Transcript - Media conference - Parliament House, Canberra

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: The ABC is one of our most important institutions. A pillar of Australian life that plays a critical role. It is, indeed, one of the great pillars of our democracy. It's part of our cultural identity and our cultural wellbeing. Crucially, it's a life-line in times of disaster. We rely upon the ABC to inform Australians about natural disasters, about weather events and about what is occurring in the world so they can respond in an appropriate way.
Because it helps us share our voices with each other, I believe very firmly that it brings us closer together as a nation. And in a continent as vast and diverse as ours, that's no mean feat. But like anything that is worthwhile, we can't take what the ABC is for granted. We need to cherish it and nurture it. It needs the right leadership and that leadership needs to come from a figure of trust, talent and experience. Someone who is as multi-facetted as the national broadcaster.
So, it gives me great pleasure to introduce Mr Kim Williams who we will recommend to the Governor-General to be the next Chair of the ABC.
Can I begin also by saying I have spoken with Ita Buttrose, the current Chair, who finishes up her position soon. Ita Buttrose is a champion. Those of us who grew up singing the great Chisel song about Ita, it said a lot about her standing in the Australian community.
Kim Williams is, I think, of all the people who were forwarded potentially as candidates for this position, shares a life experience and a breadth of capacity that he will bring to this role. That is similar to why Ita Buttrose was chosen for that job by the former Government - a choice that we accepted and supported and I spoke, I have consulted as required with Peter Dutton as Leader of the Opposition about this appointment and I thank him for his engagement in the process.
Kim is such a perfect fit for the role, it's almost as if he were made for it. He is much at home running media companies as he is running arts organisations and, indeed, former AFL Commissioner so engaged in sport as well. There aren't too many Australians I can think of who have both studied composition in Italy and been an AFL Commissioner. Kim is a true renaissance man. The breadth of his experience is matched by its depth. And his intellect, his energy, and his insatiable curiosity of all meant that he's been able to devote himself to a great diversity of passions. He, of course, has led news organisations including News Corp. He has been involved in sporting organisations, but many, many arts organisations, including those engaged in music and the theatre.
Kim is someone who gets the ABC and he's someone who understands instinctively what a national broadcaster can and should be. I congratulate him on this decision that was made by the Cabinet yesterday. I thought it was appropriate to, as soon as possible, to avoid - I have been reading some speculation, I haven't seen the obvious choice mentioned in speculation up to this point - but I thank as well the Minister for her engagement in this. And we'll hear from the Minister and then I'll ask Kim to say a few words. And then we're happy to take some questions.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you, Prime Minister. The ABC is a trusted media voice and one of our most important cultural institutions. It entertains and informs millions, it brings Australians together with the stories that matter, and it connects communities with timely information when they need it most. The ABC belongs to all Australians and needs strong leadership to deliver on its charter obligations. To innovate services across news, current affairs and entertainment, education, international broadcasting, as well as promoting the musical, dramatic and performing arts in Australia. That's why Kim Williams is a natural fit for the ABC and why his appointment is being recommended to the Governor-General.
Mr Williams has a breadth and depth of experience that spans the ABC's full remit. He will bring strong leadership and focus to the ABC board. Over the course of his very impressive career, Mr Williams has shown a commitment to independence, to innovation and best-practice governance. He's committed to the cultural life of the nation. He understands the value of rigorous quality news and public-interest journalism. His corporate and board acumen is extensive. I want to acknowledge the work of the independent nomination panel which is being supported by my Department in conducting the merit-based selection process in accordance with the ABC Act under which Mr Williams was nominated for appointment.
Finally, I pay tribute to the outgoing chairperson, Ms Ita Buttrose. Ms Buttrose is a giant of the media and business worlds. She has shown steady leadership for five years. She's maintained a strong defence of the ABC's independence. She was the right chair for the right time. And we wish her well in all her future endeavours. Kim.
KIM WILLIAMS: Thank you, Prime Minister, thank you, Minister. The role of Chair of the ABC is clearly a solemn responsibility. It's one which is guided by the charter and obviously has a responsibility to work with colleagues on the board of the ABC to give life and personality to that charter. The charter is often invoked but rarely read and the charter is a refreshingly broad statement as to the responsibilities, it speaks to the cultural diversity of Australia, it speaks to the responsibility, to national identity in the process of informing and entertaining the nation, it speaks to the necessity of being innovative and comprehensive in the approach that is taken across all of the delivery methodologies of digital media, broadcasting on television, and radio, and clearly in a lot of written information. It also has international responsibilities, education responsibilities, and, of course, an array of responsibilities in relation to what I described charmingly in the Act as ‘the musical and dramatic and other arts’. I certainly think giving life to those responsibilities is one of the great enduring challenges in Australia. And it's a privilege to do so.
PRIME MINISTER: Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Are you about to break an election promise and change the stage three tax cuts? And if so, why?
PRIME MINISTER: I'll be taking a proposal on economic policy to the Party room this afternoon. This proposal will be all about supporting middle Australia. We know there are cost of living pressures on middle Australia and we're determined to follow the Treasury advice to provide assistance to them.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, when you recommitted to seeing through your promise on stage 3 tax cuts, you said, ‘My word is my bond’. What is your word worth now to Australian voters?
PRIME MINISTER: My determination and my job is to get the best outcome for Australians. It's to respond to the circumstances which we confront. And we know that there's been considerable coverage about the pressure that is on low- and middle-income earners particularly with regard to cost of living. The proposals on economic policy that we will take to the Party room this afternoon and that I will be speaking at the National Press Club, I'm a leader who speaks at the National Press Club and makes myself accountable, I'll be giving a full exposition of economic policy and our response to provide assistance to middle Australia on cost of living at the National Press Club tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what is your message to those Australians who would have been planning for the tax cuts to help pay their rising mortgages and will now be receiving less?
PRIME MINISTER: We understand that Australians are under pressure. And we're providing support through the plan that I'll take to the Party room this afternoon, is focused, really concentrating, on middle Australia and that's the advice we have received from Treasury. Is there any questions about this firstly, just in terms of this firstly?
JOURNALIST: Given Ita Buttrose is finishing up her term and given the recent events in terms of ABC staff showing no confidence in David Anderson, do you have confidence in David Anderson and Ita Buttrose? And just on Antoinette Lattouf, do you believe that sharing a post by Human Rights Watch is a sackable offence? And given those leaked messages, do you have any concerns about what that indicates?
MINISTER ROWLAND: Firstly, the Government has full confidence in the ABC Chair and its managing director. Secondly, the matter to which you refer is the subject of a Fair Work hearing. We will not be interfering in that process. We will let that run its course.
JOURNALIST: In terms of what staff have indicated, in terms of diversity concerns and concerns about coverage, do you have any thoughts on that? You have implied you're not going to answer the question in terms of legal matters, but you must have an opinion on how the national broadcaster is conducting itself?
MINISTER ROWLAND: We understand that the current situation, particularly in the Middle East, is deeply concerning to many Australians. We are also well aware that the ABC has been forthright in ensuring that itself journalists have support, continues to improve itself with regards for support for its workforce and all media organisations should seek to foster diversity in all its forms.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) on the ABC's responsibilities in reporting the conflict in Israel - in Gaza?
KIM WILLIAMS: I think at the core of all journalism at the ABC is the imperative of being absolutely verifiably independent, offering at all times true journalistic integrity and to the extent possible in human affairs having an aspiration to freedom from bias.
JOURNALIST: Could I ask - is there any update on the Government's position on gambling ads? Do you agree with the Peta Murphy report that gambling ads should be banned rather than just reduced?
PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to Peta Murphy, I'll say this: She is such a loss to this institution of our national Parliament, but also to the people of Dunkley. And I have been to Dunkley a couple of times. It's fair chance I'll visit a couple times more in coming weeks. One of the things that strikes me is the extraordinary integrity and the way in which she was held. The fact that she sought out Jodie Belyea, who is our candidate for Dunkley, to recruit her to the Labor Party, to carry on her legacy, is something that I hope occurs on March 2. But that will be a matter for the people of Dunkley.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) position on gambling ads?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, if there was, I would have given you one. We make decisions and then we make announcements in a transparent way.
JOURNALIST: In the lead-up to Christmas, or on the other side of Christmas, both the Treasurer and yourself, when asked about stage three, said it's possible to help people on low incomes in other ways. What's changed? Why do you now have to take from some people to give to others?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, you'll have to wait for the National Press Club, Phil, tomorrow. And one of the things that we will be releasing tomorrow, as well, is the Treasury advice. It makes for good reading about the options that are available to provide assistance when there are cost of living pressures on people. Now, I noticed our opponents have not waited to see any detail to see what the proposal is. They're just against it. Like they're against everything. Like they were against cheaper child care. And you'll see some figures next week that show that policy has made a significant difference. They were against the energy price relief plan that the Australian Bureau of Statistics says played a major role in the reduction of inflation, down to 4.3 per cent, the monthly figures that were released most recently. They were against cheaper medicines that we have promoted. They've been against fee-free TAFE. They've just dismissed, even though 300,000. Australians got to participate in TAFE last year to address skill shortages to make a difference. And now, they're against whatever it is that's put forward at a National Press Club. Angus Taylor said they're against it. Well, what I say is that we will be doing the right thing for the right reasons. To assist middle Australia. That's where I said very clearly my Government would be focused. And it is where we will be. Charles, last one.
JOURNALIST: Regardless of the intent, or indeed the worthiness, given what you said about accountability, will you admit that a change to stage three tax cuts amounts to a broken promise on your behalf?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, you'll have to see the National Press Club tomorrow. One sleep to go, Charles, before I stand up and announce in a very clear way. We have a proposal that we will take to the Party room this afternoon. But what I can say is this. There are pressures of cost of living that have, according to Treasury analysis and according to common sense, have most impacted low- and middle-income earners. That there has been, since 2019, there has been a pandemic, there has been a recession, there has been global inflation, there has been not one war, but two wars that have had an impact. So, there has been considerable events. But I'll be very clear in accepting responsibility for policies put forward by my Government. That's what I do. That's what I do whether they have been, no matter what the policies have been. I have accepted responsibility. That's my job. But I will tell you what my job is too. My job isn't to say, 'I'll just wring my hands about cost of living pressure that people are feeling'. My job is to respond, to seek advice, and then to make a difference. To make the right decision, not the easy decision. The easy decision is to think that this job and the great privilege I have of standing in the Prime Minister's Courtyard at a press conference is something that I'm just here to occupy the space. I have never been here to occupy the space. I have been here to make a difference. To make a difference for individuals, but to also make a difference for the nation. And the policy that I will be taking to the Party room this afternoon is aimed squarely at middle Australia, but it's also aimed at good economic policy. And we will release, tomorrow, the Treasury advice as well, for all to see and to do a proper analysis. But my job is to do the right thing for the right reasons. That's what I will do.
Can I just conclude, importantly, by saying that our thoughts are with the people of Far North Queensland. I've visited there a couple of times in recent weeks. They're doing it tough. They're doing it tough. And our thoughts are with them as the advice is that Tropical Cyclone Kirrily is expected to cross the coast between Cardwell and Airlie Beach tomorrow, bringing with it strong winds and rain. We are closely monitoring the situation. And I want to thank all those who are preparing. Those council workers, the emergency service workers and others, volunteers, once again, helping communities to prepare. I visited a range of communities up there. And the idea that another extreme weather event is going to hit them breaks your heart. They're resilient. And they're showing that. There are also extreme heatwave warnings for the Mid-North Coast and Hunter regions of New South Wales, for parts of Queensland, for the Northern Territory as well. Heatwaves can be just as dangerous as a cyclone. Please follow the advice that is out there. Check on your neighbours and mates, as people do. That wonderful household who I met with Murray Watt at Holloways Beach where we had three groups staying in one bloke's house, they didn't know each other, just opening up their house to not just families, to pets, to, in this case, not just four legged pets, but winged pets as well. They're all there in this house. And it just brings you, on the eve as we approach Australia Day, a great sense of pride to be Prime Minister. To see that Australians at the toughest of times show the best of their character. That's what I'll be celebrating this Australia Day and at the Australian of the Year Awards tomorrow night, which will be held at the National Arboretum and then at the flag raising ceremony and the citizenship ceremony where more join the Australian family on Australia Day as more than 15,000 Australians will right around the country.
I conclude with this point. The job this bloke's about to take on, Chair of the ABC, the ABC plays a role, a critical role. That's why the broadcaster, one of the reasons why the national broadcaster, is so important. Because the ABC literally saves lives by giving advice to Australians when they need it. Thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).
PRIME MINISTER: Look, I spoke to Scott Morrison yesterday. I wish him well. It's a great honour to have been Prime Minister of Australia. And he served as the 30th Prime Minister of our great nation. So, I thank him for his service. I wish him and Jenny and his family all the very best.