JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
101 FM LOGAN
THURSDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Community anger over Facebook’s news blackout; Delays to the News Media Bargaining Code; Morrison Government’s failures on quarantine; Peter Dutton’s rorting of the Safer Communities Fund.
IAN ‘BLUEY’ CUMMISKEY, HOST: Mate, I’ve got three or four things I want to talk to you about and we get to do this every couple of months. I'm going to switch it around a little bit if it's okay with you, Jim. I want to talk about Facebook because it's been the lead story on the news at 10 o'clock, and how the Facebook fiasco is gonna play out?
CHALMERS: Well, people are absolutely filthy at Facebook, I think, with good reason, for the way that they've chopped off all the various news feeds. And as you know, Bluey, most people in our part of the world get their news from 101 FM, but a lot of people get their news from Facebook as well. And so people are pretty angry at Facebook and I think that's fair enough. And I think what's especially difficult for people to cop, is that some of the health sites were compromised, and people get a lot of their health news, particularly during a pandemic, from Facebook. It's not the only place they can get it, but it's often the most convenient place for them to get it. So they're angry. Our point is, this is a mess and the government needs to tell us how they're going to fix it.
‘BLUEY’: This hasn't come out of the blue. This has been bubbling along, under the radar, for quite a long time?
CHALMERS: That's right. The ACCC, the competition watchdog, did a big piece of work. And they said what we need to see here is, we want to see the big tech platforms pay the news organisations for the news that their journalists create. And our side, the Labor side, we said from the beginning, well that sounds fair enough to us in principle. But what really matters is whether or not you can actually land a workable code here, a workable set of arrangements. So we've said in the parliament, we’ve said outside the parliament, yep, let’s go down this path, but the onus is on the government to get it right. Clearly it's a real mess today and so we're calling on the government to let us in on how they intend to fix the mess because a lot of people are very angry.
‘BLUEY’: More shoulders to the wheel, I would imagine, will come up with some pretty clear thinking. And Facebook itself is doing deals with some organisations and not others. So how does that play into it? When they'll say, okay, well look, News can have it, but so and so can't?
CHALMERS: Well, the legislation in the parliament at the moment, Bluey, is a sort of a backstop that says everyone should do their own deals and if that's not possible then this legislation kicks in and the parties have to come together and have the the heads knocked together and come to an arrangement. So, I think we've always expected that there will be deals done between the media organisations and that's how they get paid for the content that their journalists create. So, that’s the expected bit. But as part of those negotiations, obviously, there's been a lot of messiness. Josh Frydenberg keeps telling us ‘oh, I've been on the blower to Mark Zuckerberg’, and yesterday he said it was a ‘historic day’ and pretended it was all fixed…
CHALMERS: …but I think anyone who's tried to access your Facebook feed today, knows that it's anything from fixed.
‘BLUEY’: I guess time will tell with Facebook how this all plays out. And if I may, I wanted to talk about two other items which have really come across the desk. The first one is COVID-19, the quarantine situation in hotels has been abysmal, to say the least. And the brand damage that's been done to some of these hotels, they will probably never repair. If you owned a Holiday Inn in Victoria, you'll be asking questions of yourself, saying ‘well, what am I going to do to fix this?’ And it's not only in Victoria, it's in New South Wales, and even in Brisbane, in particular. So, I noticed John Wagner, from the Wagner family, who are in Toowoomba, have come up with an idea of, they have an airport, that they can take the biggest aircraft. Now, a couple of times a week, Cathay Pacific put 747s into Wellcamp to take off fresh fruit and vegetables and meat over to Hong Kong. And in particular, milk as well. They've come up with the idea, similar to Lindsay Fox, except that Johnny Wagner had thought about this before, building a quarantine Centre at the Wellcamp. And the bus would take them off the aircraft and put them straight into the quarantine facility. Where do you see that going?
CHALMERS: Well, I think that we definitely need to be thinking about how we broaden out these quarantine facilities, for some of those reasons that you identified, Bluey. What's really missing here, is there's never really been, from the beginning, despite a review and a report from the federal government, there's never really been some good thinking from the federal government about how do we provide some national leadership here, so that we've got the facilities that we need, we've got the arrangements that we need. And what happens in the absence of that, is that people do their own thing, the Premiers get understandably stroppy about it. And our Premier, who has in my view played a blinder throughout this pandemic, she’s had some very important things to say in the last couple of days about how we get this quarantine right. But in the absence of that national leadership from the Prime Minister, then we're not getting everything, you know, bang-on, as good as it can be. I'm told that this particular proposal you've raised with me, that it is being worked up, and it's being considered. But it requires that national leadership to say, okay, this is what we're going to do about facilities outside the hotels. This is how we answer some of the legitimate concerns that the locals might have about it. And this is the kind of overarching regime, so that whether it's the Wagners, or other people in the private sector, whether it's state governments, or local governments, they need to know what kind of system they’re operating in. And in the absence of national leadership, they won't get that.
‘BLUEY’: Okay, let's move across from quarantine at Wellcamp. Let's talk about something that's a little closer to home now. I know that the PM and also Peter Dutton have sort of been caught with their fingers in the cookie jar, ignoring their own advice on community safety standards. And also, I guess, cutting funding, rejecting funding, for Logan City's residents safety. How does this come about?
CHALMERS: Well, Bluey, as you know, I spend a lot of time out and about in our community. And a lot of the time what people will say to me, whether I'm at the global food markets near where you're broadcasting from, or any other sporting clubs that I knock around at most of the time, people come out and they say ‘how does what happens in Canberra matter for us locally?’ And there's lots of ways that it does. But this example here, where Peter Dutton has been caught red handed dudding our local community, this is a really good example of that. So what happened, very quickly, is that the Kingston Butter Factory, there's a lot of work going on at the Kingston Butter Factor, we want to make it a really terrific centrepiece of our community. And they had a $953,000 bid in to make the site safer, out of the Safer Communities fund.
‘BLUEY’: So, down at the Kingston Butter Factor, which is of course an iconic building. And, you know, bottom line is, that it is the real heritage of Logan City…
‘BLUEY’: … and for the redevelopment to happen, that creates so many jobs as well…
CHALMERS: Absolutely spot on, and it's something that we can be proud of and it's next to the Kingston train station, it's got a lot of upsides, and we want to make it terrific. The Council's done some good work there, the state government’s interested, so it's a really big opportunity for us. So they put in a bid for almost a million dollars from the federal government, saying we think this is a really good idea and we think you should approve it. Instead, what Dutton did was, he only approved half the money. And he went down to Tasmania, get this, on a RAAF jet, during a by-election, and gave a whole bunch of money to Tasmania, which the department didn't approve. So he dudded us, by knocking over half of the application for the Kingston Butter Factory, went down to Tasmania because there was a by-election on. So he took the money. And this is just one of the many rorts in the budget at the moment. There's a trillion dollars in debt, the budget’s riddled with rorts. And what happens is, communities like ours get dudded, because they’re putting their political interests ahead of community safety at places like Kingston Butter Factory. And we also had two other venues, which were knocked back for funding as well. So this is what I say to people, Bluey, when I'm out and about, all the time, in our community, is that some of these decisions the Morison Government's taking are dudding us, very specifically, making our community less safe. Crime’s a big issue in our area, as you know…
CHALMERS: …we want people to be personally safe and to feel safe. That's what these funds are for. Instead of us getting the funds that we need and deserve, it goes to Tasmania, because they want to win a by-election down there.
‘BLUEY’: Okay, Jim, let's talk about this. It was $953,000 in funding requested. We only got half the money. Where does the other half come from to facilitate the funding for the lighting and the CCTV and all the upgrades they’re going to do at Kingston? Where does the other money come from? We’re talking half a million dollars?
CHALMERS: That's right. And the other funding sources, the council and others, they're putting money into the actual site. And it's not too much for them to ask for some federal assistance to make it safer, so that people feel safe there. And so what we're going to have to do is, we're going to have to kick up a lot of dust on this. We're going to have to shame the government into giving that money to the Kingston Butter Factory, the money they need and deserve to make it safer. These community groups, the Kingston Butter Factory, the others that missed out, they’ve raised it with me before. It's really important that we shine a light on it. We have to kick up a big stink and kick up some dust, because we can probably shame the government in reversing it, I hope.
‘BLUEY’: Dr Jim, it’s always good to talk to you.
CHALMERS: Thanks, Bluey. All the best.