Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


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

1:25 pm

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

by leave—I move amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 8406 revised together:

(1) Clause 3, page 2 (after line 11), at the end of the clause, add:

Note: The provisions of the Legislation (Exemptions and Other Matters) Regulation 2015 amended or inserted by this Act, and any other provisions of those regulations, may be amended or repealed by regulations made under section 62 of the Legislation Act 2003 (see subsection 13(5) of that Act).

(2) Schedule 1, page 5 (after line 7), after item 12, insert:

12A Subsection 122(7) (note)

Repeal the note.

(3) Page 34 (after line 26), at the end of the bill, add:

Schedule 2—Program standards

Legislation (Exemptions and Other Matters) Regulation 2015

1 Section 10 (table item 8)

Repeal the item, substitute:

8 An amendment made under section 128 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to a standard under Part 9 of that Act

This amendment deals with the issue that I spoke of in my speech in the second reading debate last night. We know that in 2015 the government, without any consultation and with very little attention from the parliament, moved to give themselves the right to change codes and standards in the communications act to allow the minister to make changes without parliamentary oversight. Normally, of course, regulations and other various changes and directions could be disallowed or debated in the parliament. In 2015 this government, without any consultation, changed those rules, to give the minister the power to willy-nilly change or give directions in relation to standards and codes.

Today we've been debating the standards and codes in relation to gambling advertising. But there is a big fight looming, and it is in relation to the requirements for our broadcasters as to what level of Australian-made content they have to show and what level of Australian-made children's content they must broadcast. We know that the big broadcasters, the commercial free-to-air broadcasters, don't want to have these restrictions upon them. They prefer to buy cheap crap made in the US or elsewhere, and to play it here in Australia, and to not have to invest in our local content, and our local film and screen industry. We also know that the big commercial free-to-air broadcasters don't believe that they should have to invest in Australian-made children's content.

At a time when broadcasters are diversifying from television screens into online platforms, mobiles, iPads and other streaming services, and our children are, in fact, engaged more than ever in watching and consuming created content, we should be thinking more as policymakers about the quality of that content that's made for children and that is available to our young audiences. And it's important in today's age that Australian kids are able to access good-quality, Australian-made content. They deserve the right to have their stories told. They deserve the right to have the stories of their community and their country reflected back at them. We all have those memories of being kids and watching Skippy, Roundthe Twist, Play School or Bananas in Pyjamasor of our own children accessing good-quality, Australian-made kids' content. All of that is going to become harder and harder unless we protect the requirements for our broadcasters to invest in and show Australian-made kids' content. And, of course, this goes beyond just kids' TV. This is also in relation to Australian-made drama.

We have an amazing industry of talented creators here in Australia who are very fearful that jobs are about to be shed and they will have to go offshore, because the investment in Australian-made content, in Australian stories, just won't be here if these changes to content requirements are made at the stroke of a pen by the minister. The exemptions—and this is where the rubber hits the road—under the standards and codes section of the act, allow the minister to simply write a direction. There is no parliamentary oversight for this. There is no opportunity for the Senate to debate whether that's a good thing or a bad thing or whether there needs to be a compromise. It will simply be at the will of the minister—of course, being begged by the big broadcasters. Not only do they have free licences, because they don't have to pay fees any more—taxpayers gave them a big free ticket last year at the whim and the request of the minister—but also they don't want to have these requirements to invest in Australian-made stories or for Australian kids to be able to access stories about their communities being reflected back at them.

All this amendment does is reinstate parliamentary oversight. It doesn't say what quota is right or wrong. It's got nothing to do with that. It simply says that the parliament has a right to act as a check and a balance on the decisions and directions being made by the minister. I think that is absolutely fair. We're all senators in this place and we're passionate about being able to review legislation, to improve legislation and to ensure that the will of the Australian people is being reflected in the laws that pass this place. Let's make sure that, in relation to this issue, the parliament still has a role—because, to date, it doesn't. The minister can simply make these changes, which will fundamentally change the look, the feel and the face of Australian television, the look, the feel and the face of Australian-made stories and the look, the feel and the face of kids' TV, whether that's on the big screens at home or, indeed, the little screens in their hands.

Australian kids deserve to have Australian stories. They deserve to be able to learn about their communities through storytelling, through questioning and through being able to quiz what are norms and whether something is right or wrong, to help them make sense of the world. If we get rid of these requirements, if we allow the minister to do this without even a check or balance from the parliament, that's all going to go out the window—because we know these peak broadcasters don't care about what our Australian kids are consuming. All they care about is their bottom dollar. All they care about is the bottom line on their budget sheets. They don't care about Australian-made content. They don't care about the industry jobs that are going to be lost offshore, because they'll just buy crap from the US to fill our screens or, worse than that, in between, we'll be bombarded even more with terrible reality television. That's what the broadcasters tell us.


No comments