Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Interview with Rod Henshaw

SUBJECTS: UN Security Council; Media deregulation; Norfolk Island

ROD HENSHAW: In this half hour we’re going to introduce two guests. Angus Taylor, who is the Liberal Member for Hume and Gai Brodtmann, the Labor Member for Canberra. I think we’ve got them both on the line, we’ll start off with Gai, are you there?


HENSHAW: Okay, how about you, Angus?


HENSHAW: It works! We’re rejoicing. We’ve spent all morning trying to figure out how to get both of you to air at once. We’re so happy I don’t even know what to ask you now. Yes I do. Australia’s bid for the United Nations Security Council seat, which is a long way off, is it too far away do you think? What do you reckon? You can fight to see who goes first.

BRODTMANN: Well look it’s welcome news Rod but given the timeline it’s pretty unambitious. We’re talking here about, as you say, 2029-30. But it is welcome news. Australia has always played a major role in multilateral fora. We’ve always punched above our weight in the international arena, particularly in multilateral fora. In fact, we are the masterminds of some of the architecture of those fora. I’m thinking here about APEC and IORA. There are significant benefits that come from being on the UNSC. It’s interesting given the fact that the Foreign Minister in the past criticised Labor’s 2008 -

HENSHAW: Yeah I noticed yesterday Tanya Plibersek describing it as a little unambitious. Is that just because of the timeframe?

BRODTMANN: Yes the timeframe, definitely. If we are serious about this then why not do it sooner?

HENSHAW: Angus how important is it to get that seat?

TAYLOR: Well I think it can be very useful for us. I mean part of the reason why we are pursuing a long time frame is we know that we can do it without spending as much money that way. I mean part of the issue here is that if you give yourself time and you’re working your way towards it over an extended period of time then you can do it through your discussions with other players on the world stage and you don’t need to spend a whole lot of money and you don’t have to actually take risks. One of the things that actually happens in these processes is if you leave it to the last moment, you spend a whole lot of money and you have to start doing deals that aren’t good for the country. So that’s allowed for an extended timeframe and I think that’s the right way to go about it.

HENSHAW: But given the criticism that Julie Bishop had last time when Kevin Rudd was going for it, or Julia Gillard was going for it, isn’t it a little bit hypocritical of her now to be plugging for it?

TAYLOR: Well what we were critical of was the amount of time, effort and money going in at the last moment. What this allows us is a long take off if you like, or landing whichever way you want to look at it, and that way we won’t have to go through this sort of break-neck process which was very Rudd-esque in the way it was approached and we can do it in the natural course of our work with these other countries. So I think that’s the right way to do it and I think her criticism last time around was well targeted.

BRODTMANN: That’s not true. Rod, can I just comment on that because when Julie Bishop did mount the criticism last time she said – this was at the time that we launched our bid – “there really has been no justification for the benefit that will accrue to Australia by pursuing a seat at this time” and as you know she’s called it an expensive victory. So we welcome the news. We do place a great deal of faith and trust in multilateral fora. We’ve always been strong contributors to multilateral fora, particularly the United Nations, so we’re just calling on the Government to mount a vigorous and well-resourced campaign, the same as we did when we were pursuing the seat.

TAYLOR: The point here is we don’t need to waste money and we’re not going to waste money, that’s the nature of the way we go about these things.

HENSHAW: Well I think the most telling thing is that it’s so far away that Wyatt Roy is likely to be Prime Minister – it’s not a bad line, not a bad line that Julie Bishop came out with. Just a couple of things we’d like to talk about too. Angus, you’ve been on about media ownership. You’re calling for a change in the outdated media laws. Now there’s been a campaign going on for and against the aggregation argument or the ownership argument. Where do you stand on this?

TAYLOR: Well I’ve been very clear about where I stand, which is that I think it’s time to get rid of antiquated media laws. These are laws that were put in place in 1992 before most of us were using the internet and they are totally, totally outdated. Now the impact of that and this is the important point, the impact of that in regional areas for instance, like in my electorate, and what we’re seeing more broadly is that regional broadcasters are being squeezed. They are in deep trouble. They’re having to squeeze their local news content and we’re seeing that they’ve got less and less resources in local news content. They’re not able to invest in TV transmission which has become a very big issue since the changeover from analogue to digital for TV transmission and so regional people are missing out as a result of this. My point is a very simple one. It is time for change. We can negotiate a package here which can be good for those who are being impacted by all of this and we need to get to the 21st century. These are laws that were put in place back in the last century and they are no long fit for purpose.

HENSHAW: Yes but networks have had the chance to – you’ve got Prime lined up with Seven, you’ve got WIN lined up with Nine – isn’t a case in the regions they’ve just said we don’t feel like spending the money up there that’s most –

TAYLOR: No that’s not right. You only have to look at their profits and their share price to see what’s happened to them. We had another very serious proper warning from Prime the other day. We’re not talking here about huge profits. We’re talking here about them getting squeezed right to the bone. They can’t go anywhere but to get squeezed by the metropolitan networks. That’s why at least some of the metropolitan networks are trying to stop this for their own purpose. But look, think about it this way, here’s how they look at it, Channel Seven now streams live TV, metropolitan TV broadcasts onto your phone or onto your computer, your iPad, right now. And so they are not limited by what’s called the reach rule. They’re getting around this legislation right now and there’s nothing the regional networks can do about this. This is a hopeless situation and we will see continued deterioration of TV in regional areas unless we fix it.

HENSHAW: Gai Brodtmann have you got a thought on that at all?

BRODTMANN: Well as someone who fought for WIN to be presented from Canberra, who fought for a strong local media presence in Canberra, the most important thing for me is that local journalists and producers are telling local stories. That we do continue to have that local presence. But look we’ve got a new Minister who’s getting across his brief and so we’ll just wait to hear what he proposes before we provide any comment on it.

HENSHAW: Okay I’d like to particularly ask you Gai about the Norfolk Island situation. Now a lot of people probably don’t realise that there’s a lot going on over on Norfolk Island at the moment. Mostly about self-government which has been taken away from them and they’re not happy about it. They’ve got an Australian Administrator over there in Gary Hardgrave, who’s been roundly criticised for his actions over there. For some reason they hate him over there according to a 60 Minutes story recently. And I see Norfolk Islanders are hoping that Malcolm Turnbull will lend them a sympathetic ear. Will he do that, do you think?

BRODTMANN: Well it will be interesting to see whether there will be any change in policy. We have had the first tranche of legislation passed on the integration of Norfolk Island into the Australian system, the taxation system as well as the benefits system, so that first tranche has been passed. We’ve got another lot of legislation coming up later in the year. I haven’t discussed this issue with the new Prime Minister; I don’t know what his views are on Norfolk Island -

HENSHAW: You are the Australian representative on this thing, aren’t you?

BRODTMANN: That’s right and I have advocated for change. I have advocated for integration. I have advocated for reform. We started to introduce a range of reforms when we were in Government and this Government has continued those in terms of taking that step to integration. Because people on the island are doing it tough, Rod. They’re doing it very tough. We’ve got people leaving Norfolk Island to get work on the mainland. We’ve got people working three to four jobs to make ends meet. We’ve got people seeking the support of the food bank there which is increasing week by week. People are doing it very tough. I do not believe that their current system, the governance arrangement, has served the people well and they are doing it very tough. So we do need to integrate them into the Australian taxation system and the Australian benefits system. They will get a new form of governance; it will just be different from what they’ve got now.

HENSHAW: Well the one they had was pretty extravagant really, wasn’t it? It was quite costly to operate. It was almost like the ACT Legislative Assembly come to think of it.

BRODTMANN: It was an assembly. The numbers vary and people have different views on the numbers but we’re talking between 1200 to 2000 people. As I’ve written on this in the past, that’s one suburb in my electorate that’s got its own Government!

HENSHAW: That’s right. I know Australia has protected it to the upmost over the years at considerable cost and surely the ferryman must be paid eventually.

TAYLOR: I’ve watched this one from a distance but I’ve watched it with interest. We’ve all seen the economy over there progressively collapse. When I was a kid there was a strong economy there and it’s definitely deteriorated and I agree with Gai. I think it is time for change. I do recognise there is part of the community there that is resisting this but ultimately I think we need to do something about the very serious economic problems that have emerged over there in recent years.

BRODTMANN: And there are sectors of the community that also support the reform and have been advocating for reform for decades.

HENSHAW: Okay we’ll have to leave it there folks but thank you so much for coming on board this morning. I appreciate your time. Angus Taylor, the Liberal Member for Hume and Gai Brodtmann, the Labor Member for Canberra. Thanks to both of you.

BRODTMANN: Thank you.