Interview with Alice Matthews
Triple J Hack
18 June 2018
E & OE
We’re joined by
Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, who’s on the line. Minister, thanks so
much for joining us.
Good to be with you.
Does the Government plan to sell off the ABC?
Absolutely not. The ABC always has been and always will be owned by the
government on trust for the Australian people, and that’s something that we
will never change.
And the ABC’s got heaps of public support. Eight out of 10 think it
produces valuable content, how do you think calls to privatise it will go down
with the public.
The Australian public want the ABC to remain in government hands and it
will remain in government hands. The ABC makes an incredibly important
contribution; through news and current affairs, through the 52 regional ABC
Radio stations, through its four national radio networks, through its TV and
through its online presence. It’s something Australians value highly. And we as
a Government will always make sure that the ABC is well-resourced so that it
can carry out those important functions.
Yeah, you mentioned the
regional offices there. There is concern in rural and regional areas about the
future of the ABC. So what do you say to the listeners in those areas?
Providing services to rural and regional Australia is core ABC business.
And in fact, I have legislation currently before the Senate to further
reinforce that responsibility. You may not know this, your listeners may not
know this, but there is currently nothing in the ABC Act that speaks
specifically to the ABC’s responsibility to rural and regional Australia. What
we want to do is put that in the ABC Act, explicitly. To make crystal clear
that the ABC has those responsibilities to rural and regional Australia.
So what would that look like?
It’d be putting in the ABC Act, that the ABC has an obligation to rural and
regional Australia. The ABC Act already makes specific reference to the ABC’s
obligations for the arts and for science. But we think it’s really important
that we make it explicit in the Act; that it has those responsibilities for
rural and regional Australia. It already provides that service, but we want to
see that enshrined in legislation.
This issue of privatisation has caused a bit of infighting among
yourselves. Has the Coalition scored its own goal with this.
We have a division of responsibility in the Party. The party organisation
has responsibility for the selection of parliamentary candidates. And the
parliamentary party is the sole determinant of policy. And the policy of the
Federal Coalition, the policy of the Government is – as it always has been and
always will be – that the ABC will be in government hands.
And you mentioned you wanted to keep it well-resourced always. The ABC
suffered a pretty massive cut in the last budget. Can you rule out any future
cuts to ABC?
The ABC is funded on a triennial, or three-yearly, basis. And we haven’t
altered the funding in the current triennium, which still has a year to go.
What we announced in the recent Budget, was that there would be a pause to the
indexation of the ABC’s funding…
Which in effect is $84
..and the ABC will
continue to receive more than a billion dollars a year. So the ABC will still
have greater funding certainly than any other media organisation in Australia.
Minister, thanks for joining us on Hack.
Good to with you Alice.
Authorised by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Liberal Party of Australia, Parliament House Canberra.