Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017; In Committee

12:55 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to say that the Greens will be supporting this amendment put forward by the opposition. We do so for one main reason—that is, we are extremely concerned at the attitude and rise of antagonism of this government and certain members in this place towards our public broadcasters. We know that there are some people—even some on the crossbench, also known as One Nation and Senator Pauline Hanson—who believe that our public broadcasters shouldn't exist and that they don't deserve funding, let alone the independence to make their own editorial decisions or indeed managerial decisions. They would prefer, of course, that our public broadcasters were punished for the stories that they write and broadcast in relation to things that perhaps One Nation and Senator Pauline Hanson do—glass jaws, I would put to you, Chair, from the leader of One Nation in relation to particularly the ABC but also the SBS.

We've heard from the SBS managing director and the board, very clearly, that they have the full intention of abiding by the will of the parliament in relation to banning gambling ads during live sport. In fact the SBS have taken many other principled positions on not showing advertising—for example, alcohol advertising on NITV. They've made a decision that that is not in the interests of their audience and it's not within public and community expectations. They are a broadcaster that are already going above and beyond what is expected and what is required of them.

We know that, as a matter of principle, there has been attack after attack after attack from some within the government, particularly the likes of the former Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott, who just can't stand the ABC and just can't stand SBS. Every opportunity that that bloke gets to attack our public broadcasters, he takes. And of course he's still wielding great power and influence within the benches of the government, despite the fact that he hasn't been Prime Minister for a number of years. He still wields power in that party because of the right-wing rump that are left on the coalition benches. They can't stand our public broadcasters. They hate them with a passion. Why? Because they're trusted. Their news reporting is trusted. They're loved by the Australian people. It is public money well spent—that is what the Australian voters and public think, over and over again. When you look at the public perception of SBS and ABC at a time when media reporting, politics and business are all on the nose, which institutions overwhelmingly get the biggest tick of approval for truth and integrity? Well, I'll tell you: over and over and over again, it comes down to the ABC and SBS, our public broadcasters. We should be finding more ways to support them, as opposed to cut after cut after cut.

SBS, of course, has been under the knife from this coalition government from day dot. Sixty million dollars has effectively been cut from its budgets in the last few years. Yet of course, as we know, the minister and his government are willing to hand out public money—$30 million—to Murdoch's Foxtel, while our public broadcasters get cut over and over again.

This amendment is at least one way of ensuring that we in this place, in the Senate, are going to stand strong for our public broadcasters and for the Australian people who believe in the importance and the public interest of our public broadcasters and in the need for our media institutions to have the shining light of integrity that our public broadcasters carry and continue to carry, at a time when other media outfits right across the country and the world are looking shabbier and shabbier day by day. This amendment goes some way to say: 'You know what? The Senate actually cares about the independence of our public broadcasters and their ability to get on with their jobs.'

SBS have been very clear. They don't want to run gambling ads on live sport. They're not interested. They don't want to do it. But they want to be able to ensure that this isn't just another cut to their independence and an attack on their integrity, which we know the government are incredibly obsessed with because of the right-wing rump on their benches and, of course, because of the deals that they have to keep finding themselves in with One Nation and Senator Pauline Hanson, who is most upset with our public broadcasters because they report on things that she says and then doesn't deliver on, or they report on things that she has said she didn't do but has done. The ABC and the SBS report on stories which she doesn't like. Well, we're all politicians in this place, and sometimes the media write stories that we don't like. That doesn't mean you turn around when you're at the negotiating table with the government and say: 'Hey, let's shut up those journalists at the ABC or SBS. That's what I want. You want our vote for tax cuts? Well, shut up the ABC and SBS.' That is the type of negotiation that is going on here between this Turnbull government and One Nation and their leader, Senator Pauline Hanson. They hate the ABC because the ABC speaks the truth. They hate the SBS because the SBS reports on real news, not the fake crap that's spread all over Senator Pauline Hanson's Facebook page.

That's what this amendment is about: standing up for our public broadcasters and ensuring that they have their independence confirmed and they have the ability to do their job without the fear and intimidation of budget cuts and slurs that come from government members on the other side. Of course, we know Senator Eric Abetz, one of the biggest haters of our public broadcasters, sits in this chamber. He would like nothing more than the independence of the ABC being slashed, and he doesn't mind whether that happens in one blow or step by step by step. Senator Abetz has made it a mission to destroy Australia's well-loved, trusted public broadcasters. He wants to throw them under the bus, and this government, step by step by step, is allowing that narrative and that agenda to continue.

So this amendment is important. It's an important principle for us as a Senate to say: 'No, we're not going to put up with that biased agenda. We're not going to put up with this attack on our public broadcasters. We are going to stand up for the independence of our public broadcasters and the belief of the Australian people that their money is being spent on news and broadcasters that are the shining light of journalism in this country.' They are the most trusted, the highest rating, when it comes to integrity of institutions. This government can't stand it. One Nation can't stand it. It's important that the Senate vote for this amendment to send the message that we are not going to stand by and let our public broadcasters be a punching bag for this government, Mr Tony Abbott and Senator Abetz. And we're definitely not going to sit by and let the ABC and SBS be a punching bag for Senator Pauline Hanson and those lunatics in her One Nation party.


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