TRANSCRIPT - ABC News Breakfast with Paul Kennedy > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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Senator The Hon Mitch Fifield

TRANSCRIPT - ABC News Breakfast with Paul Kennedy

8.10am
30 March 2016





E & OE

KENNEDY:

Now to Federal Politics and the Governments shake up on media ownership laws among other things and joining us in the studio is the Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield. Thanks very much for your time Senator. 

FIFIELD:

Good to be here Paul. 

KENNEDY:

Now before I ask you about media reform. Just want to talk about these crossbenchers and negotiations with a double dissolution looking even more likely on July 2. John Madigan was on the program just a short time ago. Totally has ruled out anything short of a national ICAC. Does that mean with Senators Madigan, Lazuras and Lambie ruling out any further negotiations that July 2 is a lock?

FIFIELD:

We would love to get the ABCC legislation through the Parliament. We took the proposition of re-establishing the building and construction commission to the last election, because it’s important to have a cop on the beat. It’s important to have the rule of law on building sites. It’s important to make sure that we have a productive building sector. So nothing could have been clearer at the last election. We’ve made it clear that we want the Parliament to have the opportunity to address this. Unfortunately Labor have been filibustering a lot of bills in the Senate. So we've recalled the Parliament so that they can address this issue in the Senate once and for all. And obviously we don't have the numbers in our own right in the Senate. If this is to get through, we need 6 out of the 8 cross-benchers. And I hope that the cross-bench senators will respect the fact that we're dealing with them in good faith. We will entertain amendments but they can't be amendments that fundamentally weaken the ABCC, that undermine its intent or that go fundamentally beyond what the purpose of the ABCC is.

KENNEDY:

The game is over though now. If you can't get one of those three that I mentioned. So we will be heading to a double dissolution?

FIFIELD:

Well, there are 8 cross-bench senators and…

KENNEDY:

You need one of those, though don't you? That’s the numbers?

FIFIELD:

We need 6 of the 8 in whatever combination. And if a cross-bench senator has a proposition that they want to put forward by way of an amendment, then obviously they would need to be able to indicate that they had the support of 5 of their colleagues otherwise it wouldn't be a proposition that we could consider. We need the ABCC. We're giving the Senate the opportunity to give it the thumbs up. If the Senate doesn't give it the thumbs up, then there is a constitutional mechanism for this impasse to be broken.

KENNEDY:

And you say you're negotiating in good faith. Senator Madigan has repeated what Senator Lazarus has told us that, that no-one from the Prime Minister’s office has visited at least in a month and in John Madigan's case a couple of months. What do you make of the Prime Minister’s subcontracting, as it were, Bob Day to bring in the votes? Is that serious?

FIFIELD:

Michaelia Cash has been in constant contact with the crossbench. This is her portfolio. She's the lead in this area. But look, I think the Prime Minister, in relation to Bob Day, was simply making a couple of obvious points. One is, that Bob has spent a lifetime in the building sector building homes, employing people. He understands what's required in this sector. And the PM was simply pointing out that Bob gets it, and that Bob therefore could be a good resource for his crossbench colleagues. And that as Bob supports this legislation, then it would be great if Bob could talk to his colleagues and could persuade them of the merits of this legislation. We hope the crossbench see the merits of the legislation that we're putting forward, but ultimately if they don't, there is a mechanism to address the impasse. But our clear preference is that the legislation is passed.

KENNEDY:

From what I can tell, all of those cross-benchers see the merit in a corruption watchdog but they say it should be broader, it should be a national ICAC style. What's wrong with that?

FIFIELD:

That's a separate issue. There could be arguments for, there could be arguments against.

KENNEDY:

What's wrong with it though? Do you like that idea?

FIFIELD:

It's up to anyone to make the case if they think there should be other law enforcement or anticorruption bodies. But that's a separate issue. We have a proposition before the Parliament which is for an Australian Building and Construction Commission. That should be looked at on its merits. If colleagues want to debate the merits or otherwise of another body that's a separate issue.

KENNEDY:

I also asked John Madigan this morning whether or not the style of the Government has changed since the PM Malcolm Turnbull took over. He said not markedly was his comment on that. What would you like to see Tony Abbott's role be during the election campaign?

FIFIELD:

Tony Abbott has indicated that he wants to continue as the member for Warringah so he will be putting himself forward to his constituents.

KENNEDY:

Would you like to see him go broader, further afield and travel around to different electorates, as he said he's open to do?

FIFIELD:

All colleagues seek to make the contribution that they think can help the Government to be re-elected. And I'd expect that Tony Abbott would do what every backbencher does, look for opportunities to make a contribution.

KENNEDY:

Not every backbencher would go around Australia and visit other electorates.

FIFIELD:

It's up to each individual how they think they can best make a contribution.

KENNEDY:

Would he improve your chance of election?

FIFIELD:

Every member of the team needs to be focussed on the message that we have which is that we are the best party, we are the best two parties, Liberal and National in coalition, to address the issue of a transitioning economy.

KENNEDY:

Let's talk about media reform. You're going to be giving a speech today at the Melbourne Press Club. Nothing new to reveal in any proposed media reforms? You did outline what you planned to do some weeks ago.

FIFIELD:

We want to get rid of what's known as the 75 per cent audience reach rule and the two out of three rule. They're rules that wouldn't mean a lot to most people who would tune in to various sources of media. But what those particular rules do is constrain media organisations from configuring themselves in the way that best suits them. These two rules don't recognise the fact that the Internet exists. They were crafted in an analogue era for an analogue era. So this is something we want to get through the Parliament. The Opposition have indicated that they will support the repeal of the 75 per cent audience reach rule. They have an open mind on the two out of three rule and I would encourage them to see this as a package and to support it.

KENNEDY:

And what's the timing of that now? Are you going to be crunched by an early election?

FIFIELD:

Well, we don't yet know when the election will be but the legislation…

KENNEDY:

Going on July 2, what's the media reform schedule?

FIFIELD:

Look, I take things one day at a time as both a Minister and as Manager of Government Business in the Senate. The legislation has been referred by the Senate to its communications committee and it will be reporting back in the week of 12 May.

KENNEDY:

What's been the reaction privately to your decision not to touch the anti-siphoning rules for now, that is protecting the viewers' right to watch a lot of sport on free to air?

FIFIELD:

I know you're a huge sports fan Paul, and Australians, I think, understandably want a degree of comfort that the events that they know and love will be available free to air. While the anti-siphoning list is not an absolute guarantee, it does provide a degree of comfort. We're not putting forward in this package of reforms, changes to that. I think if there were to be changes in the future, there would need to be, I think, a better community understanding of what the anti-siphoning list does and doesn't do. But also there would need to be broad parliamentary support. And those conditions aren't there.

KENNEDY:

A whole bunch of sport lovers in Parliament as well. And just finally, not to be self-interested, but ABC cuts. I suspect you watched our outgoing boss give an interview a couple of days ago saying that if there were to be further cuts to the ABC then jobs would be lost in the area of maybe - certainly in news journalism, but maybe in the regions as well. So just part of the negotiations? You take his comments aboard?

FIFIELD:

Well, I always take a close look at the comments of Mark Scott and should acknowledge he's coming up to the end of 10 years of contribution as head of the organisation. We are approaching the next triennium funding agreement. That will be looked at in the context of the budget so I can’t give you an idea of the dollars themselves. But I can provide the assurance that the Government will make sure that the ABC is well resourced to do the job it does.

KENNEDY:

We'll wait and see what you come up with. Thanks very much Senator Fifield

FIFIELD:

Thanks Paul.

 [ends]

Media contact: Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.Sywak@communications.gov.au