2016 ACOMMs Awards > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria


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Wednesday 20 July 2016

E & OE


It’s great to be back in the Communications portfolio.

There’s always a little bit of nervousness while you wait for the call from the Prime Minister after an election. And my staff were trying to work out how to know when I’d got the call. They decided if they heard Joy Division coming from my office that they were stuffed. If they heard the Pet Shop Boys, all was well. So Pet Shop Boys it was.

Thanks so much for having me here with you tonight. It’s particularly exciting to be here, as this is my first ACOMMs Awards. The ACCOMs have been described to me as the Academy Awards of the Australian telecoms industry. But as I looked at the behaviour earlier I think it’s more Logies than Oscars. Which I guess makes our hosts John Stanton and Graeme Lynch the Karl and Lisa of the ACCOM’s. I’ll leave it to them to work out which is which.

It’s also great to be here with the Comms Alliance Chair and former Minister Michael Lee. Can I say it’s always great to see people who have served the nation in high office giving back to public policy.

But I must confess Michael, I do have a little difficulty reconciling the man I see before me tonight with the person who was undoubtedly the funkiest and coolest Minister in the Keating Government. Handsome. Debonair. Eligible batchelor. At every opening night. Dating Mimi MacPherson. Michael, what happened? I can only put it down to the ravages of the Communications portfolio.

Welcome also to my ministerial colleague, Paul Fletcher, an old boy of this portfolio. You’ve probably all noticed. Paul is so smooth. He’s so metropolitan. So I should advise you that there was an error at Government House yesterday with the swearing in of Paul as the Minister for Urban Infrastructure. There was a typo in Paul’s Commission. Paul was meant to be sworn in as the Minister for Urbane Infrastructure.

Welcome also to my parliamentary colleagues, Jason Clare and Ed Husic. No-one could hope for a more decent shadow than Jason Clare. Along with Ed Husic, he’s one of the really nice guys of the Parliament.

But it’s taken Jason some practice to become the well-rounded politician we know and love. We all need mentors. Jason has Bob Carr as one of his. In fact Bob was Jason’s voice coach. He taught him everything about projection and dropping the voice an octave or two. The deeper the voice, the more serious the issue.

But Jason. Please. Please. Promise you’ll draw the line at the Carr voice. I’m going to worry if you start talking about a desire for “steel-cut oats” or for “a concave abdomen defined by deep cut obliques”. Those who are familiar with the Bob Carr diaries will know what I’m referring to.

And just a quick NBN rollout update for Jason: in your electorate of Blaxland there are now 19,000 premises ready-for-service and 13,000 premises with an active NBN service. That’s up from a grand total of 7 premises at the time our good friend Stephen Conroy left office.

And I convey apologies from Stephen Conroy tonight. He and Mike Quigley are in a dark room together somewhere rocking backwards and forwards. Mike. Stephen. If you’re tuned in.  Some advice. Just let go…

And Ed. I shouldn’t neglect you. In Chifley there are now 25,000 premises ready-for service and 18,000 premises with an active NBN connection. Up from 80 premises at the time of the 2013 election.

It’s also great to have NBN Chairman Ziggy Switkowski here with us as well. We all know Ziggy kept a low profile over the campaign. Okay, to be fair. Ziggy did take those dusty old caretaker conventions out for a bit of a spin. Followed closely by Martin Parkinson channelling a bit of Borat telling Ziggy, “Naughty naughty!”

It’s also great to have Julia Zemiro here as MC for the evening. Julia is multi-talented. She’s an Australian media icon. But for me Julia is Eurovision. And given the national significance of Eurovision, particularly in the wake of Dami, I can tonight announce, with apologies to Foxtel, that Eurovision will be added to the anti-siphoning list.

Now I know over the election period you’ve all been worried about me. Which is why I was a bit surprised that my phone didn’t ring. At first I put that down to a Telstra outage. Hey, don’t you laugh Voda!

Then I thought maybe I’d lost my new telecoms friends, that stakeholders were perhaps hedging their bets. But I realised, you just thought I was very busy campaigning and didn’t want to bother me. So thank you.

Now a number of you will have read speculation that the Nationals may have had an interest in the Communications portfolio. I can assure you. Not true.

And there’s no truth to the rumour that the Nationals wanted to re-nationalise Telstra and change its name back to the Postmaster General’s Department.

I mean. As if! What sort of Government would establish a 100% government-owned telecoms monopoly in this day and age?

But I can share with you a few Nationals asks from the top-secret Coalition agreement.

  • The headquarters of the ABC will move to Tamworth


  • Fran Kelly and Patricia Karvelas will now host a dedicated country and western radio station - the soon to be re-branded ‘Radio Nationals’

  • The job of ABC Managing Director will become a job-share between Michelle Guthrie and ‘Australia All Overs’ Macca. She’ll do the day shift and he’ll do the night shift.

Finally, and not related to the Coalition agreement. At the urging of the Treasurer the headquarters of the SBS will be relocated to its natural home in the Sutherland Shire.

But it has indeed been something of a watershed year for regional telecommunications.

The Mobile Black Spot Programme is now rolling out at a pace, and is already up to its third funding round. The first two rounds focussed on improving mobile coverage for safety and emergency services. But Round 3 will focus on improving coverage in areas where it is too difficult to catch Pokemon.

Also, it was good that NBN’s Skymuster satellite didn’t blow up on launch. The experts at NBN tell me that one of the greatest risks to a satellite exploding on launch is a leak - from the fuel tank.

Let’s face it. NBN should know a thing or two about leaks causing major blow-ups.

Which reminds me, I should formally advise that the exits here tonight have been locked. At the conclusion of this evening there will be AFP officers at the exits there and there. Nothing to worry about. Just a quick search and a few questions. 

And while we’re on the election, wasn’t it a great windfall opportunity for the communications sector? There’s never a more exciting time to be a telco than at election time. It’s good for business. Revenue coming in from all those millions of Mediscare robocalls to old ladies late at night. Not to mention a million fake Medicare text messages. Such is Labor’s commitment to telco profits…

And for the Coalition’s part, we didn’t neglect the Commercial Broadcasters with a windfall from TV ads with fake tradies that turned out to be real tradies.

In fact, in my other portfolio, the creative sector even ran its own political party, called the Arts Party. If the Arts sector and the Trade Union movement can have their own political wings, why can’t the Communications sector?  You’ve got a mighty arsenal at your disposal. You can scare whoever you want with your legion of call centre staff. And if you don’t like what your opponents are saying via your network, you can engineer an “unexpected service outage”.

Perhaps you’re beginning to understand why we’re so keen to have the NBN rolled out to 95% of all premises by the next election. The plan is, if it looks like we’re losing, I’ll be able to call Bill Morrow and tell him to switch it off.

And of course, one of the key changes we’re all hoping for by the next election is electronic voting. It actually might have been possible this election, if only our frugal telco operators had been prepared to fork out for the CVC.

Putting the jokes aside, now that the new ministry has been announced, I’m looking forward to working with you over the next three years.

I also want to take the opportunity to congratulate all of the companies and individuals shortlisted for tonight’s ACOMMs awards.

Everybody here should be very proud of what this industry has achieved over the past year. There are some great projects amongst the finalists for the awards, including the new award category of the ‘Internet of Things Innovator’.

I’d also like to give a special mention to the finalists for the Community Contribution category, one of which is the Telco Together Foundation. As I have said before, as a former social services minister I want to applaud organisations like the Telco Together Foundation that support people who face extra challenges for reasons often beyond their control.

I’lI invite the Foundation’s Chair, Vaughan Bowen, to the stage. And while Vaughan is coming up, it’s worth noting that the Foundation hit a major milestone this year. After launching four years ago at the 2012 ACOMM Awards, the Telco Together Foundation has now raised more than $1.3 million for disadvantaged communities around Australia.This was only possible through the generous support of the people in the industry, including the 22 member companies supporting the Foundation's’ work.

Over the past year, the Foundation launched an SMS Donations Pilot Program. This enables users to donate to Australia's top charities via SMS. It's a great example of how technology can be used to support the not-for-profit sector and raise much-needed funds for worthy causes.

Vaughan, I’d like to present you with this letter of endorsement recognising the Telco Together Foundation’s work as the charitable foundation of the telecoms industry. As Minister, I’m very pleased to see the overwhelming support that the Foundation has received from the industry, and to see the great work the Foundation is doing to help those in need.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the Foundation’s work, and also congratulations to the Foundation’s CEO Renee Bowker for all that you’ve achieved.

Thank you.


Keep that applause going!

Are you going to take your picture with you, Mitch?


I’ll take my picture and go, and can I say in the words of Duran Duran: “I’m hungry like the wolf”.


Mitch, first concert you went to?


It was Dire Straits, 1981. I was about 14 or 15; and it was at the now demolished Regent Theatre, here in Sydney. And, the support act was called Paul Kelly and the Dots.


We will then clap for that concert, that’s pretty good. And now you’re the Minister for the Arts?!




I hope you do a policy in that.


We have a policy. It’s $2.6 billion over the next four years.


Great! Can’t wait to see it. And also I must point out Mitch, this is very exciting. The last time I hosted this two years ago, Malcolm Turnbull was the Minister for Communications, and we had a photo. Hopefully someone can take one of us now in a minute, just here. We had a photo together, gee I cherish it, and look what happened to him! He became the bloody Prime Minister. So, play your cards right, get your photo taken just here, like this – yeah great, he was quite happy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mitch Fifield.