Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


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

1:37 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications) Share this | Hansard source

I should point out to colleagues that this bill makes no changes to any matters regarding Australian or children's content standards, including quotas. The government, as Senator Hanson-Young made reference to, is indeed undertaking an Australian and children's content review to provide advice to government on the most effective mechanisms for supporting Australian and children's screen content. Many of these mechanisms have not been looked at for more than a decade. We want to make sure that the arrangements are fit for purpose. Specifically, mechanisms to support Australian drama, documentary and children's content, including the Australian screen production incentive, are being examined. The work on the review is ongoing.

Contrary to Senator Hanson-Young's, I assume, rhetorical flourish, I don't have my pen ready to write to anyone over the parliamentary break to give directions on these matters. The standards, I should point out, that establish quotas are made by ACMA under section 122(1) of the Broadcasting Services Act. These standards are not disallowable instruments, and I'm advised by my department that this has been the case for some time—since at least 2003 and possibly earlier—and that it's not the case that this is something that came into being in 2015. The exemption from disallowance from these standards that you refer to is contained in the Legislation (Exemptions and Other Matters) Regulation 2015, but my advice is that it is having in regulation what was previously in primary legislation. So that exemption had been there well before. That regulation in 2015 is just the latest incarnation of something that has been in place for some time.

The rationale for this exemption is that section 128 of the Broadcasting Services Act includes the power for parliament to amend standards, which is a more comprehensive power for parliament than media disallowance. In any case, it's not correct to say that I can unilaterally amend or abolish quotas. Let me restate again that the government has made no decisions in relation to the content review, which is ongoing. The quotas are in standards that are made by ACMA, and it is ACMA that would need to make new standards to make any changes. Again, let me reiterate that the government has made no decisions in this regard. No announcements, including regarding quotas, are imminent. So there's not a basis in fact for the commentary around quotas that there has been over recent days.


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