Minister for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

A/g Minister for Regional Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Doorstop with Dr John McVeigh MP Toowoomba

12 July 2017

E & OE

JOURNALIST:
So tell us, today the NBN's reached pretty much the half way mark, Toowoomba's a great success story in terms of businesses being able to connect. What're some of the issues for you today? What are you talking to businesses about?

FIFIELD:
Well, it's great to be with John McVeigh to mark the milestone of half of the nation being serviced by the NBN. But in the electorate of Groom, 93 per cent of premises now have the NBN available, a further 5,000 to go, which should be done and dusted by early next year. So it's great that the NBN has front-end loaded regional Australia, which historically, hasn't had the connectivity of the metropolitan areas. This visit is an opportunity to talk to business, to find out about their experiences of the NBN, those things that have worked well, and also importantly, where lessons can be learnt.

JOURNALIST:
What can you tell us about the priorities for getting the western parts of our region, and pretty much the bush connected, what's the rollout there?

FIFIELD:
Well, we've taken a deliberate decision as a Government, that we would put the emphasis on the early part of the NBN rollout on rural and regional Australia. So rural and regional Australia nationwide is about two-thirds complete. The electorate of Groom is at the front of the pack. And Toowoomba and the surrounding areas are now amongst the best-connected in Australia.

JOURNALIST:
What's the Government doing over the winter break in terms of chatting with One Nation and the Greens about coming on board with media reform?

FIFIELD:
We have an important media reform package before the Senate. It's a package designed to give Australian media organisations a fighting chance. To be a shot in the arm. Australian media platforms- print, radio, and TV are challenged by the Googles and Facebooks and our package is intended to ensure that we continue to have good, strong, Australian media voices. Now, it's really unfortunate that the Australian Labor Party have absented themselves from this debate. In fact, in the House of Representatives Labor voted against the entire package. Which is why I'm talking to my Senate crossbench colleagues about media reform. And the crossbench colleagues have demonstrated over the past year that they're prepared to support good propositions that the Government puts before them. In fact, we've got 126 pieces of legislation through the Parliament since the election. 36 pieces of legislation in the last sitting fortnight alone. So, I'll continue those discussions and I commend my crossbench colleagues for being open and positive in our discussions.

JOURNALIST:
So it's generally good feedback from One Nation and the Greens?

FIFIELD:
I never seek to speak on behalf of my crossbench colleagues, but they have been open and positive in contrast to the Australian Labor Party.

JOURNALIST:
What do you think the Government's chances are of getting this through once we go back to Parliament?

FIFIELD:
Putting my hat on as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I am by nature a legislative optimist. So, I'll keep the discussions going. I also think it's important to acknowledge the leadership of the Australian media industry, of the chief executives of our media companies. They've been prepared to look beyond their own legitimate organisational interests to the broader interests of Australian media. And at the forefront of advocating for media reform are regional TV stations, regional TV networks, who want to have greater freedom to configure their businesses in a way that can best support their viability. So, what I want to do is to give regional media more options in terms of who their dance partners are and what their businesses look like. Because we want good, strong, regional media organisations. We want to see journalists continue to be employed. While we mightn't always like what they write or print or post or blog or stream, what they do is important and one of the fundamental underpinnings of our democracy.

JOURNALIST:
If it doesn't get through, are you going to shelve it or keep going?

FIFIELD:
I'm going to keep talking and keep on working with the objective or securing the entire package.

[ends]

Media contact: Geraldine Mitchell | 0407 280 476 | Geraldine.Mitchell@communications.gov.au

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