ABC News Breakfast – 19 April 2016

The Communications Minister and Manager of Government Business in the Senate, and he joins us now from Parliament House Mitch Fifield, good morning, and welcome to News Breakfast. Good morning, Virginia So, the Prime Minister has his double dissolution trigger wouldn’t it be more honest to call that election now? Well, Virgnia, we have made clear that our objective has been to secure the passage of the Australian Building and Construction Industry legislation. That’s been the aim. There is, constitutionally, a provision to resolve deadlocks between the House and the Senate That’s what we’re going to do with the Double Dissolution Election, and it’s important to remember that the purpose of that is so that you can have a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament after the election. That’s the intention with the ABCC, is to get it passed, and to have that joint sitting of both houses after the election. I accept that, Minister, sorry for jumping in, but that’s my question, so why not call that election now? Why do we have to have this phont campaign leading up to after the May budget? Well, when the Prime Minister announced that the Parliament was going to be recalled He made very clear that of the ABCC legislation wasn’t passed that there would be an election on July 2. Now, we have important Government business to transact first We have the Federal Budget to deliver, so we’ve got things to do, but the timeline is there, it’s well known. Minister, your Government’s been rocked this morning by the leaking of some budget material. Let me quote Tony Abbott from 2010, the then Prime Minister, on Gillard-Rudd leaks, ‘I just don’t want to get into who might have done it, why it might have been done, I just say, it’s obviously a deeply dysfunctional Government, and why would you re-elect a Government as dysfunctional as this?’ Would you elect a mob that did this to its own side? Well, Virginia, I cannot vouch for the voracity, or otherwise, of what’s being reported on Sky News. We don’t comment on budget speculation. This is a Government that is pulling in the same direction. This is a team that wants to see the Science and Innovation Agenda delivered. This is a team that wants to see our Defence Industry Plan delivered This is a team that wants to see the NBN in my portfolio, fully rolled out. This is a team that wants to see media reform transacted. We’ve got a big agenda, and we’re working collectively as a great team to do that. How can you argue that you’re pulling all in the same direction when you have these leaks going on? The very morning after the Prime Minister gets his long-awaited double dissolution – Just make the case for me, for that solidity of view, and clearly it’s not there. Well, it’s clear that we’re working together, we had the Prime Minister – (No, it’s clear that there’s leaks, Minister) No, well, the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister were out yesterday making an important defence procurement announcement. I, in my portfolio, am working with my colleagues to see media reform done, to see the NBN rolled out. Christian Porter in Social Services is working hard to see the National Disability Insurance Scheme rolled out in full. We have an agenda, we’re prosecuting that, and the question for the Australian people as we approach the election, is who is it that you trust to have carriage of those important national reforms? NBN, the NDIS, the Science and Innovation Agenda, is it Bill Shorten or is it Malcolm Turnbull? When I put that questio i community forums, the answer comes back Malcolm Turnbull every time. Minister Fifield, could you explain to us the logic of calling na early election when the polls indicate that your Government and the Prime Minister is losing support? Well, Australian Federal elections are always close-run things. They’re always competitive, polls always tighten as you get closer to election day. There’s nothing unusual about that. No political party should ever approach an election thinking that they’ve got it in the bag. They are always fought very intensely and the Australia public, they often reserve their judgement till close to election day. They want to see the plan that both sides have for the nation. That’s appropriate. We need to continually earn the trust of the Australian people and that’s what we’re setting out to do. Well, your budget will have to be a launching pad for a very tight election. That kind of bidget traditionally has a number of sweeteners in order to get you there, given your support is declining. Will yours? Well we have always had responsible budgets. I don’t think anyone has accused us of taking a populist approach to the budgets that we’ve delivered. They’ll be responsible, and they will help to underpin our agends for jobs and growth. Now this’ll only have been worth it in a political sense if you get a Senate back in your favour, with your numbers. What’s the likelihood of that now? Reading that sensibly and politically. Well, I think that’s a misunderstanding of what has happened over recent days. Oh, I’m sure that’s a broad thought out in the community, that this is the political purpose of all of this. Well, the purpose is to resolve a deadlock between the House of Representatives and the Senate in relation to the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation and the Registered Organisations Bill which seeks to apply basically the same standards that we expect of company dorectors for trade union officials. Sure, but to follow your logic then, the only way through is of that deadlock, as you say, is to get it passed the only way to get it passed is to have numbers in your favour in the Senate. What’s the likelihood of that? Well that is the purpose of a joint sitting of both houses is that it doesn’t rely upon the numbers in the Senate alone It relies upon the combined numbers of the Government from both houses sitting together. That’s the purpose of a double dissolution election, is to enable that joint sitting of both houses to happen, so, I know a lot of commentary has focused on other things, but our purpose, and the objective of a double dissolution election is to resolve a deadlock between the two houses. On the 60 minutes controversy, as Communications Minister, with that hat on do you want ACMA to take a look at what the televisio program has done and been involved with, with this botched child rescue? Well, look, it’s obviously concerning. I think the most important thing at this time is for the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs to offer ConsularaAssistance I don’t think it’s helpful for the parties involved, for Ministers to provide a running commentary. There may well be questions to answer, but I really don’t want to comment on that while the proceedings are afoot in Lebanon. Finally, Mitch Fifield, on funding matters in your Ministry, the previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott promised no cuts to the ABC, and did not keep that promise. Will you make such a promise? It’s interesting, Virginia, this is a question I get every time I come onto an ABC programme. (It’s kind of our responsibility, Minister.) -and that’s understandable, I don’t get asked that, interestingly enough, on commercial stations, Well they should care about it more too. -but anyway Virginia. We will make sure the ABC has the resources to do its work. The ABC is an important national institution and we’ll make sure that it’s appropriately funded. Well that’s not a promise, is it? Well, Virginia, we have the next triennium of ABC funding which will be released in the budget. I can’t pre-empt the budget or give you a dollar figure this morning, but I can assure you that we will make sure that the ABC is well resourced. Look forward to talking to you during the election campaign. The next 74 days. Thank you, Minister. Look forward to it, thank Virginia.