E&OE…

Dan Bourchier
Well politicians are gathering back in Parliament for another week, the second in a row of Parliamentary Sittings.  So to discuss what is likely to be dominating discussions this week Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and Labor MP for Fenner Andrew Leigh are both with me.

Senator Zed Seselja
Good morning, Dan. Morning, Andrew.

Andrew Leigh
Morning, Dan.  Morning, Zed.

Dan Bourchier
Good to have you both along. I want to start with media reforms.  Lots of discussion of course about this in the last couple of weeks, and then the Channel 10 sale shifted directions.  Is this still on the agenda Senator?

Senator Zed Seselja
Yes it is.  Obviously this is about bringing our media laws into the 21st Century.  These are media laws that we have in this country at the moment, which were drafted or passed in the 1980’s, obviously the media landscape has changed dramatically.  Most importantly we’ve seen the rise of the internet and the way, in particular in the last decade, in the way people consume media in very different ways.  So things like a ‘2 out of 3’ rule, a ‘75% reach’ rule for say TV networks and others obviously need to be looked at in the context of Google and Facebook, Netflix, which are ubiquitous.  They are all over the world, all over Australia.  So these are seeking to bring our media laws into the 21st Century and I think it’s really important so that we can maintain Australian content so that our local media proprietors can continue to compete.

Dan Bourchier
Andrew Leigh, where do you sit on this one?

Andrew Leigh
Well Dan, one of the selling points to recognise is how concentrated our media landscape is.  And if you look at newspapers, you go back to the start of the 20th Century at the time of Federation we had 21 daily newspapers and 17 different owners.  That’s been steadily narrowing down to just 10 newspapers just owned by a handful of owners.  And well, priority for Labor is making sure that we’ve got this diversity of voices in the media landscape.  Zed’s absolutely right to point to some of these technological changes but we’ve also got a fairly concentrated sector.  So Labor supports removing the ‘reach’ rule, which allows regional and metropolitan networks to merge but not the ‘2 out 3’ rule.  If you repeal that then one person could control radio, newspaper and TV in a single market.

It’s about getting the balance right in a very fast moving environment; of course it’s also about maintaining support for the ABC and SBS.  We had that infamous promise from Tony Abbott back in 2013 that there wouldn’t be cuts to the ABC or SBS but of course we’ve seen that broken like so many other promises from the Government, significant cuts.

Senator Zed Seselja
Can I respond Dan in terms of… particularly that issue around concentration?   There’s no doubt if you look at it in the way that Andrew described that there is greater concentration than there was 100 years ago, but that’s if you ignore all of the voices that we have online and the various media outlets that are online.  The Canberra Times, our local newspaper of course, is mainly now an online publication and gets a lot of traffic online.  But it’s competing not just, well obviously Canberra Times is the only one in Canberra, but it’s not just competing in Canberra.  It’s competing, if you’re a Canberran you can access media from all over the world and Canberrans do.  So we can’t look at it just in the old paradigm where, you know, you’re the local newspaper and you dominate or there’s a couple of newspapers in town.  You’re competing with media proprietors and media entities from all over the world

Dan Bourchier
Well on that point exactly.  Where does the significants of local news sit?

Andrew Leigh
It’s absolutely critical.  And Zed’s right to speak about the potential for competition but if you look at actually what people are consuming we are surprisingly concentrated.  Michelle Rowland our terrific Shadow competition spokesperson has been saying that Australia’s media landscape is one of the most concentrated in the world and a recent conversation fact check found that to be correct.  So we do need to make sure that we’ve got that diversity of local voices.  I think there’s also initiatives with public interest journalism.  One of things you see out of the United States is this rise in University journalism departments partnering with media outlets in order to produce good investigatory work, patent journalism, investigatory stories, ProPublica has been very important in this.  So there’s a lot of innovation going on.  It’s not entirely about government but I would be worried about an environment which government makes things worse by allowing a whole lot of aggregation, merges.

Dan Bourchier
So no chance of bipartisanship then, on the way forward on these media reforms?

Andrew Leigh
We’ve got it on the ‘reach’ rule but not on the ‘2 out of 3’ rule.

Dan Bourchier
We will move on now to this discussion about a new seat for the ACT as a result of the shift in the latest Census data.  Senator Seselja, what’s your view on this?

Senator Zed Seselja
Well obviously it’s a good thing for Canberra to have more representation in the Federal Parliament.  I mean there is no doubt that one of the historical realities of being a Territory versus a founding State is that the ACT gets less representation in the Federal Parliament than other similar sized jurisdictions, so Tasmania being the most significant example.  Being one of the federating States, of course, Tasmania has 12 Senators we have 2.  Tasmania is also guaranteed a minimum, I think, of 5 House of Representative seats and obviously they’re population is not a whole lot larger than the ACT.  So to have an extra seat I think is really good.

We’ll wait and see how the redistribution takes place but I would anticipate that almost inevitably there will be 1 seat that takes in much of the centre of the ACT, a centre of Canberra and a northern seat and a southern seat.  And I think that will give, perhaps, a better mix where you get some of those outer suburban constituencies perhaps better represented in the split.  And of course if local Members don’t have quite as many constituents to look after it does make it somewhat easier for better representation.

Dan Bourchier
And are you eyeing a Lower House tilt, Senator?

Senator Zed Seselja
No.

Dan Bourchier
No, not on the cards?

Senator Zed Seselja
No.

Dan Bourchier
Andrew Leigh, what do you make about this discussion about another seat?

Andrew Leigh
I think it’s great to have more representation for the ACT.  I’m in furious agreement with Zed on that one.  And all the more so if that third representative is someone standing up for Medicare, for the fair go, for egalitarianism, for marriage equality.  Things that are supported by a broad majority of Canberrans.   One of the important things to not, too Dan, is the extraordinary factor that the ACT Government has managed to sustain the economy through this period of savage Commonwealth cuts so that we have actually grown our population.  That’s very different from what happened in the mid 1990’s where significant Public Service cuts by the Howard Government resulted in a decline in population and us losing that third seat.

Senator Zed Seselja
Talk about a rewriting of history. So when things are bad it’s all of the Commonwealth’s fault and when things are good it’s the ACT Government’s.

If you look at the share of the economy, the fact is that, what was said by Andrew Leigh and by Gai Brodtmann and others before the 2013 election, that house prices would crash and there would be a disaster for the ACT economy, of course didn’t occur.  And I would remind Andrew that the vast bulk of those Public Service cuts you talk about were instituted under your Government when you were still in Government.  But this idea that somehow when the economy is doing well in Canberra it’s all because of Andrew Barr well let’s look at Commonwealth spend here in Canberra, and I think some of the analysis from people like Markus Mannheim in the Canberra Times has borne that out.

Andrew Leigh
It’s very easy just to look at Public Service numbers, you can see them rising year on year under Labor, except in the final year where they fell by a couple of hundred.  And then you have the Coalition coming in promising no more than 12 thousand Public Service job cuts.  And now we are up to, I think, around 16 thousand Public Service job cuts.

Senator Zed Seselja
14 and a half thousand were in your last couple of budgets, as confirmed by the Head of the Department of Finance.

Andrew Leigh
If you look at what happened under Labor, rather than made up figures by the Coalition…

Senator Zed Seselja
By the Head of the Department of Finance.

Andrew Leigh
Made up figures by the Coalition after they got into office, then you can see that under Labor Public Service numbers grew in-line with population…

Senator Zed Seselja
There’s the Public Service bashing from Andrew Leigh.  The Head of the Department of Finance, before a Senate Committee on two separate occasions confirmed that it was 14 and a half thousand job cuts as a result of Labor decisions in their last term in Government.  Now are you saying that he was lying or are you disputing that he said it?

Andrew Leigh
I am saying, Zed, you need to look at real numbers rather than made up numbers.

Senator Zed Seselja
So you’re saying the Head of the Department of Finance made that number up?  Appointed by the ALP.

Andrew Leigh
The number of Public Servants employed under Labor continued to rise every year except in our final year, where it fell by a couple of hundred.  Now they are real numbers.  Not numbers made up by Mathias Cormann, real numbers.

Senator Zed Seselja
The Head of the Department of Finance.  So you’re now calling him a liar.

Andrew Leigh
I know you’ve been working on this big lie… secret Public Service cut plan by Labor

Senator Zed Seselja
It wasn’t secret.

Dan Bourchier
I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere on what one.  I might just jump in there, if I can get a word in there as well.

Senator Seselja, tell me about the move of your office to Gungahlin, and when are we going to hear about this Federal Department of Agency that slated to move.

Senator Zed Seselja
Yeah, thank you Dan.  A couple of things, the move of the Electorate Office has occurred so it is there next to McDonald’s there in Gungahlin and it’s open for business so I would encourage people to be there.  It’s the first time there’s been a presence of a Federal or State Member, or Territory Member, in Gungahlin, which is good.  And me, being a Tuggeranong resident, it’s great to have an office presence there in the north of Canberra, so I would encourage people to drop in and raise any issues they might have.

In terms of the Public Service office that we are undertaking to move, we are making progress.  I presented to the Gungahlin Community Council on this some time ago.  We are not yet in a position to name that agency but we will be soon.  But obviously there is a process to take place internally.  I’ve made it clear that will be a small to medium agency, somewhere in the vicinity of 300-500 staff moving to Gungahlin, which of course is important.  It’s important for town centres to have a strong presence.  We’ve seen that in Belconnen we’ve seen that in Tuggeranong, to a slightly lesser extent, but a very important Public Service presence, and in Woden, and of course Gungahlin needs that in order for it to grow and prosper and so that people in the north of Canberra and in Gungahlin will have some of those job opportunities close to home.

Dan Bourchier
And Andrew Leigh, I understand you have been focussing, or at least will be in part this week, on philanthropy as well.

Andrew Leigh
That’s right.  I have been given the portfolio of Charities and Not-for-profits after the last election, reflecting Bill Shorten’s enthusiasm for this sector and our desire to, for the first time, have a portfolio for it.  We’ve been working to Save the Charities Commission against an attempt to get rid of it in 2012 all the way until this year.  We’ve been working to fix fundraising, because our fundraising laws are frankly a bit of a dog’s breakfast Dan, a patchwork of State and Territory rules.  And across Australia I’ve been holding forums with local charities and not-for-profits on what we call the Reconnected Project, which is bringing them together to talk about innovative way in which organisations might seek to get a joining, volunteering and donating again.  There’s a plethora of interesting ideas, one of my favourites from the ACT is tree-planting events for singles, which allow you not only to help the environment, build social capital but maybe even meet the love of your life.

Dan Bourchier
A raking success too

Andrew Leigh
Sowing the seeds for success there.  And those sorts of interesting ideas are ways in which I think we’re going to be able to build up a stronger sense of civic culture in Australia.

Dan Bourchier
Well certainly and interesting one.

Look thank you both so much for your time, we’ll have to leave it there, but appreciate it.

Andrew Leigh
Thanks Dan.  Thanks Zed

Senator Zed Seselja
Thanks very much

Dan Bourchier
Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and Labor MP for Fenner Andrew leigh there.

[ends]