘5/4’ rule, which ensures five media voices in metropolitan areas and four media voices in regional areas. We’ve kept the one in a market rule in relation to TV markets. And we’ve kept the ‘2 in-a-market’ rule in relation to the radio markets. But the greatest thing that will support diversity is making sure we have good and strong and viable media organisations in Australia. And that’s what removing these laws is designed to do.

JAYES:

So if this legislation passes, there are still provisions in there to retain diversity, but is it largely going to be left up to market forces to ensuring that diversity?

FIFIELD:

Well it will be up to consumers and technology. Consumers have never had more options. Technology is making more options available to them. So it’s going to consumer choice that will drive diversity. And look, we should let media organisations configure themselves in the way that best suits their business model and let that puts them in a position to be strong and viable.

JAYES:

On anti-siphoning, you say that this list is evolving. Things are always coming on, coming off it. Is this really a missed opportunity, isn’t it? Because there are some things on that list, and are we in a situation where free to air networks get the first bite at the cherry but a lot of these football and cricket games end up on pay TV anyway because they’re on-sold or on divvied out. Why don’t you just cut out the middle man in some of these cases?

FIFIELD:

Well, you’re right. There are many events that are on the list that end up with subscription TV. There is nothing to compel free to air networks from purchasing these events and there is nothing to stop them from on-selling these events to pay TV. So you are right about that. There are events that have come on to the list over time and events that have come off the list over time. But I think, if there is to be change in the future to the anti-siphoning list in a substantial way then I think there’d need to be a good community understanding of what the anti-siphoning list does and doesn’t do and there would also need to be broad parliamentary support. Those circumstances aren’t there at the moment and it’s not part of our package.

JAYES:

So you’re not ruling it out, but you’re saying you might revisit it down the track?

FIFIELD:

Well, look I think the circumstances that would need to be there are broad parliamentary support, and good community understanding as to how the anti-siphoning list works. And those circumstances aren’t there.

JAYES:

Just finally on the nbn as well. We saw that leak to that report. There has been lots of commentary around this. When it comes down to it Mitch Fifield, looking at the figures that were put forward at the 2013 election, the government hasn’t kept any of those.

FIFIELD:

Well we did have in 2013 before the election some targets, based on what was available to us as an opposition. When we came into the office, we realised that the situation with the nbn was even worse than we had suspected.

JAYES:

But you’re constantly moving the targets. You’re moving them on a yearly basis to suit your political agenda.

FIFIELD:

We’re not. The good news is for the last six quarters the nbn has hit every significant milestone. We now have 1.8 million premises who can access the nbn. We have about 820,000 premises who’ve taken up the opportunity to do that. The nbn is on track this year to have 2.6 million premises available to access the nbn. And they’re on track to have around one million subscribers this year. So, nbn is meeting its targets. Our predecessors, they only hit 15% of their rollout targets. So, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. And we’ve hit our marks and our predecessors didn’t. 

JAYES:

It’s costing you almost $60 billion though. Is there are a part of you that perhaps thinks that the Coalition should’ve just rolled out fibre to the home rather than fibre to the node.

FIFIELD:

Well, $49 billion is the prediction for peak funding.

JAYES:

That’s $10 billion less than Labor’s plan.

FIFIELD:

Well the commonwealth equity is capped under us at $29.5 billion. But if we had embarked upon a full fibre option then the nbn would be taking six to eight years extra to rollout and it would cost about $30 billion more. Unlike Stephen Conroy, we’re not taking the theological approach to the nbn. We’re taking a technological approach. We’re not wedded to a particular solution. We’ve got what’s called the multi-technology mix, which means that whatever is the technology that will see the nbn rolled out fastest and at lowest cost that’s what will be pursued in a particular area.

JAYES:

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, thanks so much for your time.

FIFIELD:

Thanks so much Laura.

 

[ends]