Senate debates

Thursday, 10 May 2018


Communications Legislation Amendment (Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund) Bill 2017; In Committee

10:38 am

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

Thank you, Minister, for that. Yes, I think what has happened is that these have been put up as separate sheets when really they should have been on one sheet and then we could move the three blocks of amendments separately. I understand that the Clerk is just circulating a revised sheet that puts it all together, and then we can discuss each amendment as we go. So we now have a sheet in front of us, sheet 8435, which includes amendments in relation to making sure that we can get the maximum amount of effectiveness out of this fund. I would like to suggest that we move amendments (1), (2) and (3) on sheet 8435. And if we can have a bit of a conversation about those things, that would be good.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Hanson-Young, are you seeking leave to move amendments (1), (2) and (3) on sheet 8435 together?

Yes, I am.

Leave granted.

I move Greens amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 8435 together:

(1) Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (lines 18 and 19), omit all the words from and including "The Minister" to and including "ACMA.".

[simplified outline]

(2) Schedule 1, item 1, page 4 (lines 4 and 5), omit all the words from and including "unless" to the end of subsection 205ZH(2), substitute:


(a) the ACMA is satisfied that the person satisfies the criteria specified in section 205ZHA; and

(b) the person is party to an agreement under subsection 205ZJ(2).

(grant criteria]

(3) Schedule 1, item 1, page 4 (after line 10), after section 205ZH, insert: 205ZIIA Grant criteria

The following criteria are specified in relation to a person for the purposes of paragraph 205ZH(2) (a):

(a) the person carries on a business that in the financial year commencing on 1 July 2016 had a turnover of between $300,000 and $30 million;

(b) the primary activity of the business is journalism that investigates and explains, from an Australian perspective, public policy and issues of public interest or significance;

(c) the primary activity of the business is carried on by individuals resident in Australia;

(d) each senior manager of the person is resident in Australia;

(e) either or both of the following apply:

(i) the person is a member of the Australian Press Council;

(ii) the person has in place a process for the making and handling of complaints made to the person in relation to the person's business;

(f) the person has in place a code of conduct, editorial guidelines or other framework directed at the provision of quality journalism;

(g) the person does not receive financial assistance from, and does not carry on its business with regard to the interests of, any of the following:

(i) a political party;

(ii) a trade union;

(iii) a superannuation fund;

(iv) a financial institution;

(v) a non-government organisation;

(vi) a policy lobby group.

(grant criteria]

(4) Schedule 1, item 1, page 6 (line 7), omit "grants; and", substitute "grants.".

(annual report]

(5) Schedule 1, item 1, page 6 (lines 8 and 9), omit paragraph 205ZL(d).

(annual report]

Basically, what these amendments do is correct the problem that we have had with this piece of legislation from the beginning: that there is an ideological blindness that's been drawn into this bill. We want to make sure that if you're an Australian publisher, if you're an Australian news outlet, if you employ Australian journalists, if you're reporting Australian news and you're doing it for an Australian audience and you're within that small sphere as outlined by the criteria, you have access to this fund. It shouldn't matter whether you are friends with the government ideologically or not. The issue in relation to this would mean that we can ensure that the applicants, to be able to access this fund, must have a body corporate controlled by Australian residents. That is of course important. In this way it ensures that eligible applicants must have Australian management and Australian control with independent Australian editorial direction. But it is not based on whether it is from the right-wing media or the left-wing media—that shouldn't matter. It should be about whether the editorial control and the management are within Australia. It is Australian taxpayer funds, so let's ensure that we are supporting and that this fund can support agencies and news outlets that report Australian stories and employ Australian journalists.

One of the key elements of this whole debate that came out of the media reform package was: how do we protect Australian journalists' jobs? We know that it is becoming a tougher and tougher gig to be a journalist in Australia. The margins to be able to keep funding organisations are getting harder and harder to work within. We know that the 24-hour media cycle has an impact on that. These are all of the different elements that we have covered over the months and years that we've been debating this issue in a broad sense. The whole objective is to protect Australian journalism, because it's in the public interest to have good journalists writing about Australian stories and what's going on, informing the Australian public, reporting on what we do here in this parliament, at a time when trust in politics is so low. It is a matter of having good support for the journalists who scrutinise us, question what we're doing and make sure that, as a government and as parliamentarians, we're upholding our obligations to the public properly. These are all important roles in relation to why we want a strong journalism sector in Australia. If that's the case, let's make sure this fund actually does that: supports Australian stories and Australian journalists and gets away from just saying, 'Well, it's only available to these people because they fit certain criteria.' The criteria should be that it is Australian managed, that it has Australian editorial control and that they're employing Australian journalists for an Australian audience. I don't see why this chamber should have any issues in relation to that.


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