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Transcript of interview with Karina Carvalho: ABC News 24: 30 October 2012: mobile broadband for emergency services; Australian Human Rights Commission report into sexual harassment; expert panel on asylum seekers

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THE HON NICOLA ROXON MP Attorney-General Minister for Emergency Management


TOPICS: Mobile Broadband for Emergency Services, Australian Human Rights Commission report into sexual harassment, Expert panel on asylum seekers


MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now the Federal Government has been accused of holding back Victoria's emergency services. 20MHz of broadband spectrum had been requested for police, fire and ambulance communications in the event of a major natural disaster.

KARINA CARVALHO: But yesterday Attorney-General Nicola Roxon announced just 10MHz would be provided. Nicola Roxon joins us now from Canberra. Thanks so much for your time.

NICOLA ROXON: It's a pleasure.

KARINA CARVALHO: Victorian Emergency Services [sic] say they need double the broadcast spectrum that the Federal Government is providing them, why don't you give them more? Surely there's no higher priority?

NICOLA ROXON: Well I think that this is just completely the wrong approach from the Victorian Government. What the Commonwealth has done is provided, as requested, a dedicated piece of the spectrum, or a dedicated channel if you like, of communication so that emergency service personnel across the country can use it.

The experts that allocate that spectrum have made the assessment that 10MHz is enough. It's a very valuable commercial commodity, so obviously you don't allocate more than is needed. And I think this is really just a bit of political posturing from Mr Baillieu, who hasn't put any financial commitment on the table to make sure that this dedicated spectrum becomes a reality to improve communications between emergency services personnel.

KARINA CARVALHO: Well he says that the Government just wants to sell the rest of it at a windfall to make a profit?

NICOLA ROXON: Well there's no - there's no question of windfall. This is a valuable commercial piece of space - communication space that otherwise is sold to the highest bidder. We have, as requested - because we believe that having a dedicated channel for emergency services personnel is also vital - set aside 10MHZ, which all the experts tell us is sufficient for this communication purpose.

We've offered it at a public interest price, we've started - we've written to all of the premiers and emergency service ministers to say that the Commonwealth is prepared to offer that at 50 per cent of the price. So that's worth over - more than $100 million, and to date Mr Baillieu doesn't have a single dollar on the table and in fact is slashing money from fire fighting services in his most recent budget. So I think this is a little bit of a political distraction by him hoping that people won't notice that he's actually taking money out of fire fighting budgets.

KARINA CARVALHO: The Victorian Police Association [sic] says that 20MHz is the bare minimum that Victoria will need.

NICOLA ROXON: Well that's not what the experts have told us. ACMA is the body that's responsible for the oversight and sale of spectrum. They've taken advice from the experts, they've worked across the community. This isn't a decision that the Government just made by picking a figure - pulling a figure out

of a hat.

That 10MHz has been set aside, we're offering that to states and territories for their emergency services personnel. We hope that they now will want to take that up and work with us to ensure that it can improve communications when we face serious disasters in the future. But it will be a matter for the states and territories whether they are prepared to work with us, to negotiate over this very important reform. And to date we've not seen a dollar on the table from Mr Baillieu.

KARINA CARVALHO: How much will be - will you be looking to sell that other 10MHz for?

NICOLA ROXON: I beg your pardon? I couldn't hear that question.

KARINA CARVALHO: How much will be - will you be looking to sell the other 10MHz for?

NICOLA ROXON: Well look, the 10MHz, there's a commercial price. Normally this piece of the spectrum is sold on the market to the highest bidder. We accept and agree that a certain amount of spectrum that's needed should be set aside so that our police and our fire fighters can safely communicate with each other in

time of crisis. And we don't think that that should be made available at a commercial price. We're offering it to the states and territories for their emergency services personnel at a very reduced price.

Of course we're happy to talk with them about the terms and conditions of that, and that's what we've kicked off in discussions and instead we've seen Mr Baillieu come out swinging saying it's not enough. This is the first time that such a dedicated channel's been made available in our history, and I would've thought the premiers would be welcoming it.

KARINA CARVALHO: Nicola Roxon let's move onto another subject. And the Human Rights Commission, their report is due out today and it says that 29 per cent of women - there's been a big jump in the number of women who are

experiencing a backlash at work after complaining about sexual harassment.

NICOLA ROXON: This is a worrying report from the Human Rights Commission. It shows that sexual harassment is still unfortunately alive and well in many workplaces. And you know, we can hope that it might mean that people are better at reporting these instances. But I suspect it means as the Sex Discrimination Commissioner says, that really we haven't kept making progress in this area and that we need people to focus on what's a safe workplace, that people should be free from harassment.

And obviously that's something that Labor governments for many, many decades have been committed to. Introducing the laws and now hoping that working with the Human Rights Commission, unions, employers and others, we can see change over time in our workplaces.

KARINA CARVALHO: Nicola Roxon I also wanted to ask you about a story that's on the front page of The West Australian this morning and that says that Labor's getting ready to excise the entire Australian mainland from the migration zone. Is that correct, do you support it, and do you think it's a step too far?

NICOLA ROXON: Well I'm not going to comment on some speculative stories, particularly in an area that's not my portfolio. But I would raise with you of course that we had an expert report which was chaired by Angus Houston. It did make some recommendations about how we treat irregular arrivals so that we reduce the risks of - that people are taking coming here by sea.

That did make recommendations about how we should treat those who actually reached the mainland, and the Government and particularly the Minister for Immigration is working through those options. So it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone that we are trying to look at all ways to send a very strong message that people should not risk their lives and their children's lives by getting on dangerous boats that sometimes don't even make it to their intended destination.

KARINA CARVALHO: So is this being discussed in the Labor Party room and does Caucus support it?

NICOLA ROXON: Well we don't discuss in the media what's in Caucus and Cabinet. What is public of course is that those recommendations were made by Angus Houston, we're working through the way the Government will implement each and every one of those recommendations. And I think I'll leave that for the Minister for Immigration to make any announcements if and when that time is appropriate.

KARINA CARVALHO: Nicola Roxon, thanks for your time this morning.

NICOLA ROXON: It's a pleasure.