Senator Bragg, good morning and thanks for joining us on ABC South East.
Morning, Simon. How are you?
Well, thank you.
I'll ask you about the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's enquiry.
Do you have any concerns about the workplace culture within Parliament House when it comes to sexual harassment and assault?
Well, Simon, as someone who spent the bulk of their professional life outside of politics and in the private economy, I have to say that I don't think that the institutions inside Parliament House support the sort of culture that we want to have where everyone feels safe. So, for example, there isn't an H.R. department where you can go and have a complaint considered independently. I mean, people have too often been forced to choose between making a complaint and their job.
And so I think that is a real, you know, real structural issue. And so what we now have an opportunity to try and fix some of these things.
Do you think it's a problem that ministers can hire and fire their own staff? Is that one of the issues?
Look, I think there are lots of excuses and lots of cop outs in this area. Simon, I think the reality is that if you have a proper process for verifying or considering independent claims independently of the employer, then I think that will help foster a better culture.
And that is something that I hope that comes out of the out of the Jenkins' review, because the current process is very opaque and very hard to navigate. And I think that has led to people not not coming forward with claims.
So on top of the Brittany Higgins case, there's also that anonymous letter containing details of a historical rape allegation against the attorney general, an allegation that Christian Porter strenuously denies.
Do you think the government has responded adequately to these issues so far?
Well, Simon, these are historical allegations and they have been and they are still the subject of ongoing legal processes, so it's very difficult for me to say anything about this. The South Australian coroner released a statement on Friday saying that he was effectively still considering his position.
So it it's it's difficult terrain for me to make any further comments on that matter. What I can say is in the present in the present tense contemporaneously, I mean, I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that we do live standards in Parliament House. That is something that we can control. And I think the Jenkins review, I think, is an important part of our response.
And you mentioned that there should be a way to independently look into claims, you know, independent of an employer.
Should that apply to historical allegations such as we've we've seen in the last couple of weeks?
Well, we're talking about the workplace standards that we want to have in Parliament House. So that is that is something that I think we can fix in the present tense in terms of the broader judicial processes that go on in relation to crimes that occur outside the workplace. That's something that I think is outside the scope of the Jenkins' review.
Okay, now to an issue that you've been quite vocal on, and that is racism stemming out of the covid-19 pandemic. And we saw that survey last week showing almost one in five Chinese Australians say they've been physically threatened or attacked in the past year, with most blaming the tension stemming from covid-19 pandemic or or hostility between Australia and China. What's your main point about this?
What what needs to be done to to stop this happening in Australia.
With Chinese Australians were instrumental in Australia getting through the pandemic in one piece. Now, after Chinese New Year last year, when the pandemic started to break, Chinese Australians returned home and isolated and I think did a great job in protecting our broader community against further transmission. There has been a spate of racist attacks against Chinese Australians, which is very troubling. And I think in places like Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide, that has been evident.
The Lowy Institute has reported that about 30 per cent of Chinese Australians have had some sort of verbal. Attack in the last year, which is quite consistent with our own our own internal review numbers, so that is there is a high number, 30 per cent of Chinese Australians being abused on racial grounds I think is very troubling and something that we need to stamp out. So there are a range of things that people can do. If it happens to them, they can get in touch with the Human Rights Commission.
They should, of course, reported to the police. But it's very important that the community is aware that the coronavirus has nothing to do with Chinese Australians. It has nothing to do with them. It is a it is a a virus which has nothing to do with any particular group of people. I
'll ask you about the media bargaining code now, you're on the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which recommended that the new bargaining code be passed despite concerns being raised by Facebook and Google and the like.
Would you ever have predicted the tactics that Facebook used in pulling polling news off of its sites will be tech has so much power.
I mean, big tech has become the railroads and the oil companies of the 21st century. They have so much market power and so much influence on our lives. And so it's important that we prepare to regulate to ensure that tech companies are doing the right thing, given how much information they have about us. And I say how much power? So, I mean, as soon as Facebook started to threaten Australia and Google started the threat in Australia, we had to win.
We had to win that war because we can't have a situation where democracy is going to lose to a company. And effectively, the principle stake was. Would big tech companies pay for public interest journalism, which they use to generate advertising upon? Now, the policy of our government has been that there should be payment to public interest journalism and to our media bargaining code has the threat of arbitration. Which I think is now driving the big tech companies to the table and they have started to do deals with with with initially with large media businesses, but it's very important that they also go through and pay for journalism that they use from smaller, independent and regional publishers.
There were some slight changes made before it passed the Senate last week. Will it mean that Facebook ends up paying less money at the end of the day?
So I think the we've never been prescriptive about. The nature of the deal, Simon, I think what we have said has been that we want there to be commercial deals, we want there to be payment for journalism. Now, we are the first jurisdiction, almost the first jurisdiction to be doing this. France has also put in place laws as well. I should I should should note for your listeners interest. But the principle here is that there should be payment for journalism.
We're not prescriptive about how much it should be, but it should be a decent market rate to recognise the fact that, you know, your job that you do well down on the sout coast is a is an important job. You're generating journalism and news and that should be paid for.
All right. Andrew Bragg, good to talk to you again. Thanks very much.