ABC News Breakfast
ABC Studio Canberra
8 August 2017
by the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield from Canberra. Minister good
morning thank you for making time for news breakfast.
Good morning, Virginia.
off with that issue of same-sex marriage, so if we understand it correctly,
back to the Senate, then a postal plebiscite, then a parliamentary vote. Is all of that, and all that time, the best
use of your time?
Virginia, this could have been done and dusted in February this year if Bill
Shorten hadn't stood in the way of us honouring our election commitment to give
the Australian people the opportunity to have their say through a plebiscite.
It was a commitment that was very clear at the election. We were elected. We were honour-bound to give effect to that.
We endeavoured to do so. But Bill
Shorten stopped us. That's why we're still talking about this. That's why this
issue hasn't been resolved.
I don't think
those seven dissenters within your party would say they are doing this because
of Bill Shorten. It's because they actually believe that the Government, the
Government that actually has the reins should do something about it when it
seems the majority of Australians have a strong view on this?
Well, we take
very seriously the commitments that we make at elections. And it would be passing strange if we didn't
seek to give effect to an election commitment. So, this, as I say, could have
already been dealt with if Bill Shorten had gotten out of the way. And let's
not forget, Virginia, that in 2013, at the Australian Christian Lobby annual
conference, Bill Shorten himself said he thought a plebiscite was a good idea.
It remains a good idea and what we want to do is give the Australian people the
opportunity to have their say.
Now, is the
Government certain that the postal plebiscite can stand up to a legal
challenge, because that has been foreshadowed?
Our first objective
and our preference is to have a compulsory attendance plebiscite that is
legislated. And that's what we will
endeavour to do later this week in the Senate. If that isn't to pass, then
we're still determined to seek to give effect to our election commitment and,
in that circumstance, we would seek to pursue a postal ballot and we're
confident that it's both legal and constitutional.
confident are you? That was my particular question: Are confident it will stand
up to a High Court challenge? You've had legal advice on this have you?
be looking at this as a proposition if we didn't think it was valid.
Have you had
legal advice on it?
when we have propositions take appropriate advice.
And have you
sought formal legal advice on a postal plebiscite, a last throw of the dice if
Virginia we are
going to have our Joint Party Room meeting today when we will talk about the
mechanics of these things and we'll have more to say after that.
onto media reforms it looks like the Greens are willing to sit down and talk
Turkey to you now. Will the Greens get you there?
really good discussions with the Greens, with One Nation and with Nick Xenophon’s
team. That's the interesting thing about this Senate. They said it wouldn't work, but we've had
great success with this Senate. And
that's been thanks to the productive and cooperative approach of the Senate
been because the Australian Labor Party have stepped up to the mark as the
alternative government. It has been because we've had good dealings with our crossbench
colleagues and they've been prepared to entertain good propositions.
So on that
comment you made but having good conversations with One Nation, are they on
board next change for cutting the ABC's funding?
reached any agreements with any parties in relation to media reform. But I should point out that in the Budget
before last, we established the funding for the ABC for the three years, for
the triennium, and we didn't alter that in the last Budget.
And would you
alter that as part of getting One Nation's support in this particular matter?
We lay out
that funding on a triennium basis so the ABC knows the environment that they
could operate in.
So would you
rule that out as a negotiating point?
I can't stop
political parties putting different propositions to us.
No, but you
can decide your actions?
Yes. All I can tell you is what the facts are. And the facts are that we've laid out the
Xenophon is interested in talking to you and interested in discussing this
matter with you as well, in exchange for making sure that there are some
recommendations to boost news coverage. Can you actually legislate for that?
As you would
appreciate, the various parties are putting a range of different propositions
to us. We're talking to them about those propositions. My policy has always
been that I don't provide a commentary on those discussions.
market shrinkage and less diversity a possible unintended consequence of these
I think the
real threat to diversity would be the failure of an Australian media
organisation. Our media reform package is all about ensuring that we have
strong Australian media voices. And
getting rid of the 75% audience reach rule and the 2 out of 3 rule are about
giving Australian media organisations more options in terms of how they configure
themselves to best support their businesses.
So my real fear is the loss of an Australian media organisation when it
comes to diversity.
should remember that we also have remaining protections. We're not going to get
rid of the two to a market radio rule, where you can only have two licences in
one market. We're not going to get rid of the one to a market TV rule, where
you can only have one TV licence in a market.
Also we've got what we've what's called the 5-4 or voices rule, which says
that you have got to have five independent media voices in metro and four in
the regions. There will still be the ACCC's competition ruler to be run over
any proposition. So still important
diversity protections. But what we
really want to do is give Australian media organisations a fighting chance.
this morning I just wanted to ask you Minister about some really interesting IPSOS
analysis yesterday in the Fairfax papers. They basically rejected both Malcolm
Turnbull and the Leader of the Opposition in despair. And instead found that
politicians such as Derryn Hinch and Pauline Hanson and the like, as far more
worthy of their esteem because they were independent and spoke their mind. Why
do you think Malcolm Turnbull finds to so hard to stand up and stand for
something? As the IPSOS analysis has found, these are not my words. This is a concept given by those voters who
are polled by IPSOS.
Turnbull does stand up for things every day.
Sorry to jump
into, I'm going to have to because this is the premise of entire research and
my question which is the voters don't see it. Now let's say you're right and he
does, how come he is not communicating that?
Well, it is a
job for all of us to communicate what we're standing up for. We stood up for
and legislated the Australian Building and Construction Commission
reestablishment. We stood up for and legislated
the establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission, so trade unions
leaders are subject to the same requirements as company directors. We are
standing up for our election commitment to have a plebiscite on same-sex
marriage so that people can have their say. What we need to do is articulate
what we're doing. And what we hope is
that when the next election comes, the Australian people recognise what it is
that we've done.
Fifield, we'll leave it there. Thanks for your time today.