TRANSCRIPT - National Press Club Address
Q&As with Chris Uhlmann
16 March 2016
E & OE
have questioners waiting from the media to grill you. But I might start if I
I know you
alluded to the fact that your National Party colleagues have some concerns
about the effect of this on the regions and local content. They probably have
been through this many times before and aggregation held great promise for
them, and they saw over time what started well ended badly. So, is there any
way that you can ensure over time the local content is protected?
It’s entirely understandable that people who live in regional areas and
regional Members of Parliament get a bit edgy, a bit nervous, when you talk
about media reform. They fear that local newsrooms will close. They fear that
businesses will seek to do what they can to improve their bottom line.
I guess the
good news is that a lot of regional TV operations that are represented here
today, recognise that providing good local news services is actually good
business. So there are many media organisations who provide far in excess of
their licence requirements when it comes to local news content. So that’s the
first point. The second point is that numbers of regional TV operators say that
if they can get scale, if they can configure themselves in ways that best suit
them, then they will be in a better position to provide local content. So we’re
happy to take them at their word, and that’s why we’re introducing a new higher
baseline for local content.
Ok, our next
question is from the Adelaide Advertiser.
Gothe-Snape from the Adelaide Advertiser. Minister thank you for the address.
The analogy you used ‘the sinews and soul’ was particularly vivid. I’d like to
start with the question about the soul.
consider yourself an advocate for the Arts and can we therefore judge an
advocate for the Arts on how much funding that advocate can secure?
And on ‘the
sinew’ if a company like Telstra ultimately buys the NBN in a number of years,
how will history judge this project, particularly given your government will,
by then, have a very good opportunity to correct Labor’s so called ‘wrongs’?
well yes, I do consider myself to be a strong advocate for the Arts. The Arts
isn’t something that should be seen as a luxury. The Arts isn’t something that
should be seen as an extra. The Arts are core to who we are as a nation. They
are core to how we express ourselves and how we interpret our past and how we
look to the future. So the Arts are core business for government. But it’s not
just something for Government. Yes it’s appropriate that government provides
funding to support the Arts across the genres, but it is also important that
the Government money is used to leverage philanthropic, corporate and
individual dollars into the sector. So I don’t think an Arts Minister or a
government should be judged just on the quantum of money that government puts
in. But we do put significant dollars into support for the Arts.
to NBN you’re right, we inherited something that was extremely fraught,
something of the order of only 15 per cent of the previous government’s rollout
targets had been met. They spent about $6 billion reaching 2 per cent of the
population. We’ve taken a different approach, a technology agnostic approach to
use the mode that gets the NBN rolled out fasted and at lowest cost and the aim
is to have that rolled out by 2020.
issues of ownership, those matters can only be addressed once there are certain
legislative processes that have gone through. What my focus is on, isn’t what
ownership arrangements might be in the future. My focus is on getting the NBN rolled
out as quickly as we possibly can and at lowest cost. And why that’s important
is because some of the transforming economic effects of the NBN can only be
realised if everyone has it. It’s not going to be terribly transformative if
only a relatively small number of people have it. So that is why the focus is
getting it rolled out as soon as possible.
your speech Minister, Andrew Tillett from the West Australian. Can I ask you
about anti-siphoning. It’s the part of the media reform package that was left
off. You’ve said it’s something that might be revisited when there’s
Parliamentary support and greater community understanding. Do you intent to
revisit it in a second term of a Turnbull Government if you’re re-elected
whenever the election is held? And with it, what sports would you like to see
come off the list, do you have a personal opinion about that? I’m sure you’ll
keep Hawthorn games on it. And can you tell me too, it seems as a sports fan,
we have got a pretty good balance there already. We don’t want to end up with
an English situation where you can’t watch Premier League Soccer or the Ashes
for instance because that’s been snapped up by Pay-TV.
Thank you. I
guess firstly there are a number of misconceptions about the anti-siphoning
list. There’s probably a general view that the anti-siphoning list almost
mandates free-to-airs must acquire particular events. It doesn’t. There is
probably a view abroad that if free-to-airs purchase particular events, that
they are mandated to screen them, They’re not. There’s probably also not an
appreciation of the fact that there is nothing to stop the free-to-airs from
purchasing events and then just on-selling them to subscription TV. So
recognising that, I do acknowledge that the anti-siphoning list does provide a
degree of comfort to the community that the events they love will be available.
Free-to-air, to some extent for some of the sports, it’s a bit of an academic
exercise at the moment because NRL and ARL are locked up until the early
I take to media law in the broad is that it’s under constant review. I think
that’s got to be true of all media law. But I’ve made the point before that I
don’t think there’s a particularly good community understanding of the
anti-siphoning list at the moment. I think for there to be significant change
there would need to be a better appreciation of what it does do and what it
doesn’t do. And there would also need to be broad parliamentary support for
change and I don’t think those circumstances are presently there.
want roll yourself on the hand grenade of nominating sports that should or
shouldn’t be on the list?
Well each to
Shaw from 2CC Canberra. I note your remarks regarding strong and viable media
organisations very, very important and also you’re proprietor agnostic. Can I
just take you through some figures here? Foxtel has a 15 per cent stake in TEN,
NEWS last year acquired 15 per cent in APN and there is talk of NEWS Corp
buying Sky News. Now one happy billionaire, referring to angry billionaires
before he’s heading back from his honeymoon today, are you personally
comfortable with the steady expansion of the Murdoch Family interests in the
Australian Media? And particularly in the traditional Australian media arguably
a level of dominance not seen in any other western democracy, I’d like your
personal view on that? Secondly your colleague Ewan Jones, in an Arts Ministry
question, celebrated Australian music up at the Parliamentary Friends. And I
believe you were in a Cabinet Meeting so you were pretty busy. But Jimmy Barnes
from Cold Chisel made this remark. He said that musicians struggled for most of
their careers. In fact it’s a $15 billion Australian music industry, but you
know more than the bulk of those songwriters are earning less than $10,000 a
year. Do you support Ewan Jones’ call for Arts and Music or Music to be moved
into the Small Business portfolio and the innovation’s portfolio to be able to
help them develop their business? Arts is big business, your comments on that
you. Well when it comes to particular families who have been engaged in the
media industry, whether they be the Murdochs or the Packers, in times gone by,
or the Stokes I think they’ve been forces for good. They’ve run good
organisations. When it comes to the particular configurations of media
organisations in the country, as I say I’m fairly agnostic. But we do, even
after getting rid of ‘reach’, even after getting rid of ‘2 out of 3’, we still
do have a number of protections. As I said, we’ve got the ‘2 to a market’ rule
in relation to radio. We’ve got the ‘1 to a market’ rule in relation to TV and we’ve
got the ‘5/4 voices’ rule, 5 voices for metro areas, 4 for regional areas. In
addition to that, there is still the protections of the ACCC so I’m fairly
relaxed, I guess, is the point.
When it comes
to Australian music, I’d love to keep it in my portfolio. I was very annoyed
last night that Cabinet was scheduled for the time that Jimmy Barnes and Suze
DeMarchi were playing in the courtyard. The last time I saw Jimmy Barnes play
was at Cold Chisel’s “Last Stand Tour” in about 1984 at the Sydney Entertainment
Centre. I was overdue for my Barnsie fix, so I was very annoyed. But look, Ewan
Jones makes a good point. We’ve got to see the Arts, we’ve got to see
Australian Culture not just as something that is of inherent value, which the
Arts are, they have value in and of themselves. But that’s not inconsistent
with recognising that they are also an important part of the creative
industries. So we need to look broadly to see what we can do to help them be
competitive. I’m delighted to work with the Small Business Minister Kelly
O’Dwyer. And I’ll just make this point, when the innovation statement was
released some people said to me, why isn’t the Arts mentioned there. And the
answer to that is, well the Innovation Statement was the first word not the
last word on innovation and to be a truly innovative society, you’ve got to
recognise that the Arts are at the heart of helping create a culture that is
broad thinking. That supports and fosters creativity. That sort of creativity
feeds into a culture of innovation.
Just on that,
there was tax breaks given last year for some very big American movies that are
coming into the Gold Coast and that is a great thing any thought toward doing
the same thing for regionally based productions? Locally? And full disclosure
here I have been involved in one.
something that is often raised, the alignment of domestic supports and those
for foreign films. We do have some good supports for the domestic industry.
We’ve got some good supports for foreign ventures as well. And look that is an
area that I’d like to look at as a whole, as part of seeing what we can do to
foster a culture of innovation in the Arts.
the speech Minister. Matthew Knott from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
You’ve talked today about getting rid of outdated media restrictions. Well a
long bugbear in the Press Gallery has been that photographers can take a photo
of you here eating pork belly or at the Australian Open eating an ice cream but
they can’t take a photograph in the Senate of anything but people speaking.
They can’t take a photo of divisions of very important laws being passed, would
you support change to that and does the Government have any plans to amend
that? And secondly we saw another leak from the NBN overnight about the skinny
fast technology which could potentially replace fibre-to-the-node in some
areas. Now fibre-to-the-node has been a big part of the Government’s plan.
Would you support seeing that potentially be replaced if that’s what the NBN
sees as the best value for the long term?
Sure, well to
the first point in relation to photography in the Senate chamber. I’m with you
brother. President Meares has lobbied me relentlessly. It’s ultimately a matter
for the Senate chamber to determine, which means each of the Party Rooms of the
Coalition in the Senate and of the Opposition form a view. So my voice is just
one among the colleagues in the Senate Party Rooms. But I want the change
because I’m sick and tired of the House of Reps getting the front page pics of
Members of the House at historic moments doing interesting things! There is
just not that opportunity for us, so I think purely in the self-interest of
Senators that should change.
In terms of the
NBN, I mentioned in answer to an earlier question that we very much have taken
a technology agnostic approach to the NBN. Rolling out the technology in a
particular area that can see the NBN rolled out fastest and cheapest. And as a
result, that’s why we have fibre-to-the-node. It’s why we have HFC. It’s why we
have fixed wireless. It’s why we have satellite and there is still some
fibre-to-the-premises which was instigated by our predecessors. We think that’s
the right approach. The alternative is to see the NBN rolled out over a period
six to eight years longer and at a $30 billion extra cost. So we want it out
faster and cheaper. In relation to skinny fibre, there has been a trial of
what’s known as skinny fibre in a couple of locations. Skinny fibre in those
particular areas has resulted in about a 10 per cent reduction in cost of fibre
to the premise so that’s about $400 less. It costs about $4,500 per premise for
fibre-to-the-premises. Fibre-to-the-node is still about half that price in
terms of cost. Now skinny fibre could reduce the civil works cost in some
circumstances, so we’re not against skinny fibre. That’s why NBN is looking at
it. It’s not been a secret trial, as has been reported. In fact, it was
referred to by NBN in their half year results, so secret it is. So skinny fibre
could have application but not just to fibre-to-the-prem but could also have
application in parts for HFC and fibre-to-the-node. So we’re not averse to
doing things that will see lower cost. But for the Opposition to pretend that
somehow skinny fibre represents their dream of a low cost fibre to the prem is
not the case. The approach we’re taking is still the best way to roll it out
fast and cheaper. But if there is a good role for skinny fibre, hey we’re all
Moussalli from 2SM. As Arts Minister are you concerned by lockout laws in New
South Wales and Queensland given musicians say they’re struggling to make money
and it could result in live music venues closing?
fortunately I don’t have responsibility for liquor licencing laws but I’m
someone who tends towards freedom, who tends towards liberty. So that tends to
be my disposition. I do have some sympathy for the musicians.
thanks for the speech. Jethro Lyu from Inside Canberra. You mentioned a couple
of times about social media digital economic and our transitioning economy.
However in my opinion, it could be combined into one huge topic and I actually
think Australia is a little bit behind. In fact our social media and digital
economic actually relies on other countries applications - Facebook, eBay and
Alibaba and what is your view about it? And if you are re-elected this year
would you and the Government try to help this situation, to actually have our
own social media and digital strategy as a national policy?
I would love
for there to be Australian equivalents of Facebook who can grow, who can employ
people, that we can use them as consumers. I think that would be fabulous. No
doubt there are many businesses in their early stages who are aspiring to be
just that. Just because it hasn’t happened on that sort of scale as a Facebook,
doesn’t mean that just around the corner there is not a very bright Australian
with an idea, with a good plan, with particularly a funky title for their
business. Nothing to say that’s not around the corner and I hope it’s the case.
Sarah Martin from the Australian. I wanted to ask you about how your
negotiations are going with Crossbench and with Labor on the ‘2 out of 3 rule’.
You mentioned that you wanted to reform package passed in its entirety. If you
can’t get support for the ‘2 out of 3’ why not push ahead with the reach rule
and try your luck with the new Senate for the ‘2 out of 3’ rule?
discussions are going well. Firstly starting with the Opposition, with Jason
Clare, as you know he supports the removal of the reach rule. He has an open
mind when it comes to ‘2 out of 3’ and he would like to benefit from the Senate
Inquiry process to help inform his and the Caucus’ views. So I remain an
optimist. When you’re the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, you’ve
always got to be an optimist otherwise you go crazy. With the Crossbench, in my
discussions they recognise the need for change and again they have an open mind
and an open disposition when it comes to ‘2 out of 3’. So I’m never one who
wants to speak on behalf of Crossbenchers or do a tally of their number on
their behalf. But look, really if we can’t as a Parliament agree that both
‘reach’ and ‘2 out of 3’ are redundant, then I just don’t think as a Parliament
we’re really recognising the world that we live in. So I’m going to plough
ahead and endeavour to get rid of both ‘reach’ and ‘2 out of 3’ together.
Tony Melville Director of the National Press Club. Mark Scott put up some
interesting arguments about the ABC and SBS just here a few weeks ago and about
how they could basically merge. And some of the issues around the ABC having to
compete for sports and having to compete for the same news time with ABC and
SBS. Just wondering what your views are with that? And just on the NBN and
business, with Free Trade Agreements we often hear we have these great Free
Trade Agreements but nobody is making any use of it because they don’t
understand it or they don’t know how to use it. With the NBN is there sort of a
parallel there are you looking at how businesses can maybe be helped down the
track of making these great leaps that they will get when they get the NBN?
Thank you. On
ABC and SBS, I think SBS has a very distinct role, and I think one of the
reasons why have such a good bedrock of tolerance in Australia is because of
the work that SBS has done over the years. It’s been a subtle injection of
diversity and difference into the community, so I think it has an important
role to play. That’s not to say that there aren’t ways that SBS and ABC could
cooperate better. But SBS still has an important role.
In terms of
NBN, I think you’re right. Whenever we talk about NBN we tend to talk about the
means rather than the end. As though the means, the mechanics of the NBN is a
thing in and of itself. The NBN only has meaning and purpose in so far as it
can be of assistance to business. That it can better connect individuals. That’s
what we should be focusing on. And one of my criticisms of Stephen Conroy in
this portfolio is he was completely obsessed by the thing itself, rather than
what it could do. He really took a theological approach to the NBN. I think
there was a whole theology that he developed around the NBN which, in a sense,
was all very charming, but the NBN is all about what it can do for businesses
and what it can do for individuals.
Peter Phillips one of the Directors of the National Press Club. It’s great to
welcome you back here. I think it would be sort of almost remise of us not to
use the opportunity of your presence here and particularly not to use the
opportunity of your being a very, very Senior Minister and also you’re having
yet another hat relating to the Management of Government Business in your
chamber. It would be remise of us in those circumstances not to ask you whether
you might be able to give us some sort of insight into just sort of what’s
going on. And very particularly what’s likely to be going on, on or around the
3rd of May or 10th of May. And in asking that question, I won’t put on the
public record that I’m sort of struggling a bit at the moment finalising
bookings with some of the local hotels with whom we normally have very good
relations. In relation to planned visits to Canberra by very senior people who
have invitations to attend budget night functions, can you give us an insight?
Well one of the reasons why people really don’t know what’s happening in the
Senate is because we’re too often neglected in the Senate. We’re treated very
much as being “Off Broadway”. It’s a little bit different this week. We do, at
other times, our best to make the Senate and its processes as Medieval as
possible to keep people guessing.
Well I guess
the simple story of what’s happening this week, is we want once and for all,
Senate reform legislation through the Senate. We would have already achieved
that had Labor not filibustered both this week and the in the previous sitting
week. It also remains a priority for us to have the ABCC legislation debated.
Again that would have already been debated had Labor not kicked it off to a
Senate Committee and if Labor had not filibustered earlier the electoral
matters bill. So that’s where things are at today. In terms of the Budget.10th
So is there
any prospect that the ABCC bill could be debated again this week?
Reform Legislation will take all of the regular time this week and also the
additional hours that the Senate has agreed to. If I had to hazzard a guess I’d
say that the Senate Reform Legislation would probably come to a vote maybe
sometime around 3am Friday morning. But that’s all dependent on our colleagues
and how many of them wish to make a contribution. So I’d anticipate that the
ABCC bill will be addressed in budget week.
on the media reforms in South Australia. The regional commercial television
stations, if there was a trigger event would have to meet local content
requirements for the first time, that requirement is as little as 20 minutes of
local news per week. Those stations already provide about 10 minutes per week
in partnership with local newspapers, meaning that this requirement is very
minimal and unlikely to produce any local journalism jobs. Could you comment
about those requirements? There has been some criticisms about those reforms
suggesting that really it’s only the local members who are going to walk to
these TV stations and give them a chance to get their head on TV. Is that the
No, no I’m
sure that’s not the case. Local communities really do value the news that’s
produced locally. They also value the local ads. It gives a sense of community.
It reinforces a sense of locality. So I don’t think we should underestimate the
importance of local news services to the communities that they serve. You’re
right, part of the package that we’re putting forward is that for the first
time in major population centres in non-aggregated markets, there will be a
baseline requirements of 360 points over a 6 week period. Points are in effect
a proxy for minutes of content. Now you’re right in some of those
non-aggregated major population centres there are broadcasters who do provide
some local content, but there would be nothing to stop that local content being
removed. What we’re proposing is that after a trigger event that new baseline
would come into place and that is a protection to ensure that there does remain
some local content in those areas. But recognising that there are some
broadcasters who already provide local content.
up from Peter’s question. Can you just tell us what your understanding is of
the Senates power to come back early May 3 if the House does that for the
Budget? And secondly if we are to have a Double Dissolution election for July
2, obviously you’re familiar that it would need to be called on May 11. Is it
reasonable that, is it appropriate that the appropriations bills get dealt with
in one day of debate?
I’m going to disappoint you because to address some of your questions I’d have
to accept the hypothesis on which they’re based. And I’m won’t do that because
as Manager of Government Business in the Senate I’ve always taken the approach
to take things one day at a time.
question on that. It is not necessary to recall the Senate in order to have a
budget in the Lower House is it?
Well I can’t
argue with you that the Budget is introduced into the House.
Canberrans love our national institutions. The National Library, Old Parliament
House and yet we’re seeing funding cut backs on National Library. Are we
getting to a point where all Australians need to take responsibility for the
national institutions here in Canberra and start paying as you go? So much of
it is free. We love that here in Canberra but what are your thoughts on
visitors kicking in, kicking the tin, your thoughts?
there are particular exhibitions at some of the national collecting
institutions there is already a charge for those particular events. I think
it’s important that general admission, if you like, to the institutions remains
as it is.
though, in the Parliamentary Triangle. That money goes into consolidated
revenue. Can you imagine anywhere else in Australia where someone who
represented Brisbane or Townsville. Would allow that money to go off to the
rest of the country without being perhaps dedicated back to those national
Does it go
into the Commonwealth’s consolidated revenue or the ACT Governments
Parliamentary Triangle it’s the National Capital Authority.
we don’t want to let the Presiding Officers know about that, they might want to
get their hands on it.
please thank the Minister. Just looking around the room today, you’ve achieved
something at least as I notice that News Corp and the ABC are sitting at the
same table. So the lion has laid down with the lamb. We can’t let you go
without giving you another membership of the National Press Club of Australia,
hope that you will return soon. Hey in 1987 we used to call this a book. This
one has been written by Steve Lewis. It’s on some of the great speeches given
over the last 50 years given at the National Press Club, thank you very much.