Minister Rishworth interview on the Today Show with Sarah Abo


Topic: Elon Musk and violent content on X, Defence spending, Arj Barker show.

SARAH ABO, HOST: Billionaire Elon Musk has taken aim at our Prime Minister this morning over a Federal Court order to remove violent videos of the Sydney church stabbing from his social media platform, X. Joining us to discuss, Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth and Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie. Good to see you both this morning. Amanda, let's start with you. Elon Musk has posted: ‘I'd like to take a moment to thank the PM for informing the public this platform is the only truthful one’. He is not holding back and Albo is in his sights.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Well, quite frankly, Elon Musk and X need to follow Australian law if they want their platform to operate in Australia. There's a simple message here. We have an eSafety Commissioner that has the powers to take down material that is not within the bounds of laws in this country. She's done that. I back her and the Government backs her. So, my message is very clear to Elon Musk and X: follow Australian law.

SARAH ABO: He doesn't care, though, Amanda, and he's not listening. I mean, isn't the point that these laws are too lax?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that the eSafety Commissioner has taken down the content. Obviously, Elon Musk is challenging that in the Australian courts, but of course, we’re always looking at ways to strengthen our laws ensuring that these platforms do the right thing in Australia and follow the law, but importantly, where we may need to strengthen the law. We have a bill before the Parliament now. The Coalition has been playing politics with that bill, our mis and disinformation bill. I would invite them to reconsider their flip-flopping on that bill and look at how we can put the right laws in place going forward for the Australian community to keep them safe.

SARAH ABO: Yeah, I guess the question is whether we’re a bit late to the party. Bridget? Elon Musk’s argument is this is censorship and curbing free speech. But there’s a big difference, isn’t there, when we’re talking about violent videos here? I mean, how can there be any disagreement for removing them?

BRIDGET MCKENZIE, NATIONALS SENATOR: Yeah, well, complying with Australian law shouldn't be optional just because you're a social media company. The eSafety Commissioner has substantial powers and we need to see those enforced. If you're going to be a social media company operating in Australia, you need to have a sense of social responsibility. And I think the PM, you know, is caught a bit. Which way? He's talking tough to Elon Musk, meanwhile subsidising Tesla. I think sometimes some of these guys, the only stick that they understand is a financial penalty. So, maybe there's something in the back pocket the PM could use.

SARAH ABO: Yeah, when we're dealing with a billionaire, let's see how that plays out. Well, the Coalition is set to push billions of dollars in defence spending for a major recruitment shake up in a bid to avoid a future fight over mandatory conscription. Amanda, with recruitment shortfalls in the ADF, could mandatory conscription be the only way through?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Liberal Party is the only party that is talking about conscription in the ADF. They've put out a thought bubble. It doesn't say what they're going to put money into, how they're going to do it. They've really just put up a thought bubble here. What the Government has done is put out a National Defence Strategy. It has a chapter on workforce, and we will keep working towards what our strategic priorities are in the region and in the world. Workforce is a critical part of that and our Government is serious about that. But when it comes to the thought bubble of the Opposition, this was a plan that they had in government that they didn't put any money to, and now they're reheating it with no idea about where the money is going to come from, what they're going to spend it on. So, this is not a serious plan from the Liberal Party here. It's really headline grabbing.

SARAH ABO: I mean, Bridget, we are talking about a significant workforce crisis in the ADF. Some four and a half thousand personnel down. Is mandatory conscription the only answer?

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Well, the Government itself is flagged in their defence program that we're going to actually have foreigners in our ADF. We want to make sure that a modern ADF is not incompatible with modern life. You shouldn't have to have your partner quit their job and have your kids be in different schools every other year to actually serve your country. So, it is about having a workforce strategy. That means we can recruit the right people and that they can stay. So, that's part of the issue. We also are very, very critical of the Government's defence spending program. On one hand, they're saying, you know, the warning time of the ten-year warning time around conflict is gone. And yet they're not spending any significant amount of money on meeting that challenge for another decade. So, we want to bring the capability spending forward and get some capability spending in this decade when we actually need it to meet the challenges that are coming our way.

SARAH ABO: Yeah, there are a lot of issues that do need to be addressed. We wanted to get your take quickly on the breastfeeding mum kicked out of the comedy show. Just very quickly, what do you reckon, Amanda?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think we need more places that welcome breastfeeding mums. I wasn't at this particular venue, but I think we need to look at how we are more welcoming to breastfeeding mums because it can be a very isolating time and we need to look at how our community is much more welcoming.

SARAH ABO: Do you agree, Bridget?

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Look, I had four kids, breastfed the lot of them. Chrissie was right. We need places where people can do that in private and still enjoy the show. But there was a warning that under 15s weren't welcome, so we also need to be respectful of those who don't have breastfeeding kids.

SARAH ABO: Yes, that's for sure. All right, thank you both so much for your time.