2GB Chris Smith Show > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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17-May-2018


Interview
2GB Chris Smith Show
12:35pm
16 May 2018


Subject: ABC Staff bonuses, ABC Funding, ABC Efficiency Review

E & OE


SMITH:

Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, joins me on the line right now. Minister, thank you very much for your time.

FIFIELD:

Good to be with you Chris.

SMITH:

Did you know that they ran a bonus scheme within the ABC?

FIFIELD:

Yes Chris, I was aware that the ABC had bonus arrangements. But I’ve got to say, I’m not someone who’s a big fan of bonuses in the public sector.

SMITH:

It’s not common, is it?

FIFIELD:

Well they were ceased in core Commonwealth Departments in 2008. And as you know, the ABC have legislated independence. So it’s for them to explain and to justify the remuneration arrangements that they have. But there’s something that I’m doing to help them in that venture. We announced in the Budget, when we announced the indexation freeze for ABC funding, that we would also have an efficiency review to do a health-check to see if the ABC is being the best possible steward of taxpayer dollars.

SMITH:

They’re screaming about that. But at the end of the day, it is government money, taxpayer money, and they need to be responsible for what they use and how they spend it.

FIFIELD:

Absolutely. And what I’m all about is enhanced accountability for the public broadcasters and enhanced transparency. Which is why we’re having the efficiency review into the public broadcasters. The last one was four years ago. And in the fast evolving world of media organisations, four years is an eternity.

SMITH:

So can you get rid of the bonus scheme after that review? 

FIFIELD:

We can’t dictate to the ABC, in terms of their operational matters and their editorial and programming matters. But, what we can do – which is what we are doing – is have an efficiency review. To shine a light, to show where it’s possible for the ABC to spend the taxpayer dollar in a better and more efficient way. We did that four years ago. And what that found was that there were significant savings that could be found, which would not affect what went to air.  That’s what we’re wanting to do again. 

SMITH:

I’m trying to work out why you would receive a bonus in a federal public servant context.  For instance, you don’t get a bonus for making the corporation more money, do you? 

FIFIELD:

That’s correct. 

SMITH:

You don’t get a bonus for higher ratings, do you? 

FIFIELD:

The ABC tell us that ratings are a metric; they’re not a goal for them. 

SMITH:

So, what do they get a bonus for?  Doing their job? 

FIFIELD:

I guess it’s nice work if you can get it.  The ABC…

SMITH:

If it were such a great system, we’d give politicians bonuses.  People like you. 

FIFIELD:

Well, I’m happy with what I receive. 

SMITH:

189 employees on executive pay-grades, who would have really, really generous superannuation – you can just imagine – awarded $2.2 million.  190 non-executive employees receiving nearly $385,000.  It’s just foul.  Has Michelle Guthrie responded to this story today, do you know? 

FIFIELD:

Look I haven't seen or heard. But the ABC will have the opportunity at Senate Estimates next week to give an account of themselves. Also, at our request, the ABC Board now hold public forums after half of their board meetings each year. Which is another good forum for the ABC to give an account of themselves. And we also have legislation before the Parliament, Chris, which would require anyone at the ABC who earns more than $200,000 a year to have their names publicly available and the package that they’re on. People know what I earn, people know what judges earn, people know what senior public servants earn. So why shouldn’t the community know what those senior people at the ABC earn.

SMITH:

And could you drill down and find out why they use so many consultants and so many marketing people and so many promotional people from outside of the ABC? What, the organisation, the corporation isn’t big enough to have someone  who can tell them how to put together a program or how to market a particular series or how to promote something? I would have thought they had plenty of people inside who could have don’t that. And they could have saved a lot of money - $10 million on marketing and $1.5 million on consultants. Although, maybe I shouldn’t ask you, Mitch Fifield, about this because governments are shocking at this stuff.

FIFIELD:

The ABC, as you know Chris, the law protects their independence. But that doesn’t mean that the ABC shouldn’t be accountable. That doesn’t mean that the ABC shouldn’t be transparent in the way that they expend taxpayer dollars. I’ve yet to find a Commonwealth government agency that has achieved perfection. I don’t think the ABC has reached that state. Which is why we’re having this efficiency review, so that we can shine a spotlight and help the ABC to expend the more than $1 billion they receive each year in the best possible way to the benefit of taxpayers.

SMITH:

They’ll be kicking all the way through the process, but good luck with it. Thank you very much for your time this afternoon.

FIFIELD:

Thanks Chris, good to talk.

[ends]





Authorised by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House, Canberra.