SUBJECTS: Scrapping of the Green Army, media reform.  

GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, with me now Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland. Michelle what’s Labor’s view on the fact that the Green Army is going to go the way of the dodo? It’s gone, it will be scrapped in the Mid-Year Budget update.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Kieran this was indeed signature Tony Abbott policy and I think it will expose two things. Firstly that the backpacker deal that the Greens entered into was certainly one that not only dudded the environment, but has simply been exposed as a sham. We have the government also in a position where we’re going to have deep divisions being exposed. This was, I’m well aware, very popular amongst government MPs. And I just did a cursory search and for example Kieran in the last couple of weeks in the Parliament, we had the Members for Dunkley, Forde and Swan in the last couple of weeks making speeches in the Parliament extolling the virtues of the scheme. Now these are all people in tight seats, they all have to back to their electorates and now they have to explain why this scheme has been scrapped. So I think it will expose some very deep divisions.

GILBERT: Well they might lose out of one scheme with the Green Army, they gain with other. The Landcare, which experts say is better equipped – people that actually know what they’re doing in terms of those Landcare initiatives.

ROWLAND: Well three things: firstly, if the Government is now claiming that the Green Army didn’t know what it was doing, why did it keep funding it? Secondly, it did get additional funding in the last Budget. And thirdly, who is to say that these Members and these electorates who’ve been enjoying the funds coming from the Green Army project will actually be awarded that funding? All these things are up in the air, I think this will expose very deep divisions.

GILBERT: I want to ask you about areas of your responsibility as the Shadow Communications Minister. The media reforms have passed the lower house in the final sitting weeks of the year. Labor are supporting part of it, that being the scrapping of what’s known as the ‘reach rule,’ but you’re not going to support the scrapping of what many see as the anachronistic ‘two out of three rule,’ why is that?  

ROWLAND: Kieran we’ve been very clear that the 75 per cent reach rule is not even reform. It’s something that should have been included in a deregulatory agenda or in some sort of statute stocktake Bill. We actually offered the government, last week, we offered them the opportunity to wave this through both houses and they absolutely declined. And we have been absolutely consistent on the issue of the two out of three rule that we would remain to be convinced that it was acceptable, that it was in the interest, and indeed the long-term interest of the diversity of voices in Australia, to have someone who is capable of having control of all three - radio, TV and associated newspapers - in the same market. Now let’s remember Kieran, this was supposed to be on the list of the 20 or so key economic reforms that the Government wanted to prosecute this year. Minister Fifield has utterly failed. It’s no surprise that we have even seen in The Australian him being awarded the title of the most ineffective Minister in the Government.