SUBJECTS: NSW state election, TikTok ban,Premier Daniel Andrews

LAURA JAYES, HOST: There are a few apologies in the House this morning. Just want to make it clear, some were apologising for barging past that female attendant. Some were just apologising for leaving the House when they weren't meant to. Let's move on. Joining me live now is the Communications Minister Michelle Rowland. I wonder if I should ask you about this, was it a serious incident? Did you see it, Michelle?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I was there and I think the Speaker took appropriate action. The fact that he was so fulsome in stating his review and his discussions, I think reflects the importance that both the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Government as a whole places on the safety and security of this place. I think the action was appropriate.

JAYES: All right, let's get on to other matters that we were planning to talk to you about, and that is the New South Wales election. You were very cautious on Saturday night and at the time I was wondering why, because there was certainly a bit of momentum behind Labor. But now we see, Tom Connell has laid it out for us this morning that it looks like it is going to be very hard for Labor to get to a majority in New South Wales. What does that say about where politics is at? After twelve years, Labor still can't get a majority in New South Wales?

ROWLAND: Well, I think firstly, it is an incredible thing that Chris Minns is the Premier of New South Wales. There's only been three times, including this one, where Labor has come from opposition since the Second World War to win government in New South Wales. Those other two, of course, were the great Neville Wran and Bob Carr. So now, Chris Minns joins that most esteemed cohort. I think after twelve years, when you consider where Labor was even two years ago, which is not even the length of time that Chris Minns has been Labor leader, it's been an extraordinary achievement. But as you've been reporting this morning, Laura, it's still very close to call in a couple of seats. I think it is a testament to the hard campaign work by Chris Minns and his team, including his incredible Deputy Prue Car that has got us to this point. He's really hit the ground running, which is great to see.

JAYES: Yeah, he's at Menindee today, at the Menindee Lakes. He's been at a few hospitals, so he's really trying to, I guess, start as he wishes to proceed and go on. But cost of living, he talked about during the campaign is his number one issue. It's going to be really tough for him to actually do something about that. I mean, at a federal level, your government is also struggling to make inroads and really take that pressure off people at the moment.

ROWLAND: Weknow things are very tough for so many Australians right now and there are a number of factors for that. We've got energy prices impacted by the war in Ukraine, and other factors. It is a difficult time in terms of mortgages and interest rates, but at the same time too, in New South Wales, every week families are being hit by toll costs, which, of course, Labor took a very clear policy to the election to implement. The people of New South Wales will be rightly looking to the new Premier to deliver on those commitments. I think in addition to cost of living, which was of course I think the top issue that was raised by the voters of New South Wales, there's also a backlog in terms of the public sector wage caps and making sure that the wages of those essential workers are lifted. Again, delivery on that promise will be a key priority for the new Minns Government. I don't think anyone is under any illusions that there are a lot of challenges ahead. But I have confidence that this government will hit the ground running and be very mindful of delivering on its commitments because there's very high expectations.

JAYES: Yeah, absolutely. Well, let's look at something to do more immediately with your portfolio. We saw a testimony in the US Congress this week from the boss of TikTok. I think it was pretty much a disaster. I know there was a review going on in Australia at the moment as to whether government departments and people working in government departments should have TikTok accounts. Where are you up to with that and how concerned are you about TikTok?

ROWLAND: It is concerning in particular when you see this testimony that's happening, not only in the US, but also developments that are happening in other jurisdictions. The Australian Government has received that advice and we're now reviewing that and will respond appropriately. But again, I think with all of these matters, we take advice from our security agencies. We're at a particular point in our geopolitical space where we know that there are a lot of pressures and challenges in that area, but we need to proceed methodically and we need to do it based on the advice available to us. I have absolute confidence in our security agencies in that regard.

JAYES: I would have thought there is a bit of urgency to this though. Do you have a time frame?

ROWLAND: I don't think anyone's doubting the importance and the urgency, Laura. I'm not able to reveal a time frame at this stage, but I can tell you that it is a very live issue.

JAYES: Okay, I just wanted to ask you about Daniel Andrews heading to China. He needs to, I think, as the Premier of our second biggest state, most populous state, but he's refused to take the media, he said it's not a good picture opportunity. As someone who democracy has served so well, media being a part of that, do you think this was a mistake from Daniel Andrews? Not to be as transparent as possible, given where we're at with China at the moment.

ROWLAND: Well, again, this is a decision for the Victorian Premier. I'm not across the full suite of reasons that he might have given for that. But of course, in Australia we have a free press, we have no state media and we have free reporting. I'm sure that Australian media will report on that as they see fit and in any context.

JAYES: Yeah, they don't have access to him over there and he's only done one interview with Chinese State TV out of Hong Kong. Would you be comfortable if Anthony Albanese did that?

ROWLAND: Well, the Prime Minister will make his own decisions in that regard. Other than that, Laura, I'm really not at liberty to delve into the reasons for Daniel Andrews because they're not known to me. 

JAYES: Yeah, fair enough. But we all know where the debate is with China at the moment. I mean, as a Communications Minister, if you went to China, would you be thinking about what it might look like if you didn't tell the press or you didn't take a journalist with you or at least offer?

ROWLAND: Well, I would be mindful of that, but again, in the case of Premier Andrews, he will need to answer for his own actions in that regard. I'm very mindful, as Communications Minister, of the importance of a free media in Australia. And again, I'll leave it to the Premier of Victoria to answer those questions.

JAYES: I have one more crack at this because you talk about the industry and we did hear from, in fact, the union on this yesterday, Karen Percy, the media president of the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance, said "sidelining Australian journalists meant the information provided was in danger of becoming propaganda." What do you think about that?

ROWLAND: Look, I respect that point of view, and we can debate that here in Australia in this context right now. But again, I'm not privy to the reasons for Premier Andrews that he might be giving, and I'll leave that to him to answer his own questions.

JAYES: Fair enough. But he did say on the record that it wasn't a very good picture opportunity.

ROWLAND: Well, if that's the case, he'll have to answer for that, Laura.

JAYES: Okay, we'll try and get a few questions to him. Michelle Rowland, thanks so much. 

ROWLAND: Pleasure.