House debates

Friday, 12 June 2020

Constituency Statements

Hunter Electorate: Media, Energy

10:00 am

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

The impacts of COVID-19 have been many and varied. Of course, the most serious consequence has been the loss of life and the impacts on both the victims and their loved ones. Sadly, none of us have escaped; all of us have been touched. Hit hard have been our local small to medium-sized businesses, including our clubs, our pubs, our gymnasiums, our restaurants. The impact has been very considerable, and amongst them has been the demise of our local community newspapers.

In my electorate alone we've lost the Lakes Mail, the Cessnock Advertiser, The Singleton Argus, the Muswellbrook Chronicle and the Hunter Valley News. They are all very high-quality newspapers run by Australian Community Media, and are all essential services in our local communities. Thanks to them we know what's happening in the local council and its decision-making; we know what's happening in the local economy; we know who has achieved locally, whether it be in sporting or academic or cultural endeavours. Tragically, sadly, we learn who has passed. Certainly, a lot of older Australians still rely heavily on them. They don't have the access to social media platforms that so many of us have, and they rely heavily on the advice of our local newspapers. Businesses still rely on our papers; they undertake their advertising and marketing in them. So they are a very, very great loss.

Our local newspapers also create jobs, and have been a training ground for so many high-quality journalists who have made their way to the national stage. Sadly, though, our local papers were under threat before COVID-19, long before then, because while we should never push back against technology, technology has allowed the big international global players, like Google and Facebook, to in effect steal their local content without paying anything for that service. And, sadly, the government has let these newspaper organisations down by not moving more quickly to help them combat these changes in our society. Let's hope that our local community newspapers, which are operating online of course, are able to revive themselves post-COVID-19.

Another important debate post-COVID-19 will be the energy debate—more important than ever—and I welcome the fact that in New South Wales Santos's Narrabri gas project looks very, very close to approval. It's been about 10 years in the making. This will bring great benefits to the Hunter because it will enable a pipeline to come through our region, supplying new energy, cheaper energy, and creating jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector.