774 ABC MELBOURNE DRIVE WITH RAF EPSTEIN > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

CONTACT SENATOR FIFIELD

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Electorate Office
42 Florence Street
MENTONE VIC 3194

Phone: 03 9584 2455
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(Vic only): 1300 797 110
Fax: 03 9584 8347

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Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Phone: 02 6277 7480




06-February-2017

 

DRIVE WITH RAF EPSTEIN
774 ABC MELBOURNE
4:10PM AEDT
6 February 2017

E & OE

 

EPSTEIN:

The man who will need to negotiate with someone who was once a colleague and now be on the crossbench. He’s the Liberal Senator for Victoria, he’s the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, he’s also the Minister for Communications, which includes the ABC, Mitch Fifield, good afternoon.

FIFIELD:

Good afternoon Raf.

EPSTEIN:

Is the Prime Minister worried about a split, are you worried?

FIFIELD:

I’m not going to be terribly illuminating unfortunately Raf. We don’t know what the circumstance is. All I can give you is the facts as I know, which is Cory Bernardi, who is a good friend of mine, was elected at the last election for a six year term as a Liberal Senator to represent the state of South Australia. And that’s where things sit.

EPSTEIN:

Is it false advertising if he ran on the Liberal banner and leaves it so quickly?

FIFIELD:

All of us who stand for public office with a political party do so with the support of that party and do so with the brand and banner of that party. And there’s clearly an expectation that you will fulfil that elected mandate.

EPSTEIN:

And if he doesn’t, is that a problem?

FIFIELD:

Look, you’re speculating. I’m speculating. Obviously I’ve seen the news reports which are themselves speculation. So I can’t add because you don’t know, and I don’t know, what the circumstance is.

EPSTEIN:

When did you last speak to Cory Bernardi?

FIFIELD:

Oh look, I speak to Cory often, he’s a good friend of mine. He’s never given any indication to me that he intends to do other than serve as a Liberal Senator.

EPSTEIN:

I’m presuming you haven’t spoken to him in the last week or so because he seems to have given every journalist in Canberra that indication.

FIFIELD:

Well, look. I’d be speculating. You’d be speculating. Cory is a Liberal Senator and was elected a Liberal Senator.

EPSTEIN:

One more speculation: would it change the direction of the Government? Policy wise?

FIFIELD:

We’re focussed on our legislative agenda. We’ve got parliament resuming tomorrow. We’ve got a lot on our plate. We want to legislate the company tax cuts which are important to help boost growth in Australia. We want to legislate an independent authority to oversee parliamentarians work expenses because it’s important that there’s transparency and there’s confidence. We want to legislate an improved childcare system and we want to make sure we fund that which is why we’ve put that together with the social services omnibus savings bill. We’ve got a lot of things to do. I’ve got to get on with the business of media reform. Senate willing. So we’ve got plenty to do and that’s what our focus is.

EPSTEIN:

Senator Mitch Fifield is with us, one of Malcolm Turnbull’s ministers. Cory Bernardi is expected to kick off the parliamentary year by leaving the government; by leaving the Liberal Party that he was elected under. Let’s perhaps, Senator, talk just about people inside the Government, definitively inside the government, George Christenson said he’s not going anywhere; he’s staying inside your Party Room. He did say though that Government’s position will become untenable unless it embraces Conservative causes. Is he right?

FIFIELD:

Well the Liberal National Coalition is a very broad church. And one of the great virtues of the Liberal Party and the National Party in coalition is that, I think, we provide the broadest representation of Australia. We do have within our ranks a great cross section of the nation. It’s one of the strengths of the Coalition. And indeed within my own party, the Liberal Party, we have a broad cross section of society. John Howard often said as Prime Minister the Liberal Party flies with two wings: the liberal wing and the conservative wing. And together it has been a great force for good since the inception of the Liberal Party.

EPSTEIN:

Forgive me though minister, that is a little bit of history. I don’t know that the Government would be going in the direction it’s going in if it hadn’t been for the victory of Donald Trump. So if I can ask that question again, because it was about conservative causes, is George Christensen right that the Government’s position will become untenable unless it embraces conservative causes?

FIFIELD:

Well I have always made it a practice to not provide a commentary on the contributions of my parliamentary colleagues. They’re well able to speak for themselves. They don’t need a commentary and analysis from me. But my contention is that we are a party, we are a coalition, that covers the spectrum from traditional liberalism through to conservatism. And for people who are actually in the business of politics, most of us really don’t spend time thinking about labels. We just want to get on and transact the people’s business. And I think the community aren’t terribly interested with labels. They have issues. They want us to address them. And that’s what we’re focussed on.

EPSTEIN:

I've spoken repeatedly about the problems with something like full-time employment but aren't you in the same position as some of our recent Labor Governments have been in that you get dysfunction that stops the Government performing.

FIFIELD:

Well I think the Government is performing and the Parliament's performing. As Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I'm all too aware that since we were re-elected we have got 48 pieces of legislation through the Parliament. Through the House and through the Senate. That's a lot of work. And that's the Parliament working well in the period since the election. We managed to legislate the bringing back of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. We've managed to establish through legislation a Registered Organisations Commission. We've legislated to protect CFA volunteers. We have legislated billions in savings which many people though wasn't possible. So we've got a good legislative track record. The Parliament is working. And we're just going to get on and keep on with the business of governing.

EPSTEIN:

People aren't impressed though. I mean Newspoll keeps dropping and your Newspoll numbers are just as bad as Tony Abbott's, do you think Malcolm Turnbull regrets citing Newspoll when he was taking aim at the Prime Ministership?

FIFIELD:

Polls are a fact of life. They come around with great frequency. We're two and a half years out from the next election, so I don't think anyone needs to spend too much time focusing on them at this stage. What we need to do, and what we are doing, is getting on with our legislative agenda. All the predictions when we were returned to office was that this was going to be a very difficult Parliament, and many people said the Senate wasn't going to work. But, we have proven time and again that this Parliament does work, that this Senate is working.

EPSTEIN:

You've said that the Government's kicking lots of goals but the polls, the Newspoll that the Prime Minister cited to get the job doesn't seem to support your statement.

FIFIELD:

Well, we're two and a half years out from the election so we're not spending a lot of time pondering and being introspective. We've got plenty of work to do and one of the things that we want to focus on as the Prime Minister indicated in his speech to the National Press Club is the issue of energy. We want to make sure that Australians have affordable, reliable and secure energy. These are the sorts of issues that the Australian public are focused on, and they're the issues we're focused on.

EPSTEIN:

Minister, if I can before I let you go. Terry has texted in about an issue that I'm sure you're aware of. The short wave broadcasts that the ABC delivers emergency services on in the territory. I know the Managing Director of the ABC announced some measured, but has the ABC done enough to assure you that what is provided on shortwave will continue in some form in Northern Australia?

FIFIELD:

Well, for your listeners who mightn't be au fait with the issue. There used to be around Australia, access to the ABC by way of shortwave radio. Progressively that has been switched off in each jurisdiction, and the last jurisdiction that it remained was in the Northern Territory. The ABC, as you know, have operational independence which has been legislated. So, this decision to switch it off in the Northern Territory was the decision of the ABC Board and management. I do have to say that I think the consultation by the organisation could have been better, and there was a limited notice period. But I think the ABC has learnt some valuable lessons about the importance of consultation and engagement in remote and regional Australia. And I'm pleased that ABC management have announced transitional arrangements to assist people to find other ways of connecting to the ABC.

EPSTEIN:

Thanks for your time.

[ends]