Transcript - ABC Afternoon Briefing [11 November 2020]

November 11, 2020

SUBJECT/S: Senate media inquiry; Four Corners; national anthem

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel. Labor MP Anne Aly and Liberal MP Tim Wilson, sorry to keep you waiting, so let's get into it. The Senate has actually voted to establish an inquiry into media diversity, including the dominance of News Corp Australia and its impact on democracy. This, of course, comes after that tabling of Kevin Rudd's petition. So it's not a royal commission. It's a Senate inquiry, starting with you Anne Aly do you think that's wise? Labor hasn't said yes to a royal commission, but do you think it's good to have this kind of inquiry to investigate or to look into the media?

ANNE ALY: I think a Senate inquiry is a good move. I mean, I think most Australians will agree that that we have seen a diminished media landscape in Australia and the traditional kind of media role of being the fourth estate. And, you know, putting forward unbiased news has really changed over the years. A lot of that has to do, of course, with the introduction of social media. But if you look at the media landscape in the United States, where you've got such a bifurcation of media and there's so many just worlds apart, I think it bodes well for our society to have a much more diverse and flourishing media landscape.

KARVELAS: Tim Wilson, what's your view? Should should the Senate be looking at Australian media like this?

TIM WILSON: Well, the Senate is, of course, entitled to put an inquiry into whatever they wish. But I mean, when you look at things like Kevin Rudd's royal commission petition, never forget that it was his government with Julia Gillard's that wanted to impose licensing arrangements on media outlets so they could shut down journalists and shut down media outlets across Australia. I used to deal with these issues in my former capacities. So, I mean, there's been a constant vendetta from the Labor Party in particular and against certain media outlets because they want to silence voices. Of course, in a free society, they're welcome to make those arguments. But in the end, shutting down voices means censorship.

KARVELAS: OK, so you see this as an attempt at censorship?

WILSON: Well no that what I've said is if you want to shut down voices, you're trying to shut you're creating an environment of censorship.

KARVELAS: How about if you want to create diversity, as the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he thinks should happen?

WILSON: If you look at online and the multitude of voices, including from citizens and citizen journalists, of course, the ABC on television and radio across the board, you have so many voices in the country. So I'm very pro diversity. I want to remove barriers always want to remove barriers to more voices in the public square. It's sadly been the Labor party that's traditionally wanted to license media outlets, license journalists so they can shut down dissenting voices.

KARVELAS: Anne Aly I want to change the topic if I can, because Michelle O'Neill was on the program earlier. She's calling for an inquiry into the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act, the MOPS Act. After this Four Corners report and all of the discussions we're having about staff and their rights who work for ministers, do you think there should be that kind of inquiry?

ALY: I think that we do need to assess the Act, and I think that we do need to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that we have a safe and secure environment for staffers and particularly for young female staffers, given the revelations on the Four Corners show on Monday night. You know, I, I'm all for inquiries and I'm all for investigations. What I'd like to see, though, is action. And if there are gaps in that act and if those gaps result in people either having no form of recourse or are afraid to come forward with any kind of sexual harassment allegations, then I'd like to see those addressed.

KARVELAS: OK, I want to put that to you as well. Tim, do you think there should be this kind of inquiry as suggested after those allegations? Do you think there is a more systemic issue in the parliament and in ministerial offices?

WILSON: Well, the foundation of any workplace, whether it's the nation's parliament or it's somewhere in the community is that they should be environments that are safe, respectful of everybody, and that people are treated with dignity. And if people have a legitimate basis or a concern that I feel needs to be voiced, then they should be able to have pathways to do so. Now, the truth is, I'm not very familiar with the MOPS Act, so I don't know what the deficiencies are. But if there's a deficiency, then then, of course, these sorts of things should be properly addressed because what we want and what we should want is safe, respectful workplaces for all Australians, no matter where they are.

KARVELAS: As you know, the woman who was working for Alan Tudge has made a complaint to the finance department. Do you want to see your Government, the Prime Minister, address her complaint? Tim Wilson, are you concerned about what she's had to say?

WILSON: Well, I've only read media reports, but of course, any allegation firstly should be treated with respect and addressed appropriately. And of course, I want it to be properly investigated. Now I think it should be properly investigated through the proper processes. I don't think there should be political interference in that process, which I think is what would happen if you start getting politicians involved. It should be followed through properly, accurately, people treated with respect the evidence brought before and then appropriate action if required to be taken.

KARVELAS: So you do think it's a serious issue, is what I'm getting from you that needs to be addressed? Because you need to kind of set the example for other women who might want to work in the parliament.

WILSON: Any issue or allegation of sexual harassment, or workplace bullying or conduct in whatever workplace it is should be taken seriously, regardless of whether it's in suburban milk bar all the way up to the nation's parliament.

KARVELAS: Anne Aly [inaudible] Tim Wilson in relation to this. This clearly is a bit of more of a systemic issue. Michelle O'Neil, the ACTU president, says that actually the Parliament is a high risk workplace. Do you agree with that assessment?

ALY: I do. I think also... like, I used to work at the Equal Opportunity Commission, and one of the things that I did in Western Australia was I would go to different organisations and public sector organisations and trained them in how to set up processes and procedures around harassment and bullying. I was quite astounded when I came here that there was no information available to me or to my staff about the processes that are available if somebody wants to make a complaint about things like confidentiality, about those complaints about contact officers that people can go to to make a complaint who the line managers are, there is a lot of confusion in this place and, you know, in titling the Four Corners show "The Canberra Bubble", I think, is very apt because it is a bubble and it's not like other workplaces. But it should be. We should have those safeguards, as other workplaces are meant to have around sexual harassment, around bullying, to make safe workplaces. But I haven't been able to in the years that I've been here, figure out exactly what the process is and how it works.

KARVELAS: Just very briefly, because I don't have much time on the program, but this idea from Gladys Berejiklian on a change to the national anthem lyrics. Do you think you could get behind that, Tim Wilson?

WILSON: I'm quite relaxed about in fact, I think it's a very good idea. Anything that promotes a sense of national unity, which is what I think we should aspire to as a country, is a welcome step. And politely, I don't think it's the idea of the New South Wales Premier, even though she is the best Premier in the country. I think it's been floated before, but I welcome her contribution. And I said I'm quite, I'm quite pro it.

KARVELAS: OK, Anne Aly, do you think it's a good idea?

ALY: I've always wondered how those words, asking us to rejoice because we are young, work in a nation with a sixty-eight thousand year history. I mean, we're older than the pyramids. So, yes, I think we should take pride in that fact, in the fact that we are one of the oldest living cultures in the world and that should be reflected in our national anthem.

KARVELAS: Yeah, we should be pretty proud of it, too. I would have thought. Thank you to both of you. It's been a great conversation.