PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
29 November 2016
E & OE
For more on
this I’m joined by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Mitch
Fifield. Senator Fifield good morning.
negotiations over the ABCC are, they’re moving slowly, to say the least. As we
heard the Senate sat late last night, when do you expect this will come to a
that’s in the hands of the Senate Chamber itself. But we’re working hard to
secure the support of the Crossbench. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation have
indicated that they will support the package. David Leyonhjelm has indicated
that he will as well, and discussions with the other groupings are continuing.
But I’ve got to
say Michaelia Cash is doing a sensational job. She’s absolutely focused on the
objective here, which is to ensure that Australia’s building sites are as
productive as they can be.
No one likes to
hear this least of all Senators who are sitting late into the night, but
presumably there is a mechanism for you to extend the sitting after Thursday if
you need to?
Well, in terms
of hours in the Senate everything is in the hands of the Chamber itself. We
don’t have a majority in our own right so extending the hours is something we
look to other groupings in the parliament. The Crossbench have accepted and
recognised that management of the Senate is a shared responsibility of all
Senators when the Government of the day doesn’t have a majority. And they’ve demonstrated
that last night providing the Senate with the opportunity to conclude the
second reading debate.
still working through the details essentially with Nick Xenophon and the Nick
Xenophon Team. I know Derryn Hinch is also involved in this, but Nick Xenophon
seems to be the sticking point, in particular his demands for more water for
South Australia. Now are you getting closer?
Well, look we are
absolutely committed to the Murray Darling Basin Plan to delivering it in full
and on time.
He worries you’re
not committed in the way that he thinks you should be though.
Minister has made it crystal clear. We are committed. We continue discussions
with Senator Xenophon and his team on a range of amendments. But we’re focused
on securing this important legislation. As I say, Australian building and
construction sites are an important part of our economy. They can be, from time
to time, lawless. There can be thuggery, and there can be coercion. It’s
important that we have a cop on the beat who can ensure that people can work in
safety, can work without intimidation and this important part of the economy
can be productive.
Sure, water is
an important part of the South Australian economy too. And Nick Xenophon was on
the program yesterday saying he was taken by surprise when Barnaby Joyce last
week announced that in fact they weren’t going to release quite as much water
and there would be more water for the north of the system and less water for
the south of the system. Did it surprise you? Did it surprise the Cabinet that
Barnaby Joyce announced this and if not, what’s going on?
Government is absolutely committed to the plan. Delivering it on time and in
But it’s not,
it’s not the plan that Nick Xenophon believed was coming…
There has been
no change. There has been no change to the plan.
So the less
water, the more water for the north not releasing as much water in the north is
not a change to the plan?
There has been
no change to the plan.
thinks there has been a change, you say there hasn’t been a change.
hasn’t been a change to the plan…
not convinced of that…
The Cabinet is
as one on that. The Prime Minister has made that clear.
All right, the
Government has also agreed during these negotiations to a demand from David Leyonhjelm
for the ABC and the SBS to hold regular community forums alongside their board
meetings. Now you’re the Communications Minister how do you envisage that
Well, look I
think this is a good thing. Whether you’re a Member of Parliament in public
life, whether you work for a public agency such as the ABC, you can always do
more and should always do more to connect with the community. So the
proposition that David Leyonhjelm has put forward, which we’ve accepted, is
that after at least half of the ABC’s full board meetings, there will be an
open community forum where the board can hear feedback from the community and where
the community can get a better understanding as to how the ABC works. I think
that’s a good thing. David Leyonhjelm has also asked, and we’ve agreed, that at
least two of those full board meetings be held in regional Australia. And
that’s not just for the ABC that’s also for SBS.
The Boards will
hear feedback from the community but are they bound to act on that? And if
they’re not, are they bound to act on criticisms and if they’re not what’s the
point of it?
The ABC as you
well know Michael, has statutory independence in terms of their editorial, in
terms of their programing. Nothing effects that. But I know that the ABC board
would value this opportunity to hear direct from members of the public. It’s
good for all of us to get out and about. I know that you and this program
regularly get out and about in regional Australia, talk to people in a range of
different communities. It’s a good thing for you. That’s a good thing for this
program. And it should be no less so the case for the Board of the ABC and SBS.
criticism seems to be that, well the point of this as far as he’s concerned
seems to be that he thinks the ABC in particular, perhaps SBS as well are out
of touch with their audience, do you think so?
got to work hard to make sure that you stay in touch. Whether you’re a Member
of Parliament. Whether you’re a broadcaster. Whether you’re a board member of
the ABC. This is a new mechanism to provide that opportunity. I think it’s a
good thing. I think the board will appreciate it and the community will
Fifield, we’ll leave it there, thanks very much for joining us.