Transcript: Telco sector security reforms and copyright study

July 23, 2015
Transcripts

TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON MALCOLM TURNBULL MP

INTERVIEW WITH PARTICIA KARVELAS

RADIO NATIONAL

ABC RADIO

 

Topics: Telco Sector Security Reform; Online Copyright Infringement; Q&A Ban

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PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull joins us now, I think he’s just made it into the studio.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I’m here Patricia, I’m here.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I was wondering if you were going to catch a chopper actually but I imagine you didn’t. 

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Ah well, you know, it’s difficult finding somewhere to land.  No I normally get the train in but tonight, because I’ve got to go somewhere else, I actually drove my little car which probably was a mistake because the Sydney traffic was pretty bad.  Anyway.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

It is.  Well let’s get to the first issue.  The Government’s plans to directly intervene in the telco industries when there is a security risk.  Now the telcos are concerned those powers are too broad and far too intrusive.  Why is your Government pursuing them?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, look cyber security and network security are important for everybody.  We all have a vested interest in our telecommunications network being safe from intrusion and interference whether it’s from other countries or indeed criminal hackers, of which there are more than a few.  So network security is important, we’re all in favour of that.  The Government actually has pretty broad powers already as it happens.  But what the new laws are seeking to do is provide greater certainty for telcos.  Now I should say Patricia, that this Bill is out for consultation and we’re getting the submissions – the formal submissions – from the telcos by the 31st of July, and indeed from other parties too.  And we’ll obviously be taking those into account.  We are obviously very keen to ensure that whatever emerges from that consultation is both practical and workable. 

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

So can I get from that that you’re sympathetic to their concerns?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well of course we are extremely sympathetic to their concerns.  I mean we all want -- everyone's on a unity ticket here.  The telcos want their networks to be safe from interference, the Government wants to be able to cooperate and help them protect their networks.  It’s not just a simple, private interest, there is a public interest in ensuring the telco networks are protected from interference because obviously everyone is connected to everyone else and there is a degree of interdependency.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But they are concerned about these powers.  The news would also give --

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

They’re worried they’re too heavy-handed.  That’s what they’re saying.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

That’s right.  And one of them is that the Attorney General George Brandis, at the moment, but the Attorney General more broadly and his Department would have the power to demand that telcos follow their orders.  Do you support that?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well at the moment, the Attorney General has the power to actually withdraw somebody’s license so actually put them out of business and that’s been in the law for a very long time.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

OK but that’s the existing law, this does beef up the laws?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes, to some, I guess it does beef them up to some extent, but I think Patricia that the bottom line is yes, I recognise the telco’s concerns about it being heavy handed, the relationship between the telcos and the government, which obviously has access to a lot of security information through its own security agencies, the relationship between the telcos and the government should be one that is extremely practical and if you like collaborative, it’s got to be very collaborative, and we do understand – we are a government that wants to deregulate, not reregulate – so we do understand industries concerns about it being heavy handed and I just want to assure everyone who’s listening, particularly anyone with a special interest in this industry that both George Brandis and I, and I discussed this with George today, and he will have said earlier today much the same as I’m saying now that we will work very constructively with the telco sector to ensure that we get an outcome that is workable and practical.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

And new research has found that nearly half, I think it’s around 43 per cent of Australians who had consumed digital content, had consumed at least one of those files illegally compared to only one, only a fifth I think in the UK, this is a big joint survey that you’ve done; that’s quite extraordinary isn’t it that it’s still going on? We’ve got Stan, we’ve got Netflix but we still like nicking stuff.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well, this survey is pre-Netflix, it sort of, it ran out just before …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Isn’t it sort of at the beginning of it?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

We’ll do a similar piece of work in another year or so and that may have changed. Well look some people may say, the Brits would say that this is the convict stain, that it doesn’t matter how long, those Australians they just can’t help nicking things. It may be of course that Australians are more honest than the Brits and maybe the Brits are just not telling the truth to the survey company about how much content they’re consuming illegally.

I think it is -- what is significant about it really is there are obviously very high levels of illegal downloads and they are higher in Australia than the UK. I think the reason for that is pretty clear, actually, all jokes aside about convicts. The reason is that streamed content, online content is available at the time of the survey, was available in the UK more readily and more cheaply. We are obviously going to do, we have already passed a site blocking legislation, we will support the industry and all the actors and directors and writers in protecting copyright as much as we can but the real solution to this is greater awareness on the part of citizens that downloading content illegally is tantamount to stealing. You’re depriving somebody, you’re potentially depriving actors and writers of a living but above all it’s vital that the rights owners make their content available at the same time in Australia as it is available elsewhere in the world so when people read about a new show on social media…

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

It needs to be available immediately because there’s a dramatic lag at the moment.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well that’s right because the problem is that if it is relatively easy to get something in a timely fashion for free unlawfully but there isn’t a lawful, a legal, alternative then I regret to say that while I’m sure no Radio National listeners would ever contemplate something of this kind. Nonetheless weaker souls may find themselves tempted as apparently quite a lot are. So making content available in a timely fashion at an affordable price is important. Now there is some very good news I think, Spotify which I’m sure a lot of your listeners use which is a streaming application. Spotify’s research indicates that since Spotify was introduced in Australia the amount of illegal file sharing of music has declined considerably and so there is clearly a correlation, if you make content easier to buy lawfully then the percentage that is stolen will diminish.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

On RN Drive my guest is Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Piracy is still high in Australia, why do you think that is the case? 0418 226 576. One of our listeners says it’s because of geoblocking. Do you think we should get rid of geoblocking?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well this is territorial copyright. Well it’s very easy to get around, of course, using a VPN, and people do that all the time. My own view is that territorial copyright is pretty much finished in practical terms and we’re still living in a world where the owners of copyright whether it is books or  music or movies will sell the Australian rights to that company and the European rights to another company and so forth. It is just getting harder and harder and close to impossible to enforce. Of course the TV business the free-to-air television business now has to deal with the fact that streaming is a big alternative. I saw some figures recently which suggested that at least on some platforms it indicates that the streaming services, Netflix, Stan, etc. have a bigger share of audience of any given night in primetime of any of the free-to-air television channels. So it is a very, very big alternative and the media environment is being dramatically changed just as your radio environment has been dramatically changed by podcasts.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Great well I about to dramatically change this conversation. I want to take you to a different theme --

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Good.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Because I’m a dramatic person.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well it’s your Greek background.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Background that’s right, very Australian as well. On the GST do you support Mike Baird’s call for an increase to 15% to the GST and do you think it should go to health and education?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I certainly support there being a very open and unfettered discussion about it. As Arthur Sinodinos was another person of Hellenic parentage was talking about this on the media just before I came here. And Arthur of course is a Senator now and had been John Howard’s chief of staff for a long time. He was talking about when the GST was established. And the reality is that anyone, every tax professional, tax policy expert will tell you, that GST in an ideal world will have a very broad base, broader than it is with fewer exemptions and of course if you have a higher rate it will raise more money. All of that is common sense. The reality however is that it is a regressive tax, in the sense that everybody pays it, it’s not progressive like income tax is.  So that’s why, as why as Mike Baird has said, you need to have, you would need to design the compensation very carefully.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But do you think it should also be directed in these specific areas?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Look Patricia, I am not a fan of what they call hypothecated taxes which is a tax where you raise an amount of money and you say this will only be used for such and such a purpose. But I can see the political arguments for it. I think the economic arguments for hypothecation are weaker.

But I just want to make this very important point. If there is to be changes to the GST the states have got to make the running on that argument and Mike Baird is showing some leadership there and full credit to him. He is a great, I feel very good about living in NSW knowing Mike as the Premier. I think we are very lucky to have him.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Fairfax Media has been ordered to pay 15 per cent of Joe Hockey’s legal costs incurred during the year long dispute. Would you have sued?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Joe has put out a statement acknowledging--

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But would you have sued a media company?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I have sued media companies in the past, but a very long time ago. I used to spend a lot of my life in litigation as a lawyer. It requires a lot of courage to take on a big media company in a defamation case. Joe wanted to stand up to what he saw as bullying. He has been vindicated, he won on important parts of the case, but he didn’t win on all of it. But he has taken … I know Joe is a big guy and the Treasurer …

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

It’s a bit of a waste of time isn’t it?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

He is a David taking on a Goliath --

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

He is the Treasurer, he is hardly a nobody. He is not Mister Nobody in the suburbs taking on a media company, he is the Treasurer of the country.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

You are quite right, but the media companies have got an enormous advantage, not least because their litigation expenses are tax deductible and they have more resources than a plaintiff, even the Treasurer. But nonetheless it has been an expensive exercise for him, but  he wanted to prove a point of principle, and he has had some vindication there.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The Prime Minister has put Bronwyn Bishop on probation. What do you think probation means? I have been trying to get to the bottom of what it actually means.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

You should ask the Prime Minister. He is the Prime Minister and if he has put her on probation then he can explain what he means by that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Do you still support her as speaker given every day there are more allegations. Today ones that she was going to watch theatre and shows on expensive daytrips charging it to the taxpayer.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I will leave, I don’t want you to think that I’m trivialising or diminishing the importance of politicians dealing with their expenses in a responsible fashion. It is very important to do that and all of us should, are held to account as Bronwyn has been held to account here. But I really don’t want to add to the welter of commentary about Bronwyn Bishop. I can speak for myself, you know, as you said earlier, I normally, I normally get the train. I’ll be going to Geelong shortly and I’ll be getting the train there but everyone operates in a different way.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

On the Q&A ban, when are you going on Q&A next?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well that’s an extremely good question. Assuming the ABC Board, well assuming the Prime Minister’s decision isn’t changed and the lifting of the boycott, the frontbench boycott, doesn’t occur, it isn’t lifted until the Q&A is moved into the News and Current Affairs Division at the ABC, which is what --

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

The Prime Minister wants.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

It’s also what the Chairman has indicated that he thinks is a good idea too. So assuming that happens at or around the next Board meeting that I think is in the first week of August then if I am asked then I will certainly appear with bells on. I like Q&A.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

You’ve been missing it. I’ve got a real sense from you Malcolm Turnbull that you really want to go on Q&A.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

You think that leather jacket of mine is fidgeting in the cupboard waiting.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

I do! It wants to bust out desperately and you’re like when is this thing going to be over! Do you think the ban is going on a bit? It seems to sort of be going on a bit to me.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well the Prime Minister made a call to draw a line under it with that change. I think it is a good change to move Q&A, clearly to my way of thinking.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

But should he be the one asking for it though? I mean to Board was going to do it anyway.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well yes, that’s right. The company indicated that they were going to do it and I was a little surprised a couple of weeks ago when that wasn’t announced but they wanted to consider it at the August meeting which is their perfect right and the PM decided well when they’ve done that that’s when the ban or the boycott will be lifted. But you know, I know, Q&A is a controversial program I think.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

That’s probably why it’s so well watched.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Well exactly and I mean we are in the communications business we politicians and its got a big audience and the sooner we can have frontbench members of the Government on there getting our message across, pointing out the good things we’re doing and the deficiencies of our opponents the better.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Have you been watching it?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

I have watched it, yes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Since the ban? Have you been watching it since the ban?

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Yes I have, there isn’t a boycott on watching it as far as I am aware.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

No I don’t think so.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

But I’m told the ratings have gone up so it may be that we’ll never be asked back.

PATRICIA KARVELAS:

Well this is the thing, it’s certainly been great free publicity. Thank you so much for joining me on RN drive Malcolm Turnbull.

MALCOLM TURNBULL:

Great to be with you Patricia. 

ENDS

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