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

Sky News AM Agenda with David Lipson

14 December 2015

E & OE

Subjects: Paris climate agreement, nuclear energy, MYEFO, NBN

LIPSON:

The Communications Minister Mitch Fifield joins me now. Thank you for your company this morning, good morning.

FIFIELD:

Good morning David.

LIPSON:

Critics of the Government suggest that although this is a very positive deal in Paris, it leaves Australia at the back of the back when it comes to emissions reduction targets post 2020. Does the Government agree with that?

FIFIELD:

No I think Julie Bishop encapsulated things nicely in the grab you had of her just before. Australia is a country that does what it says it will do. We are on track to meet our 2020 targets and we have a plan to reach our 2030 targets. In all policy areas David, ultimately you've got to put trust in the Minister who has responsibility to deliver. I think people put their trust in me when I had responsibility for the NDIS. Hopefully, they put their trust in me now with communications and as a Government we put our trust in Greg Hunt to deliver the commitments that we've made. Greg Hunt knows this area better than just about anyone else so we're very confident that we will be able to meet and honour the commitments that we've made.

LIPSON:

Julie Bishop says the deal also allows flexibility for Australia to actually do more in the future. What sort of things could she be talking about there?

FIFIELD:

Greg Hunt is the Minister responsible in this area, is best placed to field questions about specifics there. But obviously we have our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent on 2000 levels by 2030. It already was announced that we would have a review of our policies in 2017. So look we'll take it as it comes and, as I say, Greg's the person best placed to field those questions.

LIPSON:

Absolutely. One other question though. I suppose balancing the climate commitments up against the Governments need to keep the economy in check. How will the Government achieve that? What's at the centre of the policy when it comes to putting climate policy and the economy on similar footing?

FIFIELD:

Well I think we've demonstrated as a Government and as a Coalition that we don't put our economic growth at risk. We make sure that when we commit to action on climate change, that we do so in concert with the rest of the world. That we don't do so unilaterally. So we've demonstrated that in policy, both in opposition and in government.

LIPSON:

What's your view on nuclear? Is that a path we need to go down?

FIFIELD:

Well look I think full credit to the Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherall for having a Royal Commission into the full cycle of the nuclear industry. A brave thing for a Premier to do. Ultimately nuclear power will be something that is determined by two things. One is whether the community will accept it and the other thing is the economics of it.

LIPSON:

Okay, well I want to look at MYEFO, the mid-year budget update due to be released tomorrow by the Treasurer. Now we know that the Government has said indeed that any of the spending outlays since the budget, and that includes the innovation statement $1 billion, $700 million on resettling Syrian refugees. All of those spending measures will be more than offset by savings measures. So will these savings measures be spread across all of government are we looking out for a couple of big nasties?

FIFIELD:

I think that MYEFO really has a few purposes. One is obviously to update the budget in terms of any parameter changes, things like changes in commodity prices. Also to take account of actions or decisions by government and we do have important budgets rules which require any new initiatives to be fully offset by savings in other areas. Now that's something that happens across the board. There can be a particular initiative in an individual portfolio. It may well be that there are savings required across a range of portfolios to cover that particular initiative.

Have you made savings in your own portfolio?

FIFIELD:

Across the board in a range of portfolios. Look mine is an important portfolio and obviously I don't want to pre-empt what the Treasurer and the Finance Minister will say tomorrow, but most portfolios have had to make a contribution to savings as is appropriate. But I think it's worth just pausing for a moment to recognise that the MYEFO document that we have today is vastly different to that which was before Peter Costello became Treasurer. The MYEFO document before his Treasurership was basically a two page press release. As a result of the Charter of Budget Honesty that he put in place, the MYEFO document really is an open book. And that's a good thing for budget transparency. .

LIPSON:

There are some areas outside of the Governments control that are going to have a negative impact on the MYEFO document. That includes the collapse in iron ore prices and alike. And the Government has said that it's not going to chase those sorts of revenue streams or lack thereof down the rabbit hole. This must mean then that delivering a budget surplus is actually getting more difficult. Perhaps further away from us?.

FIFIELD:

Well achieving budget surplus is a difficult task. It's made difficult by the legacy we were left by our predecessors. Unfortunately it takes much longer to repair a budget than it does to damage a budget. I think there's a rule of thumb, which again Peter Costello used to cite, in general he thought it took about three years of good government to undo each year of bad government. But it's important that we do make sure that we offset any additional expenditure with savings. The task of budget repair is something for all of us. And it would be terrific if the Australian Labor Party could join with us in the task of budget repair, but I won't hold my breath just yet.

LIPSON:

I'll be speaking to the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh after the break. But I do want to go to your portfolio area and the National Broadband Network. In December 2013 malcolm Turnbull said that the cost to repair the copper network would be around $55 million. A document has been leaked in the past week or so from the nbn that reveals it's now blown out to some $640 million. Why is that and is that document correct?

FIFIELD:

David, there have been a couple of documents which have been leaked from the nbn. Documents which have been inappropriately obtained which have been cited selectively. David the important point here is the nbn corporate plan which was released in August, updates nbn costs. It provides a range for peak funding of the nbn from $46 to $56 billion with a base case, or likely scenario, of $49 billion. Now those numbers take into account every bit of information, every bit of analysis that nbn has. So the documents which have been leaked, there's nothing in any of those documents that has not been taken into account by the corporate plan in August. And the really important point here is our proposition that we're putting forward will see the NBN delivered 6-8 years sooner, $30 billion less cost than the full fibre alternative. That's a really important point David. And I've also just got to quickly nail a few other falsehoods which have been put forward by Jason Clare. And they are that this Government paid $800 million to Optus for an HFC network that was not up to scratch. That is not the case, it's actually the previous government that paid $800 million to Optus to shut down the HFC network. What Malcolm Turnbull said to Optus was 'How about this, I don't give you a single extra dollar but you let nbn access the HFC network'. So it's a complete and absolute falsehood that has been perpetrated and put forward by Jason Clare. Under this Government Australians will get the NBN sooner and at much less cost than the proposition put forward by the Australian Labor Party.

LIPSON:

Just very briefly. Is though the cost of fibre to the premises coming down and will it continue to come down over time?

FIFIELD:

Well the nbn have a mandate to choose whatever technology will see the NBN rolled out fastest and at lowest cost. It's called the Multi-Technology-Mix approach. It's a technology agnostic approach. That is what the nbn is doing. But there's no doubt, there is no doubt, that the approach that the nbn is taking is significantly less expensive than a full fibre alternative. I'll say again $30 billion extra cost. 6-8 years sooner. That's $30 billion extra cost to go full fibre. And we're going to be doing it 6-8 years sooner.

LIPSON:

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield great to speak to you this morning, thanks for that.

FIFIELD:

Thanks David.

Media contact: Justine Sywak | 0448 448 487 | Justine.sywak@communications.gov.au

Back to top