The Morning Shift with Tom Connell & Caroline Marcus > 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

Parliament House Office
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600
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11-July-2017

The Morning Shift with Tom Connell & Caroline Marcus
Skynews
10 July 2017

10:36am

Subject: NBN Rollout, Media Reform, Liberal Party Same Sex Marriage, Polls

 

E & OE

JOURNALIST:

We’re going to move on because the National Broadband Network is finally at the halfway point of implantation, with the Government marking the job half-done today in Sydney. It’s now been rolled out past 5.7 million premises. The take up rate, 2.2 million, so why so low?  Joining me live now is Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. Minster thanks for your time today, why is it such a low take up so far?

FIFIELD:

Well this is a good story Tom, as you mentioned 5.7 million premises nationwide can now access the nbn, that’s 50 per cent of the nation. At the moment 2.4 million premises have already taken up that opportunity. The reason for the disparity is that there’s an 18 month window that people have in which to migrate to the nbn after it comes down their street. So people want to shop around, look for the best retail service provider, with the best package, make a choice, and then they’ll migrate across. nbn is pretty much on target after that 18 month period, to have about 75 per cent of people migrating to the nbn. So things are on track.

JOURNALIST:

Alright, well fair enough they want to shop around, we’ll see if those figures begin to match up. This does have a troubled history this project, blowouts under Labor, I’ll ask you hopefully not into get too much into that, we’ve only got a short amount of time on the program. Malcolm Turnbull said it would all be done by 2016. I’m interested on what you think, hearing a lot of businesses, and thoughts of people – has this held back our economy?

FIFIELD:

Well look, our objective is to see the nbn rolled out as soon as possible. And because of the approach we’re taking, it’ll be completed by 2020, which is six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under our predecessors. The reason why we decided to depart from the approach of those who came before us is because Australians want the nbn, and you don’t get the full national economic benefits of the nbn until the whole country has it. You mentioned 2016 as a date that we mentioned when we were in opposition. When we got into Government, we found that the nbn was essentially a failed project. Contractors had downed tools in four states. Despite $6billion being spent over the best part of two terms only 51,000 people had hooked up to the nbn. So on the best information available in opposition, we said what we said. When we came into government, we found that the project was much worse than even we had thought. But the good news Tom, is that the project is on track, nbn has hit pretty much every milestone since we’ve been in office and all Australians will have it by 2020.

JOURNALIST:

What about the words of Peter Ryan, the nbn co.’s Chief Network Engineering Officer, he says the company is already planning on upgrades beyond 2020, is that because of fibre-to-the-node rather than fibre-to-the-premise?

FIFIELD:

Well no, with a project like this, you’re always looking at upgrade opportunities, so nbn is pursuing those even now. So in the fixed-wireless network, we thought 50 megabits per second was as good as it could get, nbn have worked out a way to get that to 100 megabits per secondSo that’s good news. The old pay-tv cable, HFC network, nbn are already working on ways to up the speeds there. This is a project that’s not set in concrete. Technology keeps moving and every telco company is always looking at upgrade paths, and nbn would be remiss if they didn’t.

JOURNALIST:

Okay media reform now, Labor has dug in its heels over two out of three rule. In particular, that is owning more than two out of three of radio, print, newspapers. Is there any drawback in getting the rest of it past and continuing to work on that element?

FIFIELD:

Well this is an integrated package, which is supported by the entire media industry, Tom. Seven, Nine, Ten, Win, Prime, Southern Cross/Austereo, Fairfax, News Limited, Foxtel, Commercial Radio Australia, Free TV, ASTRA all support this package. And the reason they do is because there’s something in this package for all elements of the Australia media industry. The Australian Labor Party should support this package as a whole. They say they support most elements of it, but let me just finish Tom, but not two out of three. However, in the House of Representatives, Labor voted against the package in total. That’s why I’m engaging in discussions with the Senate crossbench.  

JOURNALIST:

So are you saying that to past the rest and leave out two out of three, would what? Give an unfair leg-up to some organisations, is that why you can’t pass some now? 

FIFIELD:

Well there’s no reason why we should only pass some of it. We should pass the lot of it. Because all of it is needed. And all of it is supported by the Australian media industry. Labor are stuck in the past. The two-out-of-three rule was designed for an era of just print, radio and TV before the internet existed. Our media laws have got to reflect the world that we live in and we need to give Australian media companies the capacity to configure themselves in the ways that best support their viability

JOURNALIST: 

Sure, and I know you'll keep saying that but I'm just asking if there's any disadvantage in saying 'right, we'll get that done now and tackle the rest down the track'. Is there any reason not to apart from the dynamics of one whole package at a legislative level?

FIFIELD:

Well, there's no reason not to pursue the package as a whole. If we don't get rid of two-out-of-three, well, that will be a constraint on the capacity of Australian media organisations to configure themselves in the way that best supports their viability. I think we should do whatever we can to help Australian media organisations. To make sure that we continue to have strong, Australian media voices.

JOURNALIST:

Would there be a disadvantage though to any one company if you just passed part of it.

FIFIELD:

Sure, there would be disadvantages to a number of companies because there would continue to be needless constraints on sections of the Australian media industry. Now, if we removed the two-out-of-three rule, it's then up to Australian media organisations as to how they want to configure themselves. It shouldn't be for me to tell them how to configure themselves. Labor talk about concerns about diversity, but we will still have a range of important diversity protections in place.

JOURNALIST:

Okay, we'll see how talks go with Labor. Moving onto an issue over the weekend. Dean Smith is going to push for his private member's bill on same-sex marriage be considered in the party room. Should there be a free vote on this?

FIFIELD:

We have a clear policy. We took it to the last election and that is that there should be a plebiscite; a decision by the Australian people on this subject and then the Parliament would give effect to the will as expressed by the Australian people. This is something that could have already been done and dusted. We would've already had a plebiscite take place if the Australian Labor Party had not blocked the plebiscite bill. And there's no reason why the Australian Labor Party should've blocked the plebiscite bill, because Bill Shorten himself previously advocated for a plebiscite on this subject.

JOURNALIST:

By definition, there'll be no revisiting yet, there would be, sometime before the next election?

FIFIELD:

We have our policy. It's for a plebiscite. And I think Bill Shorten should pause, reflect and change his view in relation to the plebiscite.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, Bill Shorten has closed in on Malcolm Turnbull's lead. According to the latest polls. What do attribute that to, and what can the Government do now to turn things around?

FIFIELD:

Look, I've always made it a practice not to be a commentator on the polls. You're all very well capable of doing that, as was the media scrum I was in just before. What I'm doing is focusing on my job which is to see the NBN rolled out nationwide by 2020.

JOURNALIST:

But do you think that Christopher Pyne's comments that had come out, Tony Abbott's what some people are calling sniping has hurt the party?

FIFIELD:

Look my advice to all colleagues is to focus on the task at hand. And when you do that, you can get some good results. As Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I can't help but point out that we've got 165 pieces of legislation through the Parliament since the last election. 36 in the last sitting fortnight alone. This is a Government that's working. This is a Parliament that's working. We've basically ticked off, in turn, each of the major items on our agenda. Putting the ABCC back in place. Establishing a registered organisations commission. Providing protection for CFA volunteers in my state in Victoria. Passing the Omnibus Savings Bill. Significant education reforms thanks to the good work of Simon Birmingham. That's what we should be focused on. Doing the people's business and that's exactly what we're doing.

JOURNALIST:

Just finally Mitch Fifield, Tony Abbott said last week that there will come a time when he has to simply just speak up in support of the Government. When should that be?

FIFIELD:

All of my colleagues should speak in support of the Government every day. We've got a good program. We've got good runs on the board. We've got a lot of good news to talk about. But we've also got a lot of work left to do.

[Ends]