MONDAY, 13 MAY 2019


SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for a feasibility study to evaluate relocating SBS to Western Sydney.


JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INVESTMENT AND TRADE: Today in the heart of Bankstown we're making a very important announcement about the future of SBS. With me today is Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Minister for Communications, Tony Burke, the Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, we have Chris Gambian who is Labor's fantastic candidate for the seat of Banks, just a couple of kilometres south of here, Khal Asfour, the Mayor of Canterbury Bankstown, Barney Glover the fantastic Vice-Chancellor of Western Sydney University, Chris Brown, in charge of give me the name again? 




CLARE: Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue. Have I missed anybody out yet? No. Welcome to Bankstown, the community that I am so privileged to represent in the Federal Parliament. One of the most multicultural parts of Australia and the perfect place to make this very important announcement about the future of SBS, the voice of multiculturalism here in Australia. Let me hand over to the fantastic Michelle Rowland to make the announcement today. 


MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Thank you, Jason. I'm delighted to be here with my parliamentary colleagues. Between the three of us, we represent some of the most diverse areas of Australia and certainly Western Sydney we see as the beating heart of multiculturalism here in Sydney. I am delighted to announce that, if elected, a Shorten Labor Government will conduct a feasibility study into the relocation of the SBS from its current location to Western Sydney. 


This is vitally important for a number of reasons. Firstly, I should note that today, on this very day, is the 5th anniversary of the broken promise by Tony Abbott for no cuts to the SBS. We now know that that promise was a lie. Not only did the government in, its 2014 Budget, cut funding to the SBS. It then subjected the SBS, and the ABC as our other national broadcaster, to years of menacing efficiency reviews, competitive neutrality inquiries, trying to get more advertising on the SBS, and by and large not supporting our public broadcasters. In stark contrast, Labor believes in a bigger, better SBS. That is why we have committed $20 million over the weekend as an investment in Australian content on the SBS. We want to see an SBS that is not only potentially relocated to the heart of multicultural Sydney, but also an SBS that has the opportunity to be bigger in terms of spaces for content development and areas for community use.


This is something that has been talked about for a long time. It is a Labor Government that will examine its feasibility, and if that feasibility proves positive, bring it to fruition for the betterment of all SBS consumers, for all Australians, and in particular being reflective of the wonderful multicultural community that we have here in Australia and particularly in Western Sydney. And I'm delighted to have my colleague Tony Burke here who will add to these comments. 


TONY BURKE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA: Thanks so much Michelle. Today is a really exciting day, and today turns the page on the next chapter of Labor's commitment to multicultural Australia. The contrast couldn't be greater, and the contrast is pretty stark today when you think of the five year anniversary of that 2014 Budget, when the cuts and chaos began. Because, for Labor, multicultural Australia and modern Australia are the same thing. For Labor, multicultural Australia is the definition of who we are and the announcement that Michelle Rowland has made today builds on the commitments we've made in health, builds on the commitments we've made in education, builds on the commitments we've made with the family parent visa for long stay, builds on the commitments we've made for aged care for multicultural sensitive aged care.


You put all of this together and you've got a Labor plan for multicultural Australia that we're putting forward to the Australian people to be decided this Saturday, contrasted with lies and disappointment from the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is hoping people will forget. They're hoping people will forget about the cuts to our schools, to our hospitals, to the SBS. They're hoping people will forget about the broken promise with the parent’s visa. They're hoping people will forget about a university level English language text for citizenship that this government tried to introduce. Well, our comment and our pledge to multicultural Australia is simple. We don't view multicultural Australia as a minority group. Modern, multicultural Australia is who we are. It's the definition of the nation and SBS has, for decades now, been an essential part of providing that service so that people are completely welcomed home as they become Australian citizens. 




KHAL ASFOUR, MAYOR OF CANTERBURY BANKSTOWN: Thank you Michelle, and as the Mayor of Canterbury Bankstown, it is a really important announcement that we've heard today, that a Shorten Labor Government will potentially move SBS to Western Sydney, where it belongs, to align it closer to the SBS charter. And I can tell you as the Mayor that we'll be putting our hand up to have SBS here in Canterbury Bankstown and we're ready to accommodate the studios, the jobs, and the economic input and output that it will bring to the city of Canterbury Bankstown and to Western Sydney generally. 


ROWLAND: Chris. 


BROWN: Christopher Brown, Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue. We're proud that six months ago the community put to Bill Shorten a request to consider moving SBS to multicultural Western Sydney. With Michelle's backing and support of the people behind that decision’s been made and we're here today to say thank you, thank you very much. How appropriate that the multicultural broadcaster be bedded somewhere in the middle of multicultural Western Sydney. I can guarantee, as Khal Asfour just said, cities across the West will be lining up, bidding hard, coming to a future Minister for Communications and Government to make their case of how they can house SBS. I also want to pass on the congratulations of a Bankstown boy and national icon, Brian Brown, who said today "Moving the multicultural broadcaster to multicultural Western Sydney: good move." A man of few words.


So from the heart of Western Sydney we think, not only is it going to help tell the stories, local stories, of local communities, but the smart jobs that it drives, the digital media future, the integration with education, with universities and others, is one of those great potential game-changers as Western Sydney continues its evolution both societally and economically. So thank you very much to the Opposition for the pledge today. We promise we'll line up to do our bit to make it easy. 


BARNEY GLOVER, VICE-CHANCELLOR OF WESTERN SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: Look, I'd like to commend Labor on the announcement today of a feasibility study, should they win government at the weekend, to look at the move of SBS here to Western Sydney and I endorse everything that's been said. To have this wonderful multicultural broadcaster, this internationally significant organisation with a great history in Australia in supporting multiculturalism, to see them move to the heart of multicultural Australia is a magnificent idea and it's worth developing.


As a university, Western Sydney University, we operate right across our region, so we'll work with the location of SBS wherever it might be in Western Sydney. We know the difference that an investment in the heartland of Western Sydney can make. We know with our campus in Parramatta, the campus we're planning here in Bankstown, our planning for Blacktown, Campbelltown, Penrith, Liverpool. We understand the difference that we can make when we move into the major cities of Western Sydney. Having SBS here working closely with the university is a great initiative. I commend Labor for planning the first important step, which would be a feasibility study, but I commend the Shadow Minister for Communications and the other Labor Parliamentarians here for this step. We're looking forward to working closely with you should you win government and we can move ahead with this great initiative. Well done. 


JOURNALIST: Perhaps a question for Michelle or Tony, if this was to go ahead. $20 million, can we just talk about what $20 million covers, would that be the relocation cost? Because we're talking about 750 staff plus subcontractors, plus setting up the new studio et cetera et cetera.


ROWLAND: Well, the $20 million that was announced over the weekend was for Australian content. So that's quite separate from the feasibility study, which we estimate will cost around half a million dollars and be absorbed within existing departmental role. So what we'll be looking at in this feasibility study is: is this a good idea? Does it stack up financially? Does it stack up economically? So that's the important first step to take. And we would also envisage that as part of that feasibility study, we would be looking at some competitive tension between the many different councils in Western Sydney. Now, as Christopher Brown said, we know there are a number of councils that would be interested in this, who are looking at attracting a variety of investments, including higher education, including industry. So having SBS as potentially one of those adds to that mix. So we are looking forward to the competitive tension that would be driven by this process, and if the feasibility study proves positive, then making a selection on that basis. But it will be a fully informed decision based on the evidence and based on the sound financial advice that we have arising from that study.     


JOURNALIST: While it’s a great announcement for this region, but we’ve got, you know, Jewish communities in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. We’re also a national broadcaster and then there’s, you know, quite multicultural areas elsewhere. Will they be left out?


ROWLAND: Absolutely not and I think what’s important to recognise here, I think, if we go back to the words of Paul Keating when he opened the current site in 1993 in Artarmon. And he said this is a great, modern facility, reflective of modern Australia and a lot has changed since 1993. We have diverse multicultural Australia right across Australia and certainly right across Sydney. But in no way does this announcement detract from recognizing that we have many different people living in different parts of Sydney, but what we are looking at here is bringing the SBS in a location where it is at the centre of multicultural Australia. And I should make it clear that this is not a reflection on the SBS’s job that it does. It does an outstanding job. It does an efficient job. It does a job that does all of its organisation and all of Australia proud, and we want to see that become bigger and better. That’s why we have decided to announce this investment today, by a future Shorten Labor Government.


JOURNALIST: From a news and current affairs perspective, being in Artarmon we are quite central to being able to fulfil newsgathering requirements in Sydney. Do you think, out here, I mean, it would be quite difficult for us as we are so resource-constrained?


ROWLAND: I think there are two issues there. Western Sydney is a big place. It takes in a wide geography, with many different communities. So I think we should acknowledge that we are not selecting a site. We are here, in Western Sydney, but by no means has Canterbury Bankstown been selected as a site. We want the competitive tension to come out through that feasibility study and for the location to be based on the results of that study. And also, certainly, the issues of staff, and I recognise that staff satisfaction is very high. I take my hat off to James Taylor, at the SBS, and all of his team who do a magnificent job and I know that the satisfaction ratings are high. All of these issues will be taken into account as part of the feasibility study.


JOURNALIST: And if we can talk about the feasibility study, how would it work?


ROWLAND: Well, we envisage it to be a two-stage process. Most certainly we would want to kick it off early in the first term of a future Shorten Labor Government, if elected. We would want it to be conducted across a broad range of portfolios. I’m standing up here as the Shadow Minister for Communications, where SBS sits. But certainly this is a very important part of Multicultural policy and also Cities policy. And I acknowledge the work that Anthony Albanese has done on this point. But we would want it to examine that broad range of multiculturalism, communications but also as part of cities policy. So it would be quite a holistic feasibility study, and certainly it would need to stack up financially.



Tony Burke