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The National Wrap with Patricia Karvelas—ABC News 24

9:15pm

E & OE

Subjects: Cricket Australia, Newspoll, company tax cuts, ABC funding, Facebook, Foxtel funding

Patricia Karvelas:
My first guest tonight is the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. Minister welcome to National Wrap.

Fifield:
Good to be with you Patricia

Karvelas:
Cricket Australia has announced Steve Smith and David Warner have agreed to stand down for the remainder of the test, but isn't Steve Smith's future now untenable?

Fifield:
Well, I think the Prime Minister spoke on behalf of the nation this afternoon where he expressed his disbelief that the Australian Cricket Team, its senior leadership, has been part of what they themselves have confessed to as cheating. We have now had the news that the captain and the vice-captain have stood down. But what remains to be seen is what the ultimate sanctions are here for the team and for the other people who are involved in this activity.

Karvelas:
What should the ultimate sanctions be? I mean we need pretty serious actions here don't we? This is a national disgrace.

Fifield:
It is a national disgrace and Cricket Australia needs to act clearly and unequivocally. We expect high standards of people in public life, but we also expect very high standards of those who represent our nation in sport. It's sometimes said that the captain of the Australian Cricket team is the second highest office in the land. And I think many Australians would agree with that. But Cricket Australia need to act clearly, quickly and swiftly. The Chair and CEO of the Australian Sports Commission have also said that they expect that to happen.

Karvelas:
Speaking of cricket, will it be 30 and out for Malcolm Turnbull, given he's about to get to number 29 of losing Newspolls that's about to be published tonight by The Australian?

Fifield:
Well look, there's a lot of talk about Newspoll. And, sure, Malcolm did mention back in 2015, Newspoll. But there are a number of other things that he mentioned at that time as reason for change, which me and my colleagues in the party room wholeheartedly agreed with. Now amongst those were the fact that the Parliament wasn't working, that we had to get it working. We have since the election passed 200 pieces of legislation. There were a range of measures that were stuck in the Parliament under the previous administration. If you're talking about re-establishing the ABCC, setting up a Registered Organisations Commission. Those things have happened. We've got the Parliament working. Also, we wanted to have the economic debate front and centre and that's what we have. That's what we're talking about this week. We're talking about jobs. Record employment growth. We're talking about the need for company tax cuts. But also, the reason why we effected the change in 2015 was because we wanted to win. At every electoral outing that Malcolm Turnbull has led us on, we've won. Whether it be the last election, or whether it be the Bennelong by-election. So, tick…

Karvelas:
But you're about to hit number 29 of losing Newspolls, his own benchmarks was 30. You talk about winning, but clearly the public isn't listening.

Fifield:
There were a range of things which were cited, as I said at that time for change. That the Parliament wasn't working. We've got it working. We've legislated measures that were stuck. We didn't have economics at the front of the national debate. It now is. And every electoral outing that Malcolm Turnbull has led us on, the last election and the Bennelong by-election, we've won. So we're transacting the people's business. We're getting it done. And we've got a lot more to do.

Karvelas:
All right, on company tax cuts, will you get the two votes you need to pass it this sitting week?

Fifield:
We're keen to legislate the company tax cuts this week if we can. But ultimately, we are in the hands of our senate colleagues. We have 30 Coalition senators. You need 39 votes to legislate. So we need to get 9 of the 11 crossbench senators. And we're working hard, particularly the Leader of the Government in the Senate Mathias Cormann, is working hard to have a constructive engagement with our crossbench colleagues.

Karvelas:
Are you confident that you will get those two senators across the board this week and legislate company tax cuts this week?

Fifield:
We always treat our Senate colleagues with respect. We always put to them the merits of our legislative propositions. And that's what we're doing.

Karvelas:
Let's move to your own portfolio, the ABC and SBS are this year entering into triennial funding negotiations that will determine their budgets for the following three years. At the recent annual public meeting the ABC revealed that the well-known 8 cents a day we'd heard about actually isn't 8 cents a day, it's now 4 cents a day. Do you think the ABC is adequately resourced and do you support an increased base funding for the ABC and SBS.

Fifield:
The ABC receives good funding. The ABC is down to its last billion dollars! And I think it's doing okay. As I look around the studio here; the lights are on, the camera is working, you can hear me. The ABC has a big footprint around the nation. Australians value what the ABC does. And we have and will continue to make sure that the ABC is well resourced to do its work.

Karvelas:
The 2014 cuts to the ABC badly affected the country's international services. Was it a mistake in hindsight to reduce the Australian voice in the region given China's increasing influence in the region particularly in the south pacific nations?

Fifield:
Well, that was an interesting episode. You probably recall Patricia, that the previous government had a tender process for that, which they then aborted and didn't follow through on having an open and transparent process to see who would provide those international services. As a result, it went to the ABC. But as you know from previous budgets we did put forward a proposition that we should have an efficiency review. That occurred. And we discovered that the ABC could continue to do what it does with savings being made in the back office. That's what occurred. And the ABC continues to do its work.

Karvelas:
Given what's happened with Cambridge Analytica would you advise Australians not to trust their personal information to Facebook?

Fifield:
You've always got to be careful whenever you undertake any activities online. You should always be aware that you are potentially sharing data about yourself with others. Obviously, this has been a concerning episode. It's concerning when social media platforms don't observe the conditions that they enter into with individuals. It's also concerning when social media platforms find that the terms and conditions that they have with third parties aren't observed. You'd probably be aware that the Australian Information Commissioner has commenced an inquiry to see if Australians are caught up in this.

Karvelas:
Given Facebook's flaws, do you need to step in to stop Cambridge Analytica type operations using it to influence the political process in Australia. Is that a role that you should be taking now?

Fifield:
As far as we know, this particular organisation hasn't engaged with organisations involved in the political process in Australia. But it's important, as I say, that we do always be aware that information which we share in online activities could end up in other places. I think something that's very relevant in this discussion is to note that we've commissioned the ACCC to undertake an inquiry into competition issues, consumer issues, news issues and ad issues in the environment of these digital content aggregators. And Rod Sims, the ACCC Commissioner, has made clear that the data of individuals and their level of awareness about its uses will be one of the things that he looks at. I should also note that only last week we had come into effect legislation regarding notifiable data breaches. Whereby if you have a company, a business, that is subject to privacy law if there is a data breach that could materially affect an individual in an adverse way, that they need to let that individual know and also let the privacy commissioner know. So there are things happening on a number of fronts.

Karvelas:
Do you have a Facebook account? And would you consider closing it?

Fifield:
I do have a Facebook account as is pretty common amongst members of Parliament. And it's active. And I expect it will be.

Karvelas:
Six months ago, the Government gifted $30 million to News Corp to spend on women's sport on Foxtel. But the Seven Network who broadcast the AFL women's league have not received any government support in the area. Now News Corp are not revealing how they will spend the money. Labor of course have described it as a backroom deal. Have they detailed to you how they're spending the money? Will you reveal where the money is being spent?

Fifield:
Foxtel are required to, and have, entered into a deed of agreement with my Department. Now for Foxtel to receive funding under that they have to demonstrate what their program is for the year ahead. And if you go on to the Department of Communications website you will see a list of the sorts of sporting activities which are going to be funded through this grant and also the increases in content that will come about as a result of this funding deed.

Karvelas:
Is that all the information that will be available or are you expecting more?

Fifield:
What will be available is there. It's there, it's online for people to have a look at.

Karvelas:
Mitch Fifield, thank you so much for your time tonight.

Fifield:
Good to be with you Patricia.

[ends]