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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 9000

Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Communications, Senator Fifield. What is the government's response to yesterday's announcement by the ABC's triple j that its Hottest 100 countdown will no longer be held on Australia Day, 26 January?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I'm not going to call the minister until there is some semblance of order.

Senator Dastyari interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Dastyari!

Senator Watt interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, you've had a pretty free run this question time. Order!

Senator Dastyari interjecting

The PRESIDENT: So have you, Senator Dastyari.







Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (14:58): I am sorely tempted to break into song, but I'll be strong! I regret to say that Senator Paterson is correct. Yesterday, the ABC's triple j did announce that the Hottest 100 will no longer be held on Australia Day—shame! For the last 20 years, the Hottest 100 has counted down on Australia Day. It's been the soundtrack for Australia Day. The decision taken by the ABC to remove the Hottest 100 from Australia Day is, quite frankly, bewildering. It is one that the government does not support. We recognise, obviously, that Australia Day and its history can be complex for some Indigenous Australians, and it's right and proper that those views will be covered on the ABC. But the fact is the overwhelming majority of Australians support 26 January as Australia Day. It's a day that we celebrate. It's a day that unites us. 26 January is our national day. That's my view. It's the view of all my colleagues on this side of the chamber. It's the view of the overwhelming majority of Australians.

Let me make clear on behalf of the government that the date of Australia Day will not be changing. triple j and the ABC should respect that fact. triple j and the ABC should not be inserting themselves into political debates by taking decisions like this.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, on a supplementary question.



Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (15:00): For the information of senators, I am more of an EDM man and they don't play that as often as I'd like on triple j. I'm sure, based on my—

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left. Senator Carr.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator PATERSON: Senator Brandis asked, 'What's that?' Electronic dance music, Senator Brandis.

The PRESIDENT: I'd urge you to get to your question, Senator Paterson.

Senator PATERSON: Can the minister outline the reasons triple j has given for this decision and what is the government's response?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left. I will call the minister when there is silence. Senator Dastyari and Senator Carr, you've been quiet for a while but you're interjecting a bit over the top now.







Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (15:01): triple j has stated, 'We all agreed that the Hottest 100 shouldn't be part of a debate about the day it's on.' Yet, by their very actions, triple j and the ABC have inserted themselves as participants at the very centre of this debate. The ABC and triple j should not be putting themselves in a position where their programming decisions are seen as making loud political statements. triple j has pointed to two surveys that they conducted of their listeners, but the ABC and triple j have a broader responsibility than to just one market segment. They have a broader responsibility to the entire Australian people who render in excess of $1 billion a year to the organisation. Poll after poll demonstrates public support for Australia Day as 26 January. The ABC should respect that.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Reynolds?

Senator Reynolds: On a point of order.

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, can I hear Senator Reynolds on a point of order?

Senator Reynolds: Sorry, I was going to stand up for a point of order before the minister stood up. I want to refer you to comments Senator Carr made about Senator Paterson goose stepping. I think that the connotations of that to Senator Paterson are highly inappropriate. I ask you to ask him to withdraw it.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

Senator Reynolds: That wasn't the context he said it in.

The PRESIDENT: I did not hear the comment the first time, but I think I heard it upon it being repeated. I don't think that is necessarily considered unparliamentary but, Senator Carr, you have been requested to withdraw.

Senator Kim Carr: If it causes offence to the senator, I'll withdraw it.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Carr. That facilitates the operation of the chamber. Senator Paterson, on a final supplementary question.










Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (15:03): Can the minister inform the Senate what action the minister has taken to raise the government's concern with the ABC?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Acting Minister for Regional Communications) (15:03): As colleagues would know, the ABC has legislated independence with regard to programming decisions and the ABC board has ultimate responsibility for these matters. However, I have written to the chair of the ABC to ask that the board reconsider and reverse this decision. It will be a matter for the ABC board to determine, but the government's view is that they ought to recognise the overwhelming view of Australians on this issue. As I've said, the Hottest 100 is the soundtrack of Australia Day. It's a popular and recognised feature of Australia Day. Australia Day is 26 January. It will remain so, and the ABC should recognise and respect that fact.

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, do you want me to call your colleague? The clock is ticking.