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Senator Mitch Fifield (screen shot via skynews.com.au)

Mitch Fifield took time out from the NBN disaster and allegations of ministerial standards breaches, to launch an outraged attack on youth broadcaster Triple J's Hottest 100 countdown move. Deputy editor Michelle Pini reports.

AS A MUSIC PROGRAMMER, Senator Mitch Fifield makes a better politician.

Referring to Triple J’s decision to move the day of its "Hottest 100" music countdown from Australia Day, Fifield said in a statement:

'The ABC shouldn't be buying into this debate ... Australia Day is our national day. The ABC should honour it and not mess with the Hottest 100.'

But the backdrop to the Minister for Communications' foray into music programming was not music-related but technological, as the NBN Co's announcement of further delays in the delivery of the Coalition’sbetter, faster, cheaper” NBN, became public.

This, of course, did not surprise many Australians, most of whom have already given up hope of seeing any development in the NBN — apart from an increase in the national debt. Indeed, even the Prime Minister and former "inventor" of the internet, Malcolm Turnbull, has described it as a "calamitous train wreck".

The news compounded other ongoing troubles for Senator Fifield who, earlier this week, also developed a bad case of amnesia when questioned about his prior knowledge of the dual citizenship of former Senator Stephen Parry

Thus Senator Fifield, faced with the problem of too many questions and no convincing answers, attempted to follow in the skilled footsteps of other Liberals before him and created a diversion.

He forged ahead with his attack on youth radio station Triple J and extended his outrage to Indigenous calls to move Australia Day to a more inclusive date, as well as that common Government scapegoat, the ABC in general.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reported:

"And what Triple J and the ABC have done is to respond to a petition which has said it's not appropriate to have the Hottest 100 on the controversial Australia Day. There's nothing controversial about Australia Day."

Senator Fifield said the ABC was making a political statement in response to pressure from "people who don't like Australia Day, who don't like the fact we celebrate the 26th of January" and said the public broadcaster should not be doing that.

In fact, what youth broadcaster Triple J actually did was reflect changing cultural attitudes after consulting with a range of community groups over a ten-month period, as well as conducting a nationwide survey, in which 60 per cent of participants thought it was a good idea to move the countdown. They then implemented the wishes of the majority of their followers. How radical! 

Triple J say they moved the event after conferring with their audience:

'Because the day also represents the effective start of British colonisation, the beginning of Indigenous dispossession of land and culture, as well as the atrocities committed by colonists, including rape and murder, it is also known as "Invasion Day".'

The fact that, in a democracy, the role of the public broadcaster is to reflect the changing social, cultural and political views of its public, also seemed to escape both Fifield and some of his colleagues — who were clearly also planning barbeques for Australia Day.

Senator Matt Canavan echoed Fifield's outrage and described the change of date of the Hottest 100 as "disgraceful".

Senator David Leyonhjelm shared the level of his historical knowledge and awareness of Indigenous sentiment regarding the Triple J move, announcing:

"I don't think Indigenous people give a rat's arse."

And then tried to remember whether Australia Day celebrates the arrival of Captain Cook or the First Fleet. 

All this, just when we thought conservatives were fans of voluntary, non-binding surveys.

In keeping with his general state of bewilderment – over the NBN, why Parry chose to confide in him about being a dual citizen, or what possible connection there could be between his gifting $30 million to Foxtel and then accepting a gift of cufflinks in return – Senator Fifield said he was "bewildered" by yesterday's announcement from Triple J.

He told the ABC:

Sometimes, as a minister, you slap your forehead and say to yourself, 'What were these guys thinking?' This is just a really bad idea; it's a dumb idea and Triple J should change their minds.

For the past 20 years, the Triple J Hottest 100 has become part of the soundtrack of Australia Day. It's something that Australians enjoy. It's one of the fixed points of reference.

Perhaps, had Triple J been previously aware that Senator Fifield’s Australia Day celebrations would now clearly be ruined, as well as the momentous impact this would have on his sensibilities, they may well have reconsidered their programming decision.

Nonetheless, not prepared to take his disappointment sitting down to tinker with the tin cans and string of his NBN project, Senator Fifield showed a decisiveness rarely seen in him or his colleagues:

"I already have made my view clear to the ABC ... And I'll be asking the board of the ABC, who have the ultimate programming and editorial responsibility, to reconsider this."

Let's hope he didn’t register his complaint with the ABC board via the internet.

Sometimes, as a voter, you just slap your forehead and say to yourself: "What are these guys thinking?"

You can follow deputy editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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