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Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Doorstop with Mrs Sophie Mirabella

29 October 2015

FIFIELD:

Well it's great to be with Sophie Mirabella, and local mayors to discuss telecommunications issues, in particular to talk about the rollout of the National Broadband Network, which will be just such a great boost for regional areas. But also to talk about the Mobile Phone Blackspot Programme, which Sophie was a key advocate for, and one of the prime movers to see that program introduced. This will see 30 mobile phone blackspot locations addressed in the electorate, and again that's good news for communications in the area, good news for business, and good news for individuals as they go about their daily lives.

JOURNALIST:

Minister can I ask for your reaction to the news that WIN TV will close its Ballarat studio and move to Wollongong to reduce costs.

FIFIELD:

Well look I've seen media reports, I haven't had confirmed what WIN's plans are. But what has been coming to me in the four weeks that I have been the minister for communications is that Australia's media laws were configured for a pre-digital era. Regional TV operators in particular are keen for those media laws to be reviewed so that they can have the opportunity to construct their businesses in a way that will make them sustainable for the long term.

JOURNALIST:

WIN has already closed Mildura and Mackay, would you concede that these media laws are becoming more urgent.

FIFIELD:

Well we're in an environment now where it's technology and individuals and their choices about how they access media that are in effect rendering a lot of the media laws redundant. And over time that will become more the case. So what I'm doing as the Minister for Communications is meeting with the key stakeholders and getting their views, and to see if we can find a consensus about media law reform. We may not get unanimity, but it's good to work towards consensus.

JOURNALIST:

Would it be fair to say that support within your government is building scrapping this reach rule now that 7 and 9 are streaming over the internet and making this legislation redundant.

FIFIELD:

Lots of my parliamentary colleagues and lots of my regional colleagues are strongly urging that there be a serious review of the media laws and that's the purpose of my consultations with stakeholders, which is to look to see what we can do to make our media laws reflect the world we currently live in.

JOURNALIST:

And what's your personal stance on media reforms

FIFIELD:

Well I don't think you want a Communications Minister to make a unilateral declaration about media law reform. This is something to be worked through carefully with stakeholders and to be worked through with my parliamentary colleagues as well. I haven't put a time frame on that, but it would be fair to say that this isn't an area where I want to see the grass grow.

JOURNALIST:

And backbenchers are voicing concerns about media reforms, is this a priority for the government?

FIFIELD:

It's one of the things on the top of my agenda is to review the area of media law. We want to make sure that we have a diverse media environment. But to have a diverse media environment, you have to have viable media businesses. And the best way that you can ensure viable media businesses is to give the organisations the freedom to conduct their businesses the way they think is best.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think, Senator, that streaming could force the Government to act sooner rather than later?

FIFIELD:

Well, streaming is another example of the fact that people are accessing media in news ways. That traditional media operators are being challenged by new media entrants, but also traditional media operators themselves are looking for new ways to connect with consumers. So all of these developments help to underline the fact that the media laws are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

JOURNALIST:

What sort of time frame are we looking at for legislation to be introduced? Before Christmas?

FIFIELD:

Well government hasn't made any decisions in relation to legislation at the moment. Propositions have to be approved by cabinets and party rooms, and as I say, we want to see if we can reach a broad consensus in the media industry. But as I say, this isn't an area where I want to let the grass grow.

JOURNALIST:

But legislation is close?

FIFIELD:

Well the government hasn't made any decisions as yet.

JOURNALIST:

And just regarding recommendations put forward last week with the regional telecommunications review, with your visit today after speaking to other members here, is it looking like there are any particular recommendations that you think need to be put in place that you'll be pushing for .

FIFIELD:

Well it's a good that thing that we have legislated that every three years that there is a review of regional telecommunications. The report is a good one. As a government we need to respond by February next year, which we will be doing. So I wouldn't want to pre-empt the Government's response to that. But it's a good body of work.

JOURNALIST:

And so what would the aim be to get out of today's visit? Issues with telecommunications in our area is well documented so what is it you hope to get out of today's visit?

FIFIELD:

Well we've had the first round of the mobile phone blackspot program, which came about in large measure due to the advocacy of Sophie Mirabella. We do have a second round of the mobile phone blackspot programs and I want to hear from councils and other community organisations their feedback as to what went well the first round, what might need tweaking for the second round and also to talk to people about the NBN.

JOURNALIST:

Can I just ask one more question about the time frame? Sorry to push you on this, you said that this is not an issue that you want to let the grass grow; can you be a little more specific? Are we talking next year, early next year for media reform laws?

FIFIELD:

I haven't put a timeframe on media law reform, that will be a function of the discussion that I have with stakeholders and my colleagues.

MIRABELLA:

It's great to have Mitch meet with local mayors and CEOs to get direct feedback from locals about the further change we need and investment in mobile phone blackspots and how the NBN is rolling out. And I know that he will take that local feedback into the decision making into Canberra. So the talk today will be turning into action locally for the people for Indi.

JOURNALIST:

So the topic of telecommunications, is that going to be a key part of your campaign coming up to the election?

MIRABELLA:

It always has been, it always has been right back from the Howard government days that disappeared under the previous government that's re-emerged. In past bushfires I have been there advocating for temporary towers to deal with emergency situations and it has always been on the radar, and it's always been something because of our geography and the challenges it presents, that we have needed to focus on different solutions to cover the areas like our electorate here in Indi.

[ends]

Media contact:

Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.Sywak@communications.gov.au

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