RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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28-November-2017

RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly
ABC Studio Canberra
28 November 2017
6:50am

 

E & OE

FRAN KELLY:

The ABC’s youth station Triple J is facing a backlash in some quarters over its decision to shift its iconic Top 100 countdown from Australia Day out of respect for indigenous Australians.  Mitch Fifield is the Communications Minister, he described the Triple J move as bewildering.  The Minister is in our Parliament House studios.  Minister welcome back to Breakfast.

FIFIELD:

Good morning Fran.

KELLY:

You say the ABC shouldn’t be messing with the Hottest 100.  Triple J is a youth network, why is it important to you that the Hottest 100 be counted down on Australia Day?

FIFIELD:

I think Triple J is in effect making a political statement by shifting the Hottest 100 from Australia Day.  Australia Day is our National day. It is a day of great pride.  It’s a unifying day. And sometimes as a Minister you slap you forehead and you say to yourself “what were these guys thinking?”  This is just a really bad idea.  It’s a dumb idea. And Triple J should change their minds.

KELLY:

Couldn’t it be argued that this is Triple J trying to get out of the way of the politics of Australia Day?  Australia Day has become very politicised, particularly in the last twelve months.  And the hot 100 is a play list, basically it’s just a top of the pops.  It’s nothing to do about the debate about Australia Day it should keep it out of the way.

FIFIELD:

For the past twenty years the Triple J Hottest 100 has become a part of the soundtrack of Australia Day.  It’s something that Australians enjoy.  It’s one of the fixed points of reference.  And what Triple J and the ABC have done is to respond to a petition which has said it’s not appropriate to have the Hottest 100 on the “controversial” Australia Day.  There is nothing controversial about Australia Day.

KELLY:

But there was nothing controversial about this and yet you challenged it.  I mean you challenged it. Up until then Triple J asked their audience.  The audience said yeah do it.  It could have been fine.  But you’re the one inserting the politics into it aren’t you?

FIFIELD:

Certainly not Fran.  There has been a very spontaneous reaction from members of the community and amongst my parliamentary colleagues, that this is an attempt to delegitimise Australia Day.  Australia Day is the 26th of January.  That is not going to change.  It’s not going anywhere.  And we should all embrace it.

KELLY:

Well speaking personally, I mean Australia Day for me has nothing to do with the Hottest 100.  You know nothing to do with it whatsoever, it just happens to be the day that Triple J play the songs.  When you say what are these guys thinking, Triple J did survey its audience. So say that again 65,000 responses.  60% of them, which is a clear majority, thought the day should be changed.  Out of respect to the indigenous musicians who find it hard to celebrate anything on that day.

FIFIELD:

Fran you yourself, by your own words and quoting Triple J have confirmed that this is a political statement of the ABC by Triple J…

KELLY:

How did I say?

FIFIELD:

..that it is responding to people who don’t like Australia Day.  Who don’t like the fact that we celebrate the 26th of January.  That is a political statement.  The ABC shouldn’t be doing that.  They should leave the Hottest 100 where it is.

KELLY:

Well it’s not my political statement.  I ‘m quoting the indigenous Australians who are Australians and are entitled to have a view.  Their view has been heard and some people think fair enough.  I mean my point is really the Hottest 100 is not 100 hottest Australian songs. It is nothing to do with Australia.  Why does it have to be on Australia Day?  It wasn’t on Australia Day until 1998.

FIFIELD:

Fran it’s been on Australia Day for the best part of twenty years.

KELLY:

Yeah and before then it wasn’t.

FIFIELD:

Triple J has made very clear that the reason that they are moving it is because some people don’t like Australia Day and therefore they don’t want the Hottest 100 associated with Australia Day.  What I am saying is that’s bizarre.   That’s strange.  There is nothing wrong with Australia Day.  It’s the 26th of January.  The ABC is, through this action, seeking to delegitimise Australia Day.  They shouldn’t.  They should embrace it.  They are the national public broadcaster.  They get the best part of a billion dollars a year.  The ABC shouldn’t have an issue with Australia Day.

KELLY:

I will finish on this.  But as I understand it Triple J say they will embrace Australia Day, they will have an Australian play list on that day.  Isn’t that more fitting?

FIFIELD:

Fran the ABC, Triple J, have sought to make this a political issue.  They are seeking to make a statement by this.  I don’t think they should.  And I think most Australians think ABC, just stay out of this,  Just leave things as they are.

KELLY:

You’re listening to ABC RN Breakfast it is seven minutes to seven.  Our guest is the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.  On another issue we were just speaking there with journalist Tracey Spicer who’s compiled a list of well over 500 complaints now.  Sixty five alleged offenders of sexual misconduct, harassment, assault in the media and entertainment industry.  You’re the Communications Minister.  Tracey Spicer says the industry works as a protection racket for offenders like Don Burke.  Management knows about the behaviour but does nothing to stop it.  You must be speaking with the media executives all the time as a Minister, will you take this up with them?

FIFIELD:

There is a never an excuse, there’s never a justification for harassment in the workplace.  It is always wrong.  Where it has occurred people should bring it forward so that respective managements, and where appropriate law enforcement agencies can take action.  I’ve seen the statements of media executives who say that today they have good workplace policies and practices in place, as they should.

KELLY:

Well Tracey Spicer also recounted a story just two weeks ago at a large media company where the directors where laughing off these sorts of allegations involving other high profile media people.  Again as I say will you speak to media executives and Board members you are talking to about this issue, and let them know how seriously you regard it?

FIFIELD:

I regard it very seriously.  And I would think that it should be taken as read that everyone in a position of authority in any organisation takes it as read.  But of course when talking to media executives I will be emphasising this.

KELLY:

You’re the Minister responsible for the NBN. You are responsible for a lot of things Minister.  More problems for the NBN now with this decision to suspend the rollout to more than a quarter of a million homes for up to nine months.  These are homes which were to be connected via pay TV cables, that were first laid twenty years ago. Is this further evidence that the decision to switch from fibre to the home to what’s called the multi technology mix has failed.

FIFIELD:

No it’s not Fran.  And I think the important point to make at the outset is that every Australian is still going to get the NBN.  It will still be done and dusted by 2020 which is six to eight years sooner than would have been the case under the approach of our predecessors.  It will still be completed for tens of billions of dollars less than under the approach of our predecessors.  The NBN is still available to more than half the nation.  But what we have in the case of HFC is some technical issues.  HFC as a technology isn’t as mature as fibre to the node, or satellite, or fixed wireless…

KELLY:

Well it’s no good. I mean it’s no good.  They have already dumped the Optus option.

FIFIELD:

No.  And with those other technologies in the initial rollout there were issues to be worked through.  That’s the case with HFC.  There is no problem that has been identified that can’t be fixed.  They will be fixed.  And HFC is a terrific technology.  It can get gigabit speeds.  People will certainly be able to get 100 mbps.  In the United States most people who are on broadband are on the HFC pay TV cable network. And for those people in those areas where there will be that temporary pause, many of them will be able to access broadband via the HFC.  As many of them currently already are.

KELLY:

Well those that already are though there are thousands and thousands of complaints of people getting poor quality services, slower speeds, lots of dropouts.  They are not happy.  Are you guaranteeing it can be fixed?  Or will we have to scrap the HFC option altogether?

FIFIELD:

Absolutely it can be fixed.  And the point I was making before Fran is that there are many people on the pre NBN network who access their broadband over the HFC pay TV network.  The problems can absolutely be fixed.  They are to do with essentially two issues.  One is some taps or connectors as they are called, which join things between the cable in the street, and the cable that goes to someone’s house.  And the other is an issue of spectrum frequency where there is some interference between the various users of the cable.  Those things are all very fixable.  And they will be fixed.

KELLY:

And Minister can I just ask you finally and briefly.  The same sex marriage debate gets on the amendments gets under way today, on the Dean Smith Bill.  One of the amendments states “the definition of marriage would separately recognise both man, woman marriage and two person marriage as valid marriages”.  In your view would that perpetuate discrimination and inequality if we had that?

FIFIELD:

If we had a definition that said that marriage is between a man and a woman and two people of the same sex?

KELLY:

We have two categories.

FIFIELD:

The purpose of the legislation that is before the Parliament is to enable people of the same gender to marry.

KELLY:

So would two categories in the law be a problem for you?

FIFIELD:

We will debate this legislation as it passes through the Parliament, but what I think most colleagues would look to is that we have a common definition of marriage.

KELLY:

Minister thank you very much for joining us on breakfast.

FIFIELD:

Thanks Fran.

 [ends]