16 February 2021




SUBJECTS: The right to feel safe working at Parliament House; News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Communications Minister joins me now. Michelle, thanks for your time. Did you watch Brittany’s interview and how did you feel about what happened to this ambitious young girl?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I did not see the interview because I was in a meeting in Parliament House when that was on, but I did see some clips. Obviously, it is extremely distressing, and it is a reminder that everyone deserves to feel safe in their work environment and everything in the power of those in authority needs to be done to ensure that happens.

JAYES: Were you surprised? Is there an underlying culture at Parliament House that we just don’t know about?

ROWLAND: Well I think there must be, given the amount of news that has come out over recent times. Then again, I think it’s important to reiterate that the majority of people whom I work with and the majority of people whom I observe around Parliament House are good people who seek to do the right thing and it is most distressing when these things happen, and happen to someone so young. I think ultimately the truth needs to be exposed and we need to ensure that a safe environment is provided for everyone who works here.

JAYES: There will be an investigation. The Prime Minister is now enlisting support to look at the culture at Parliament House. Is there any one particular party that’s worse than another? Is this a partisan issue?

ROWLAND: I would hardly cast aspersions and I think that regardless of whether you want to look at this as a partisan matter, I think it is the responsibility of everyone in this place, particularly every public office holder in this place, to ensure those outcomes are reached, not only for the benefit of everyone who works here but everyone who wants to work here in future. We don’t want this to become a place where people are repelled from pursuing careers.

JAYES: Looking at the interview last night, and I know you said you didn’t see it, but Brittany described it as a tick-a-box exercise, in terms of the support that she was offered. Is this the problem, that on paper the support was offered but in reality, it just wasn’t there?

ROWLAND: Clearly, that is unsatisfactory. In those circumstances and having done some work in my community with a number of advocacy services, there needs to be a much more holistic approach, and clearly that approach was not offered in these circumstances.

JAYES: Just one final question on this. I have spoken this morning to Brittany, and she is obviously welcoming the support she is getting from the general public. Does it surprise you to learn her former staffers, the people she worked for – as in Minister Cash and Minister Reynolds – have not at all reached out to her? In fact, the only two people who have reached out to her at a ministerial level are Christopher Pyne and Darren Chester.

ROWLAND: That would be very disappointing and certainly you would expect her to feel very betrayed and very let down about that. But again, this is all coming after the fact for something that should never have happened in the first place.

JAYES: Michelle, it’s hard to segue after such a horrendous story at Parliament House, but I need to ask you about the media code. This will be debated in Parliament. We know there are going to be amendments. Will they be amendments that Labor can support?

ROWLAND: Laura, we are yet to see what those amendments are, and we know that over the past couple of weeks, the Government has been sending out quite a number of signals. We’ve seen reports about what some of those potential amendments might be, and we’ve had the Senate Inquiry report come down on Friday. Now, some of the amendments have been described as “major”, like changing the way the designation of the particular services is done; in the case of Google, switching from Google Search to Google News Showcase. It could potentially be the way the arbitration is proposed to be conducted. At the moment, it is a binding final offer arbitration, which Google said was a red line for them to stay in Australia. We haven’t actually seen what those amendments are, we will need to scrutinise them, but very clearly commercial deals are being done in the absence of regulation, and that is certainly welcomed.

JAYES: Well, we’ll wait to see what those amendments are. Michelle Rowland, thank you.

ROWLAND: Pleasure.