Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Fifield. Can the minister share with the Senate what the Turnbull government is doing to protect Australian jobs in the media industry, particularly across regional Australia?
I thank Senator Smith for his question and also for his strong interest in ensuring we have strong Australian media voices. Colleagues would be aware that the Ten network has announced that it will be entering into voluntary administration. This is a difficult day for the staff at Network Ten, but this announcement today should serve as a wake-up call for those opposite, who oppose comprehensive media reform. All of us in this place should be concerned that a major Australian media organisation is facing this sort of difficulty and this sort of challenge. The government has been warning for quite some time that Australian media organisations face challenges and face unprecedented competition, and need to be unshackled so they are in the best position to compete with new media entrants. The response of those opposite to the media reforms that have been in this parliament for the best part of 18 months has been to seek to delay and frustrate them.
As colleagues would be aware, in the budget the government announced a comprehensive and holistic media reform package, which will be introduced into the House of Representatives tomorrow. It is a package that is unabashedly pro Australian media. It is a package that seeks to provide a shot in the arm for Australian media and to give them a fighting chance. While we might not always agree with what those in the gallery write and print and blog and post and stream, what they do is important and it is one of the important underpinnings of Australian democracy.
A core part of our earlier reform package and of the package being introduced tomorrow is the abolition of the antiquated, outdated two-out-of-three rule, which was designed in an era before the internet existed. It was designed in the 1980s. It does not reflect the world that we live in. That media rule constrains the options available to Australian media organisations. It prevents many of them from configuring themselves in the ways that will best support their businesses. I must say, Paul Anderson, the CEO of Channel 10 for the last 18 months, has been calling for the abolition of the two-out-of-three rule to give his organisation a fighting chance.
Mr President, you and colleagues need not be worried about diversity, because we will maintain the one-to-a-market rule, the two-to-a-market rule, the five-four rule and the ACCC competition provisions; and, also in terms of diversity, let us not forget that we will still have the SBS and we will still have the ABC.
I am not. There is only one media reform in town, and that is that which was announced by the government in the budget. That is that which will be introduced into the other place tomorrow. This is a package that enjoys the unprecedented support of the Australian media sector, by which I mean Seven, Nine, Ten, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, News Ltd, Fairfax, ASTRA, Commercial Radio Australia and Free TV. I think they might have some idea about what is in the best long-term interests of the Australian media industry.
But I must say I was a little perplexed by Ms Rowland from the other place, who, when interviewed by Kieran Gilbert, when he said, 'With all these organisations supporting this, shouldn't you?' said, 'Well, the only reason those media organisations are supporting this plan is because there's something in it for all of them'—precisely! That is the point.