Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017, Commercial Broadcasting (Tax) Bill 2017; Second Reading

7:20 pm

Photo of Lisa SinghLisa Singh (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

In the final hours of the 2013 election, speaking live from the Penrith football stadium, Tony Abbott stared down the barrel of the camera and promised the Australian people—and we all remember this very clearly—that there would be no budget cuts to the ABC or SBS. 'No cuts to education,' he said, 'no cuts to health; no change to pensions; no change to the GST; and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.' In less than nine months, Australia learnt exactly how much this eleventh-hour pledge and the words of both the Abbott and Turnbull governments were truly worth.

Despite their promise, the Abbott and Turnbull coalition governments cut the ABC's funding by $355 million over five years in their first budget. But that wasn't enough. They then cut funding even further in the 2016 budget. Remember? 'No cuts to ABC or SBS.' The Australian public has been duped by this. One doesn't need the ABC RMIT Fact Check to see that this election promise was not just a broken promise; it was shattered, with the shards swept under the rug in the hope that nobody would notice. The Australian public did notice. Undoubtedly, since that time, it has become a pledge that the other side wish the member for Warringah had never made.

So how can the Australian people place their faith in this government—the very same government that looked Australia in the eye and promised to pursue a positive future for their trusted public broadcasters but didn't even wait a year before shattering that promise? Now the Turnbull government pushes for the removal of the two-out-of-three rule while cutting deals to cut funding to the ABC, and they expect the Australian people—and Labor—to fall for it. We certainly will not. We will stand with the Australian people. Labor will continue to stand up and support the best interests of the Australian people and our media industry by supporting the reforms that the sector has asked for time and time again, not by further undermining our public broadcasters and not by approving the government's disastrous plan to remove this two-out-of-three rule.

This direct assault on our public broadcasters—the ABC and SBS—in this ridiculous deal just confirms how low the Turnbull government is prepared to stoop. It is bemusing and shocking to think that this is Malcolm Turnbull, the same person who, in the past, one would never have expected to behave, and indeed perform, as a member of parliament, in this way. But he has proven that he is utterly desperate and bereft of integrity by bowing to One Nation's demands in order to scrape these flawed media ownership changes through this parliament. It really is the epitome of the chaos inside the Turnbull government that it is now hell-bent on destroying the diversity of the media industry in this country, which is already—and we must never forget this—one of the most concentrated media markets in the world.

Not only will they repeal this two-out-of-three, cross-media ownership rule; they will hand over an unprecedented concentration of media power to a privileged few commercial operators. It is clear that doing that is an attack on the ABC, in particular, and will diminish the independence of our national broadcaster. On top of that, we've heard of the Turnbull government's mysterious grant of some $30 million to Fox Sports. What does this prove? Again, I think this proves that the Minister for Communications is incapable of anything but doing some secretive, backdoor deal-making when it comes to our media laws.

I understand that Senator Hanson made it clear that she would be gunning for the ABC's funding. We know she doesn't like the ABC. But, with Malcolm Turnbull proving to be such an unfortunately weak leader, it seems that One Nation have ended up calling the shots when it comes to negotiating the ABC's budget next year. Both the Turnbull government and One Nation insist on ignoring the fact that the ABC in Australia is one of the most trusted institutions. They completely ignore the love and support that the Australian community has for its ABC, its national broadcaster—something we all should be proud of. Instead of that, they want to gut it. They want to undermine it. They want to do deals behind closed doors. It is simply lazy politics and it flies in the face of the idea that it's in the public interest. They ignore the fact that Australians value their ABC. Australians don't want their government gutting their ABC.

Why does the Australian community have that sense of ownership over its ABC? Because it's our national broadcaster. It lives by a charter of reflecting Australian stories and reflecting who we are as a nation. The last thing a federal government should be doing is gutting an institution that the Australian people trust and love and want to enjoy through seeing themselves on the screen. Where does this leave us as a nation, if this government is going to continue down this path of ripping millions upon millions upon hundreds of millions of dollars out of our ABC? It is simply ridiculous and shameful that this government is doing this by trying to get these media reforms through after doing dirty deals with those crossbench senators.

The Turnbull government, as I said initially, has for a very long time delayed the vital broadcasting reforms that are needed in the media industry—and we acknowledge those that are needed—choosing instead to hold its reform package to ransom over its obsession with repealing the two-out-of-three rule. I think the government needs to accept the will of the people and move on. There is no gamesmanship in the opposition to the further consolidation of power of the dominant voices in the Australian media. Instead Labor is standing up for the public interests of our great democracy by opposing this repeal rule.

When our shadow minister for communications, Michelle Rowland, called publicly for a thorough examination of the state of the Australian media landscape, Minister Fifield rejected these suggestions and claimed that 'all the relevant facts are already known'. This was despite the fact that the last Productivity Commission inquiry into broadcasting reported on was in the year 2000. Clearly, the facts are not already known, which is why so many disparate reviews and inquiries have popped up to fill that evidentiary void created by Minister Fifield's inaction—an inaction that has gone on now for four years. After four years, this is what we end up with as legislation. That's how long it has taken for this government to conduct a comprehensive and evidence based approach to media reform. Instead, we have chaos and backroom deals with no progress to show.

The Australian Labor Party is extremely disappointed that the Turnbull government has not secured more in the way of public interest considerations in return for the abolition of licence fees. It is imperative that Australians reap a return on the use by broadcasters of the radio frequency spectrum—a valuable public resource that is essential to the digital economy. Despite the fact that Labor regards the Turnbull government's measures as an inadequate and piecemeal attempt at media reform, it is the unfortunate truth that we must take what little progress we can get out of this lazy effort made by this government, which has taken almost four years to make any progress on broadcasting reform at all.

Labor supports several of these measures of the bill because, in truth, it was Labor that proposed them in the first place, having led the way on broadcast licensing fees, gambling advertising restrictions and funding to support the broadcasting of women's sport. But, when the Turnbull government announced that it would provide $30 million over four years to support women's and niche sports, Labor noted the government's support for women and niche sports but also noted that under a Labor government the funding would have been directed to the ABC. The ABC has been broadcasting women's sports for years—a free-to-air platform available for all, rather than a platform only available to 30 per cent of households. So let's be really clear here: taxpayer's money—$30 million of it—has gone to a pay TV broadcaster that only reaches 30 per cent of Australian households. That is disgraceful. It should have gone to our public broadcaster where it is available for every member of the public. That would be in the public interest.

But this wasn't about providing millions of dollars that would benefit the public and be in the public's interest to watch women's sport. No; this was about doing a deal with Fox. This was about commercial interests. Prime Minister Turnbull needs to realise he's a Prime Minister; he's not a businessman. He's not doing deals as a businessman with other commercial entities; he's doing a deal with our taxpayers' dollars—the dollars of the workers of this country who pay tax and expect their government to deliver that money for the public good. It is absolutely bizarre that the government gave $30 million to Fox Sports. There are so many people in my electorate that I know do not have pay TV and will not be able to access women's sport because of this deal done by this government. That's how out of touch they are. Do they not realise that the majority of the Australian people don't subscribe to Fox TV? What are they going to do next? Will they start advertising on behalf of Fox, telling people to sign up? It is absolutely absurd.

These are the flaws that we find in relation to media reform in this country. I've made it very clear that Labor will support those good measures because they're the measures that Labor put forward in the first place all those years ago. But we will not support the stupid measures that are in place, such as the two-out-of-three rule that absolutely dilutes any media diversity in this country. We will always stand up for the ABC and SBS, our public broadcasters, that do so much to tell the stories of this great multicultural nation, to tell our Indigenous stories and to tell all of the different stories that make up who we are as Australian people. That's what the Australian people want to see in their national broadcaster. That's why Labor stands as we do on this bill. (Time expired)

7:35 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I, too, would like to make a contribution to this important debate. I suppose it's not hard to take a line on the position of One Nation with respect to this debate. I've been reading newspapers for a very, very long time and there's always been a variety of views about the veracity or the backgrounding or where people are coming from. The Murdoch press has probably enjoyed either a good relationship or an infamous one with some sections of politics and the community. When a party comes into this place and attacks the ABC and SBS in such a virulent, despicable manner, it's quite surprising. I don't agree with everything the ABC reports, I don't agree with everything SBS reports—and the same with Channel Ten, Channel Nine and all of the other media organisations out there. That there is a diversity of views expressed is part of the strength of our media arena, but it doesn't seem to sit well with the One Nation party. They seem to be on a vehement crusade against organisations which traditionally have been well respected by the taxpayers of this country. In previous attacks, the ABC has been able to defend itself with things like the eight-cents-a-day campaign. Suffice to say, the One Nation Party seems to have taken up a very virulent position against the ABC and SBS, which doesn't bode well for the media sector.

Let's not forget that One Nation is only here with the numbers it has because the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, in his wisdom, had a double dissolution, which had the effect of introducing a number of additional crossbench senators. Some would say that is democracy at work—but, pragmatically, it's a once-in-30-years event: where there's a double dissolution and the quota senators must achieve is halved. It didn't turn out that well for the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull and now, when he has any legislation with any element of contention, he has to do a number of extraordinary deals. Senators on this side of the chamber do not know the extent of these deals—we very rarely see the extent of any consultation. The government have an agenda which is anti-SBS and anti-ABC, and they're pursuing it with all of their collective strength. I don't think that bodes well for media diversity in Australia. The reality is that, in order to get legislation through this parliament and through this Senate, they have to make accommodations. The accommodations they're making in the One Nation area do not sit well with this side of the chamber. I think that's perfectly clear from the current record.

But it's not limited to the One Nation group on the crossbench. The government will have to make accommodations with the Nick Xenophon party. I have a fairly good relationship with Senator Xenophon: I have a laugh and a joke with him from time to time; I vehemently disagree with him on the odd occasion. The reality is that he is a consummate media player. I often joke in South Australia that his relationship with one particular TV station is such that, in the event of anything happening anywhere in the world, there would be a news report and the expert they bring in to deal with it would be Senator Xenophon. I distinctly recall that there was a problem with FIFA about bribery and corruption and whether Qatar had acted appropriately and whether even the Australian bid had been handled appropriately. Not recognising Senator Xenophon as a prolific sportsman or a past expert on the matter, he became their go-to person in the event that there was a bribery and corruption scandal in FIFA.

He has turned media appearances into an art form. He's turned up in the middle of the Adelaide mall in a donkey suit, and has really made an art form out of media exposure. But what's not apparent in all of this is that some of the transactions that occur with Senator Xenophon, and perhaps even with One Nation, are a quid pro quo type of arrangement. They don't actually benefit the media sector; there is a transaction involved which gives them an advantage in some other area. This is really becoming quite apparent, particularly with the Xenophon party. We know that there were massive company tax cuts in March as a result of a deal with the Xenophon party. We know that students, parents and teachers have seen cuts in school funding in June.

We know that Senator Xenophon is doing what people may well be expected to do, which is capitalise on a position of leverage in the parliament and take advantage of the fact that the Prime Minister called a double dissolution and he didn't get the result he wanted—he got a result that was less favourable—and he's now in a position where he has to dig in, dig deep, and cough up to get any of these government positions through this parliament. When they make these accommodations, I dare say sometimes they might even have to hold their breath and stop smelling for a while because they do not really sit well.

One Nation are wanting an inquiry and are supporting the changes of media laws in return for that inquiry, which has the potential to gut the operations of the ABC and SBS. I heard Senator Hanson say that people come in the chamber and try to use her popularity to get a bit of leverage by criticising her position. I think I move around the backblocks of this country as much as Senator Hanson—although, perhaps not because I don't have a plane that was donated to me by a reliable supporter or donor. But I go in a car and I do travel around, and I always rely on the ABC for the information. If I want information on news, it's the ABC. If I want information on road conditions or weather conditions, invariably your car radio will get you an ABC station. And if you stay out in those regional areas, you get Imparja and you get the ABC. That's basically what you get. There are about 600,000 people in the centre of Australia, and Imparja is the commercial station and, apart from that, it's the ABC.

In my former life, when I did have a bit of media exposure and I actively went out and sought it, I would often get calls from places as far flung as Groote Island and Ceduna from people who had heard on the ABC about some event that I'd been involved in. That is the extent of their carriage—from Groote Eylandt down to Ceduna and all the way round this great country they are supplying a wonderful service to Australian taxpayers and people who live in regional communities.

On the one hand, Senator Hanson is saying they're not spending enough money in regional areas and pointing to the fact that they must be spending too much in the city. I don't really get that, because you need to produce stuff where it's efficient to produce it and then you need to broadcast it where people can hear it. I think they do a stunningly good job of producing effective programs and broadcasting them, geographically, fantastically. I don't think there's an Australian in any regional area that doesn't have a great, deep and abiding respect for the contribution of the ABC. Certainly, The Nationals would be of this view. I find Landline one of the most informative programs that you can possibly watch. It gets out and goes into some really interesting areas and produces high-quality journalism.

You can't sit on this side of the chamber or on that side of the chamber and not feel aggrieved from time to time about the contribution of media organisations. We all have our disagreements about who is the best and most effective but, on balance, we've had a respectable outcome. But this legislation will make it worse. The print media is writing for someone who has completed grade 7 or grade 8. They've got to get the story up in the first paragraph and you've got to give little bits of information after that, with plenty of photos, short grabs and big letters.

People are getting their news from the talkback radio station at 5.30, 6.30 or 7.30. The person has read the paper, and then they start talking on the radio about the articles in the paper. People are driving to work. Very few people are even buying newspapers anymore. If you look at the circulation of newspapers in Australia, you'd be astounded at how small it is. I know that our own august journal alludes to the fact there are plenty of people reading it online, but the actual distribution numbers are not good. I know, because I go for a walk in the morning, how many people in my street get the paper delivered now. It used to be everybody, but that is no longer the case. People are waking up to Facebook, their smart phones, iPads, laptops and radio stations.

It's been very sad to notice over the last number of years the number of good journalists who have been made redundant. I saw something recently about AAAPT closing down yet another base, another operation, which used to be a good training ground for fledgling journalists. When you travel in regional Australia, you meet the journalist who does the layout for the country newspaper, sells the advertising for the country newspaper, does the stories and the photography for the country newspaper and collates all of the regional football, netball and softball results—which, in the main, is why the country regional newspaper gets read. People buy it or, if it's available for free, pick it up because they want to see who won the football and whether their handicap was exceeded in the golf section.

We really are in a difficult situation with media per se. But it's not just Australia that's in that position. We all work quite interesting hours and we're away from home a fair bit. Personally, I almost can't stand TV. As soon as I put a TV program on, they'll be putting in seven or eight ads every hour or half-hour, and I forget whether I'm watching ads or the program. The reason for that is they're so bereft of advertising revenue. These changes are not going to make anything better. The fact they've had to do these extraordinary deals with One Nation and the Xenophon party and maybe others is not a great harbinger of good times to come in the media sector.

If someone could point to anywhere where there's been increasing employment of journalists, I'd be really grateful. All we seem to be seeing is a reduction in the number of journalists, and that is an extremely bad thing. You need independently-minded, qualified, investigative reporters to hold this side of the chamber, that side of the chamber and those people on the crossbenches accountable. If we don't have the people skilled, employed and invested in doing that work, we will become less as a society. We know that true, good journalistic practices keep a decent democracy honest. We know that there have been hundreds of examples of good investigative journalism which have rewarded democracy per se. But we're not going to get it if we allow concentration. We're not going to get it if we allow the One Nation party to go on, for want of a better word, a witch-hunt or vendetta against the ABC. It won't happen. I can understand that at times they may be disgruntled about the coverage that their party gets, but that's a democracy. That's what democracies do. People are entitled to research a subject and come up with a view, and an editor will make a decision as to whether it's made public. That's simple and clear.

I can tell you, Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan—probably having more grey hair than you—that I used to be a copy boy for the NT News, after school from four o'clock in the afternoon to 10 o'clock. My job was to punctuate the copy that came out of the telex machine. I did learn to punctuate it, cut it and put it on a bit of paper, and it went to the copy people. I learnt back then that the copy went in after the advertising had been put in. The advertising on the page is what paid for the operation, and what was written came second. That advertising has dried up, so guess what? There are no more opportunities to write the copy. I think that's the reality of what we have here.

Some campaigners on our side of the table suggested we do some advertising in the Adelaide Advertiser. Personally, I thought, 'Why? Who's going to read it? It would be there for a day. Maybe you should be putting your advertising on Facebook.' These are the opportunities which I'm not particularly familiar with but people say they work much better. When people are searching for a news item, a news article or a particular view on the world, up pops some advertising on their smart phone. That doesn't involve a tremendous number of journalists going around investigating and putting their point of view forward.

We are in a really difficult situation. The government says, 'Look, 1993 was the last time it changed. We've got to get this better. We've been trying to repeal two-out-of-three for the last 18 months, and we haven't been able to do so on merit.' So what's the answer? We could do a series of deals with the industry or a deal or two with One Nation and Nick Xenophon, including a grant to Fox Sports. I've seen Fox Sports. I heard Senator Singh make a very pertinent comment. I wouldn't buy it personally, and I don't know a lot of people who are getting a tremendous amount out of their Foxtel or their Fox Sports coverage. It has obviously penetrated, but the reality is that you can go on the internet nowadays and you can use all of the alternative streaming mechanisms.

Senator Fifield said that the NBN is running along swimmingly well. I know one family that has a good connection, and that's my household. When I want to stream something in my household, I know that I can get enough download speed to be able to stream whatever I want, subject perhaps to making a small payment through an iTunes account or something like that, and I don't need to go to a provider like Fox Sports to watch those things. A lot of people in Australia would argue that free-to-air, particularly in the most popular areas of sports broadcasting, is what should be maintained. This legislation probably doesn't do a lot in that area, but why would we have given $30 million to Fox Sports? Where was the documentation and the accountability in relation to that agreement? The FOI application by the ABC established there was no documentation. If that's the case, that is probably a matter that a good investigative journalist could write a story about and perhaps even get some people to read, and perhaps there would be some questions in the community as to what is happening with taxpayer money with respect to these outcomes.

The issues of diversity, ownership and control are really serious issues for Australia's voting public. There have been polls that show the majority—61 per cent of voters across every demographic—disapproves of changing the media ownership laws to allow a single company to control a newspaper, a TV network and a radio network all in the same area. That would seem to be almost common sense, but allowing that level of control would control the message. It would be against the shareholder's interest to have a radio station going on a different line to the TV station or the newspaper going on a different line to the TV station and the radio station. We know how it works. We see it in Adelaide. We're probably the most concentrated market of all. We've seen our national broadcast news produced in Melbourne and produced in Sydney. What used to be done in Adelaide is no longer done there. We are concentrated and it's not a good thing.

In the last couple of seconds I have left, I want to reiterate: it was a double dissolution that delivered this Senate and it will go down in history as not being a good decision. Part of the arrangements that are made—the transactions—will not stand up to the light of day.

7:55 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017 and the Commercial Broadcasting (Tax) Bill 2017. This is the Turnbull government's second attempt at media reform, which has now been almost four years in the making. Labor's position on this issue has been crystal clear for quite some time. If we look back at reform that has been done in the past, it has certainly always been done appropriately from this side of the chamber.

We support the majority of items that are in these bills, except for the repeal of the two-out-of-three rule, which is ill-conceived and unjustified and risks undermining Australia's democracy. Labor will support both of the bills before us as long as the provisions relating to the repeal of the two-out-of-three rule are omitted. We have one amendment on the table in this place to save the two-out-of-three rule in order to maintain media diversity in this country. Labor understands the regulatory framework is outdated and in need of reform, but we have one of the most concentrated media markets in the world, and making it even more concentrated is not the solution.

The way that the Turnbull government has handled this whole process has been shambolic, but it is now part of their trademark make-up that they are incompetent. We know they're divided. As a government, they're renowned for not being able to bring good legislation to the table without having to do their dirty deals. The Turnbull government has been trying to repeal two-out-of-three cross-media control for 18 months now. They have filibustered on this bill, and now all of a sudden they want to get it through tonight. These bills have been listed for debate—in the House or in the Senate—on no less than 10 or 12 occasions but have fallen flat each time. Unfortunately, this government has mismanaged the chamber process time and time again. We're sitting late tonight because they were filibustering. While they were trying to do their deals with the Pauline Hanson group and Nick Xenophon's network of people, they filibustered and wasted time in this chamber. Hence, we're here tonight.

This out-of-touch government have resorted to a series of trade-offs and backroom deals to try to ram this through tonight, including the grant of $30 million to Fox Sports. Let's not beat around the bush; there's been an attack, breaching the promise that they gave before the election that there would be no cuts to the ABC or SBS. But, because they rely on Pauline Hanson and her votes in this place, they will bend over backwards for her. Hence, we are seeing an attack on the ABC. Today we've seen just how desperate the government are to get these bills through this place. We know they're dysfunctional. They're in disarray. They have filibustered, and now they've pulled their speakers from the list as part of their attempt to expedite this process. If our speakers don't all have an opportunity to speak tonight—and we're yet to go through the committee stage—no doubt the government will guillotine the debate.

Media diversity certainly is not a plaything. Labor is the only party that has refused to enter into the mess of trade-offs and backroom deals on media reform, because we understand how important it is to this country. Had the government dropped their flawed plan to repeal the two-out-of-three rule, they could have passed the majority of these changes through this place a long time ago. Twice now Labor has moved amendments to save the two-out-of-three rule and let the rest of the government's media reform package go through, and twice the coalition government have rejected Labor's support. Here we are in the spring session of 2017 and Minister Fifield is still cutting dodgy deals, horsetrading and turning the whole process into a dog's breakfast.

The government is in complete disarray in this policy area. In August, the Turnbull government proved how little integrity it has by bowing to One Nation's demands. That's how desperate this out-of-touch government is to scrape through with these flawed media ownership changes and get them through this place. As Senator Gallacher said in his speech, this has been brought about by the demonstration of a Prime Minister who doesn't understand his role. He is so desperate to be Prime Minister and to keep his job that he rushed to a double dissolution; hence, we now have a crossbench who were duly elected under that double-D. Now he will do whatever it takes and make whatever deals he needs to with Pauline Hanson to get her votes and get his legislation through.

Any of us who have been in this chamber for any length of time know and respect the fact that Senator Nick Xenophon makes valuable contributions to this chamber, but he is 'Teflon Nick'; that's who he is. He wants nothing to stick to him. He does his deals with the government. He's supporting a deal that Pauline Hanson has done with the government to attack the ABC. At the same time, the Xenophon group are supporting this legislation—no doubt for whatever other trade-offs he's been able to acquire for his own interests.

Senator Hanson has made it clear from the time that she set foot in this place—and she's repeated it time and time again—that she was going after the ABC. Now we know how deep her contempt is for the ABC. What we've got now is a desperate Prime Minister who will do whatever it takes to keep his job, and is allowing Pauline Hanson to run the government's agenda. But this government is in chaos. It's hell-bent on destroying media diversity in this country. We have come to expect nothing less from a desperate government.

Despite promising no cuts to the ABC before the 2013 election, the Abbott-Turnbull government cut ABC funding by $355 million over five years, then cut it further in the 2016 budget. How many times have we had those on the other side come into this chamber and say, 'We will keep our promises'—just like they did over the survey on marriage equality. They said, 'That was a promise we took to the last election.' They will stick by that, but when it comes to sticking to the commitments that they gave to the Australian people—not the deals that Malcolm Turnbull has done within the Liberal caucus to keep his job—they have gone back on their word.

Further to that, the Turnbull government's grant of $30 million to Fox Sports proves the Minister for Communications is incapable of anything but backdoor deals—that is the only way he can get this legislation through, rather than it being good policy. Last month, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to tell us how strong he is. Well, Mr Turnbull, sorry to be the one to tell you yet again, but you're not a strong leader. The Australian people know that you're not the Prime Minister that they thought that they were going to get. You are a weak leader, and you're so desperate that you will do anything to keep the votes of Pauline Hanson's One Nation. In fact, what else do they have in store? What else, through these negotiations, has already been decided about next year's budget? Will there be further cuts to the ABC?

After all, somebody who represents the state of Tasmania, like me, knows only too well how important the ABC has been to the Tasmanian community. We're a regional community. There are some remote areas, but there are certainly many regional areas. I have seen over a long period of time that it has been only the ABC who have been able to demonstrate to the Australian community that women's sport is worth watching, because they are the ones who make sure that women's sport does have some airtime.

We know that those opposite have a bias against the ABC. They seem to think that they're the target of unfair media. Well, what comes around goes around. That's the reality of politics. We know the investment in Australian drama that the ABC has made. We have the Nationals come in here time and time again trying to say to people on this side of the chamber: 'Don't go out and talk to people in the regions. You don't understand country people.' Yet they're supporting this legislation. I mean, come on!

Yesterday Senator Hanson said in this place, 'This bill is very important to a lot of people,' and that the industry have stated they wish to see this bill passed. But I ask: at what cost? Media diversity is not something to be traded. The Australian public will be the ones to suffer. Rather than crafting media reform properly, the government—who don't seem to be able to do that, and they have been in government now for four years—have chosen to take Pauline Hanson's advice over the advice of their own department or regulator when it comes to media reform. This is utterly desperate and lacking in integrity. This again describes how the government are seen by the Australian people.

The government are desperate. They've done their deals. I think it needs to be put on the record what Pauline Hanson has been able to achieve with this government—her attack on the ABC. The deal Senator Xenophon has done needs to be to exposed to the Australian people, because he can't do these backroom deals and then go back to South Australia and claim that he is clean of these dirty deals and that he supports the ABC when, in fact, he is supporting the legislation in which Pauline Hanson has been able to drive the Turnbull government into further attacking the ABC.

Those opposite in the Turnbull government, particularly the Nationals, cry crocodile tears over the delivery of media services to rural and regional Australia but then turn around and slash the ABC's funding and cut this dodgy deal with One Nation. But Senator Hanson is not the only one calling the shots with this incompetent government; the Greens are also lined up to do a deal with the Turnbull government and trade away media diversity in exchange for more funding for public broadcasters. The Greens haven't named their price and have gone a bit quiet on this issue, but, let me tell you, no amount of public funding will counterbalance the overwhelming concentration of media power created by the abolition of the two-out-of-three media ownership rule. They will live to regret this because they will be beholden and will have to live with the consequences of their vote on these bills here tonight.

Labor believes that Australians deserve a vibrant national broadcaster as well as strong commercial broadcasters. This is not an either/or proposition. Labor are a party of principle, and our position on media diversity is not up for trade or for being any part of these backroom deals. As I've said, we need to expose Senator Xenophon, because he can't wash his hands of the fact that he is responsible for unleashing an unprecedented attack on the ABC by joining One Nation in agreeing to repeal the two-out-of-three rule. Senator Xenophon maintains that he won't undermine the ABC or the SBS, but there is simply no denying that he is giving the green light to the One Nation-Turnbull government's plan to undermine the ABC and the SBS.

Senator Xenophon claims to care about the ABC, but he supports this deal that's been done in a back room. He can't then go out to people in South Australia and paint himself as some saviour. He has to go back ultimately to South Australia, his electorate, and he has to be accountable for the decisions that he is going to make here in this chamber—and his fingerprints are going to be all over not only the selling-out of the ABC and the SBS but also the repeal of the two-out-of-three rule. Senator Hanson, with her numbers here in this chamber, and Senator Xenophon are supporting this, as I've said. They will be responsible for undermining media diversity across Australia, handing unprecedented media power to a privileged few and permitting further consolidation of Australia's already highly concentrated media, including in South Australia's capital of Adelaide, where media diversity is low. If Senator Xenophon were serious about supporting the Australian media industry, he would have joined Labor in demanding that the Turnbull government dump its flawed proposal to repeal the two-out-of-three rule, while letting the remainder of the reform measures through parliament. Senator Xenophon is acknowledged as someone who will do whatever deals he can to ensure that there is political advantage in it for himself and now his party. But we all know that, sooner or later, a Teflon frypan does wear out.

The Minister for Communications is used to backing himself into a corner. When he was the minister for aged care, we called it the 'Fifield fluffle'. The Minister for Communications is certainly in a fluffle today and has practically been in hiding since making this dirty pact with Pauline Hanson's One Nation about the ABC. But he's been forced to the table on this today. Senator Fifield owns his attack on the ABC and he has some serious questions to answer. Is there a secret side agreement to cut ABC funding next year? Is the requirement for fair and balanced coverage designed to give voice to those who don't have a voice in the community—the holocaust deniers, the climate change sceptics and the antivaxxers? Further, is the competitive neutrality inquiry aimed diminishing the ABC and the SBS to mere market failure broadcasters? Does the establishment of a second advisory council prove that the Turnbull government has no confidence in the ABC board and management?

It beggars belief that the Turnbull government would slash ABC funding only to turn around and complain that the national broadcaster isn't doing enough for rural and regional Australia. If you think that the people who live in rural and regional Australia are going to accept the cuts that you are making and then buy your argument that the ABC aren't delivering, then you're fooling yourselves. This dodgy deal that's been done is, quite frankly, one of the worst that I've seen in this place. It just goes to the fact that the government are so desperate, so shambolic, so divided, that they will do deals with the devil, almost, to get their legislation through. For 18 months they've been trying. As I said, it's been listed both in the House and here countless times, and they haven't been able to do their deal. Tonight we are here debating something that could have been done a long time ago if they had just accepted the amendment in relation to the two-out-of-three rule. But, as usual, what we see is an incompetent government trying to ram it through tonight, without any warning that we were going to be sitting late. Of course, we knew, when they started pulling their speakers off the list, that they had done their dirty deals with some of those on the crossbench. So we're here tonight. I'm actually looking forward to the committee stage of this bill. But, once again, I think this government is underestimating the Australian people. I think they're underestimating what the ABC means for ensuring that there is balance in the media in this country.

8:15 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to make a contribution on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill, specifically around accessibility. This is an opportunity to fix the ongoing, disappointing approach that we take to the accessibility of our media for those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those who are blind or vision impaired. Unfortunately, most of our electronic media today is inaccessible. This hasn't been addressed, and it needs to be addressed urgently. We have an opportunity under this so-called reform to meet our commitments under the National Disability Strategy and our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Tonight I want to address my comments around captioning and audio description—audio description for those who are blind or vision impaired; and captioning for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The first area I want to look at is captioning. Of particular concern recently is the increasing number of exemptions to the obligation to provide accessible content—in this context, captioning—for broadcast programs, as outlined in the Broadcasting Services Act. I'm sure the deaf community has raised this issue with others in this place, not just me; they are urging us to stem these exemptions.

The act currently outlines provider responsibility for providing captions on free-to-air and subscription programs and the expected standard of quality in the provision of captioning on broadcast programs. I've been advised that between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2016 broadcasters made 279 requests for exemptions or target reduction orders on captioned programs on the grounds that providing these services is unreasonable and unjustifiable. Do you know how many of those applications were denied? Just 38. So, even with the limited services that are available, broadcasters are getting around those provisions. These requests have resulted in 85 per cent of exemptions and target reduction orders being implemented, irrespective of the community's response in objecting to broadcaster requests. This number is growing and is inching closer to 90 per cent in the current time frame—from 1 July 2016 to the present day.

Access to information is essential for every Australian, not just those who don't have a hearing or vision impairment. Captions also have a much wider appeal than people would expect. For example, it's reported that non-English-speaking citizens; people with dyslexia; people in noisy environments such as shopping centres, airport lounges, pubs and hotels; children with disability; and ageing citizens also get a lot of value out of captioning. And I must say I'm one of those people who do use captioning when it's available.

The exemptions and target reduction orders are therefore counterproductive to an inclusive Australia. As we all know, the licence fees have been changed. It's a $70 million saving for broadcasters, so that savings can be geared to other areas. Deaf Australia and other community organisations working on issues around deafness and hearing impairment have been campaigning very strongly to get some of those savings being made by the broadcasters directed at making our services more accessible.

I would like to point out that Australia has an obligation under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We are a party to that convention. We also have a number of obligations under the National Disability Strategy to improve accessibility. Deaf Australia, for one, is seeking to ensure that the Broadcasting Services Act is amended to repeal the mechanism that allows broadcasters to seek exemptions or target reduction orders on captioning. It wants to ensure that consumers who need this essential service will not be neglected, and will be equal citizens in an inclusive Australia. It also wants to see—and it advocates strongly for—the use of Auslan in some TV programs. It's absolutely essential that we make sure that our programs are accessible to those with a hearing impairment or who are deaf.

Then—and I have spoken about this issue in this chamber previously—there is the need for audio description. There is no requirement for audio description to be included on free-to-air television, let alone subscription TV. Currently, none of the free-to-air networks provide this service. For those who do not know what audio description is—although hopefully you do, since I've talked about it in this place on numerous occasions—it is delivered as a narration on a separate track to describe visual elements of a television program during natural pauses in dialogue. It is entirely different to listen to a TV program that is being described, rather than just trying to rely on the dialogue in a program. As we know, a lot is communicated visually in television programs. That is entirely missed if audio description is not available. This means that people who are blind or vision-impaired do not get access to television. In a lot of cases, when they're not getting audio description, they simply don't get what's going on.

I would like to foreshadow a second reading amendment that reads:

At the end of the motion, add, "but the Senate is of the opinion that all free-to-air television broadcasters should use the financial relief afforded by the reduction in licensing fees to offer audio description services for people who are blind or vision-impaired, and ensure provisioning of captioning services on all broadcast programs thus aligning with the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020, which calls for all broadcast programs to be fully captioned."

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Siewert—

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not moving that; I'm foreshadowing it.

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

But my advice is: given that there's no other amendment before the chair, you can move it.

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hanson-Young also has a second reading amendment. As the portfolio holder, I would rather she moved her amendment, if that's okay.

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My advice is that, in that case, Senator Hanson-Young should have spoken first. You can't foreshadow in this case.

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hanson-Young also has a second reading amendment.

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you moving your amendment now, Senator Siewert, or are you withdrawing it?

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

If I withdraw, it means that we can't deal with it.

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That's correct.

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll move it then. I move:

That at the end to motion, add:

" but the Senate is of the opinion that all free-to-air television broadcasters should use the financial relief afforded by the reduction in licensing fees to offer audio description services for people who are blind or vision-impaired, and ensure provisioning of captioning services on all broadcast programs aligning thus with the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020, which calls for all broadcast programs to be fully captioned".

This second reading amendment is about using some of the money that the free-to-air stations will save as a result of the government's decision to invest in audio description and in captioning. As I'm sure this place is aware, there has been a trial of audio description through the ABC, and I know that people got a huge amount of value out of that process. Australia is a developed country. We should be meeting our commitments; we should be working with other nations to make sure that we are developing processes that deliver services such as audio description and captioning. As I have reminded this place before, Vision Australia has done research that indicates that up to two-thirds of their clients do not have access to the internet and just 17 per cent have access to a smartphone. So they can't rely on online streaming to deliver audio description, as they are often told. We shouldn't be condemning people to what they consider to be a second-class service, which, in any case, many of them can't access if they have to rely just on online services.

Blindness and advocacy organisations have been calling for free-to-air networks to commit to extra funding for these accessibility features on their TV channels so all consumers can have equal access to content in news and current affairs programs and the other programs that everybody else has access to. If we are genuine about broadcasting reform, we should be making sure that people who are blind, vision-impaired, deaf or hard of hearing have access as well. Australia made a commitment, through our National Disability Strategy, to ensure accessibility. Not only are we are standing in the way of that, but we are, in some instances, going backwards, because broadcasters are seeking exemptions to those accessibility rules. That needs to stop; there needs to be reform. I urge the government to take action, to ensure that those who are blind or vision-impaired or deaf or hard of hearing also have access to electronic media, to the media, to free-to-air TV and to subscription channels. We're committed to make it happen.

8:27 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I rise to speak about the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017. This issue has caused us in Pauline Hanson's One Nation party to examine our preconceptions and misconceptions. We have done what we do well—listened: to media companies, to regional communities, to city communities, to journalists, to media analysts, to everyday Australians and to any political party that wants to share their views. This process illustrates the way we operate: to listen, to invite views, to reconsider the issues, to evolve our views as we learn, to be practical and to protect our nation's interests, as well as the interests of the people affected and of every Australian.

Initially, I have to confess, I thought this was an issue about the Murdoch empire but, as we delved into it, I realised it was about a far bigger and more powerful entity—government. All monopolies result from government regulation, and the biggest are government-owned and operated monopolies. We learnt about an entity far more powerful than Murdoch's News Corp, and this one is damaging. I'll tell you more. We learnt about the trends threatening media companies and journalists' jobs and driving substandard media companies out of business because they failed to respond to people's needs. We learnt about a revolution sweeping the world and becoming a force for freedom, liberating people from government control. We celebrate because it is proving, yet again, that the best regulator is the customer. I questioned my initial thinking and learnt a lot, and I want to share some of that with all who'll listen. Under the leadership of Senator Pauline Hanson and Senator Brian Burston, we have developed a response with the government that is good for regional Australia, good for our nation and good for media and good for journalists.

So is Murdoch the problem? No, he's not, despite what some on the left say. What we see today is a swirl of coalescing media across platforms such as newspaper, radio, TV, internet and subscription channels. That change is underway no matter what we want and whether we like it or not, and it's due to external factors, the internet and government. The weakness in media right now is due to three factors. The first is the internet—specifically Google and Facebook. The second is government regulation—and that regulation, as in all regulation, reduces the quantity of the service or product, reduces the quality of media and raises the cost of media. These regulations weaken institutions. These regulations have created a monster. The third one is that monster: the ABC.

Let's go to Google and Facebook. They're revolutionising media and communication, and the internet is placing the market power of choice in the hands of all people. I listened to a Commonwealth car driver a few months ago who worked in the Kimberley in the 1980s when, he told me, they had one ABC channel and one ABC radio channel. Now, he says happily, they have a huge range of media and entertainment from around the world.

These choices are destroying conventional newspaper companies, especially the biased ones such as Fairfax and The Guardian, who are both collapsing as customers wake up to their poor service that reflects the paper's bias and dishonesty. Consider Fairfax, who sent us a prepared statement saying:

For the record, Fairfax Media and most other major media companies do not give equal weight to the 'sides' on issues … including climate change—

they specifically mentioned climate change—

because it is false equivalency.

Fairfax says it believes the overwhelming scientific evidence that giving all sides an airing is 'skewing the debate'. Fairfax says clearly: 'This is Fairfax's position on climate change.' It is biased.

Their former environmental reporter and now editor, Ben Cubby, has been repeatedly unable to provide empirical evidence proving human cause of global climate variability, yet repeatedly spouts his nonsense. He is unaware of the basic drivers of the climate scam, such as Maurice Strong, who he'd never heard of and who fabricated global warming and the monster he created, the politically driven United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cubby's ignorance within Fairfax is destroying the company. Readers are abandoning Fairfax and The Guardian. This is why Fairfax, the dinosaur, is dying—self-inflicted. This is why Fairfax journos are the most threatened by the changes we face—the changes that are coming whether we like it or not. These dinosaurs cannot see that it is we who are trying to assist them. News Corp, though, perhaps shows a more professional response to the internet threat because it seems to be saying: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Not only has the internet provided immense choice, so have alternative media such as cable TV or subscription TV and new structures for coalescing media companies across platforms. Also, Google, Facebook and other internet services, do not have to pay the conventional government fees, nor do they have to abide by the regulations choking the legacy media. This puts the older media companies at an unfair advantage due to government regulation.

Because Senator Hanson and Senator Burston have dealt with the details of our package put to, and accepted by, the government, I will focus on the ABC. The ABC was established in a bygone area. It was essential in the 1980s in the Kimberley, yet time has moved on and the ABC, sadly, has moved in a different direction from the way the world has moved. Nowhere in its charter does the ABC mention 'fair and balanced'. Under 'duties of the board', item 8, subsection c, it says that the duties of the board are to ensure 'news and information is accurate and impartial'.

Let's consider this. I conducted a quantitative, measured analysis of the background briefing radio program on ABC TV on Sunday, 17 July 2011. In that 50-minute program, there were 22 instances where the ABC created or implied misrepresentations by omission and/or made unfounded associations. There were 22 in 50 minutes. There were 18 false statements. They ignored key arguments, countering their position six times. They made sweeping, inaccurate generalisations based on personal value judgements and they made questionable or dubious comments, including likely false statements—four in total. Even in their own transcript, there were 22 errors. Then we saw the Q&A climate debate on Thursday, 26 April—biased and unfair. We saw Media Watch on 21 March—again, measured assessments, quantitative—and on Monday, 30 May 2011. We saw the ABC's Catalyst on September 8 2011 and ABC's Four Corners, all quantitatively proven to be biased and unfair and misrepresenting. Is that accurate and impartial? No, it's not.

Then we see the way the ABC has treated Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth. The British High Court ruled that Al Gore's movie is a political work, containing many factual inaccuracies. Does the ABC report that? No; it continues to peddle Al Gore's lies. An independent analysis provided in a congressional working paper in America shows that the books on which An Inconvenient Truth is based have in them 19 wrong or false statements, 17 misleading statements, 10 exaggerated statements, 25 one-sided statements and 28 speculative statements. It's absolute rubbish. It's a work of fiction. My detailed analysis of Al Gore's movie reveals an orchestrated deception. There are 234 images of natural and everyday events that are, falsely, depicted as unnatural and inferred to be caused by global warming. We see 71 instances and images of unspecific, unfounded mixing of projections with actual data to imply future climate change. But the ABC seems blissfully unaware of this—just sucked in and presenting this man as a climate scientist. We see in an analysis by Viscount Monckton that Al Gore's movie contains at least 35 errors on climate alone. Is this impartial and accurate?

Bob Brock, a colleague in Brisbane, was so sick and tired of the ABC portraying carbon dioxide—a colourless, invisible trace gas—as pictures of steam billowing out of cooling towers that he eventually wrote to the ABC, repeatedly. He was repeatedly ignored. And then the ABC admitted its error. Then it said it wouldn't do it again. And then it started doing it again, and continued. Is it impartial and accurate to mislead the Australian public? We see scientists like Ove Hoegh-Guldberg—a so-called scientist—misrepresenting climate change repeatedly on the ABC. When I complained to the ABC in writing, documenting the errors that Hoegh-Guldberg peddled, they said that the ABC is not responsible for what its guests say—yet Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is a serial misrepresenter and was on the ABC's programs repeatedly. Is this impartial and accurate? Instead of pushing propaganda, the ABC must report facts and let people make their own opinions.

Never has anyone said that the ABC is right-wing—never, no-one. In the same way, we need to ensure the ABC charter is modified to include 'fair and balanced'. Both can be quantified, and both can be measured. Does the ABC represent both sides? Does it make blatant omissions? Does it present false facts as accurate? Does it check facts? Does it exclude people from one side, or grossly under-represent them, as it does with climate change? The ABC needs to listen to people and to present all sides.

About five years ago, I used to wake up in the morning and check the ABC News website first thing. That's how I got my news. Then I became so concerned about the distortions and the lack of balance and accuracy that I paid for a subscription to The Australian. I bypassed the ABC. But I must point out that there are some fine journalists within the ABC—such as Steve Austin in Brisbane—who can be tough yet fair, and we don't mind that. There is Caitlyn Gribbin here in Canberra, and many other fine reporters, especially in regional centres. Those reporters in regional centres are fair because they live within their communities and they have to answer to those communities, unlike the Greens communes among ABC journalists in Melbourne and Sydney. The ABC's time in its present form has passed, and it needs to be properly managed on behalf of all taxpayers.

Let me explain. Let's talk about productivity. Consider Jonathan Holmes's notoriously biased Media Watch program, which I measured some years ago. The same applies, I'm sure, with Paul Barry today. Analysis of ABC staffing on Media Watch compared with Alan Jones's best-rating daily radio program shows that productivity in program hours per staff is 160 times greater with Alan Jones than Media Watch, and accountability is strong, as shown in Alan Jones's record. Walk into the ABC studios here in Parliament House and see the palace they have to work in, and then walk into the phone box that Sky News operates out of.

By the way, Media Watch continues to blatantly misrepresent me, and its new host, Paul Barry, misrepresents me and Pauline Hanson's One Nation by saying:

... Malcolm Roberts insists the overwhelming majority of climate scientists are either deluded or corrupt ...

I have never said that. I do not believe that. Such a statement would be wrong because the majority of real climate scientists agree with my view. See how cleverly it's done, just to discredit me and those who disagree with the ABC's propaganda. ABC Radio's host in Melbourne, Rafael Epstein, said that Pauline Hanson's One Nation lies about climate. He tweeted that I'm a liar about climate, yet he refuses to provide empirical scientific evidence on climate and refuses to contradict the facts that I have presented from reputable sites, including peer-review papers and well-known sites measuring climate. A former ABC employee wrote to me saying:

The extreme left-wing bias of the ABC has become intolerable. I worked at the ABC at William Street in Sydney and saw at firsthand manipulation of news which I took down from stringers, sometimes rewritten into complete exaggerations or complete lies.

Former chairman of the ABC, Maurice Strong, dared to challenge the ABC staff for groupthink and was howled down. Is that accurate or impartial?

Let's go to another topic. One of Donald Trump's departments released a report earlier this year that said there is a party in Australia that wants to ban Islamic immigration, along the lines of what President Trump tried to do. We were described as a racist party in the left-wing media. Why do people in the left-wing ABC align with Fairfax media to misrepresent and slam us? It is fear driving them. The same report from Trump condemned the Greens for wanting to end prayer at the start of parliament. They did not mention the Greens' anti-Semitic behaviour and words, nor did they mention the Trump reports of apparent condemnation of the South Australian Labor Party. Is that accurate and impartial? We see well-known Muslim support for Senator Pauline Hanson's bans for the burqa. The story took off on the internet. Was it reported on the ABC? Not at all. Is that accurate and impartial? It seems that, on the ABC, wearing a burqa is offensive yet forcing women to wear the burqa is not. Why? This strikes at the core of our Australian values.

The ABC's time has passed. In the budget, its role needs to be reconsidered. It has a regional role, and that is vital and that needs to be strengthened, but its Greens' dominated, capital-city staff in Melbourne and Sydney are killing the ABC's reputation. People in the bush and people in the suburbs laugh at the ABC. They don't treat it seriously. There is the misappropriation of taxpayer funding to push the political agenda. Everyday Australians, everyday taxpayers, are fed up with political correctness that has been incorrect and unreasonable and is peddled by the ABC. The ABC, sadly, is not accountable to anyone. It's okay for private media to be biased; that's their choice. Fairfax and The Guardian are dying because of that choice. News Corp, though, is thriving as it markets different messages to different target audiences across different and sometimes combined media platforms. But it's not fair for the government to be biased. Taxpayer funds must be used fairly, yet the ABC says on that score to the taxpayers: 'Stuff you.'

The ABC budget is around 38 per cent of the national media spend in our country, yet its audience is just over half that, at about 22 per cent. People in rural and regional Australia decry the bias and propaganda, yet listen to it at times because in some places it's the only source of the news and rural data they need. The ABC should be restricted to its charter or sold to the highest bidder. Then we'll see whose ABC it really is. The ABC's audience is 35 per cent in regional and rural areas, yet only 17 per cent of its budget is spent in regional and rural areas—proportionately half.

The ABC is the elephant in the room. It is running rampant and out of control and severely hurts the privately owned media, and that threatens journalists' jobs. If the ABC's spending were increased in the regions, it would increase regional coverage and jobs. People across Australia, and especially in regional areas, are feeling frustrated, annoyed and even angry. We felt it. People need fairness, accuracy, balance and impartiality, because the media's vital role helps or prevents people meeting needs for information, understanding, communication, entertainment, escape, relaxation and even emergency response.

The internet shows that life is complex and things change so quickly that we must remove regulations while protecting people against monopolies that governments created and enabled. To meet people's needs requires a lifting of outdated regulations and rules: the 75 per cent audience reach rule, the two-out-of-three rule, the cross-media ownership rule, the five-out-of-four rule, the one-to-a-market rule, the two-to-a-market rule, the concept of control, free-to-air sports not being siphoned off to subscription broadcasters and the protection of local content.

Our supporters have a strong moral compass and a strong work ethic. People across Australia just want a fair go. That includes journalists, who deserve a fair go and the opportunity to earn job security. We listened, we spoke up and we took action. Pauline Hanson's One Nation says the things that need to be said and we do the things that need to be done. People in this chamber are afraid to take on the fat, bloated sacred cow that is the ABC because of punishment over the airwaves by Greens journalists. We need to bring the media and broadcasting sector into today—the 21st century—for the benefit of media customers, journalists and sustainable media entities into the future, to give all taxpayers a fair go and, especially, real freedom of choice.

8:47 pm

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

I rise tonight to speak to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017, a bill that's been hanging around on the Notice Paper for quite some time. It deals with issues that have been debated in this place for much, much longer. We know that we are faced with a very different media landscape than we had five or 10 years ago. We know that things are changing rapidly. Many Australians these days access their news and their content when they want it, on whatever device they want it and from whatever part of the world they want it. But, in all of this, Australian audiences have a desire to be able to access in real time local news and local content that upholds the notion of genuine, quality, public interest journalism.

Effectively, what we're confronted with tonight as we look at the details of this piece of legislation is a bill that has been put together to satisfy the current and more traditional players in the media space. In particular, they are the free-to-air broadcasters, who are struggling with revenue options. Their advertising revenue has dropped off significantly, and audiences are switching off from the television and on to their phones, their tablets or their other streaming services. But, despite all of this, the free-to-air broadcasters are getting a number of concessions throughout this piece of legislation. Scrapping of the licence fees is a huge concession from the Australian taxpayer to our free-to-air broadcasters. Hundreds of millions of dollars are simply being freed up for broadcasters because they won't be paying money to the taxpayer in order to broadcast their content on the free-to-air spectrums.

Then there are the deals that have gone on in exchange for the restrictions on gambling advertising in this bill. Of course the Greens support the restrictions on gambling advertising; we've been one of the leading voices in this space for quite some time. The leader of our party, Senator Di Natale, has led the charge when it comes to having a more responsible approach from government and institutions in relation to dealing with gambling and, in particular, the advertising of gambling during sport.

The broadcasters weren't happy when these advertising restrictions were announced. One very annoyed broadcaster was Fox Sports and Foxtel. What did they get in exchange for these restrictions on gambling advertising? They got a nice sum of $30 million for the pleasure of not being able to broadcast ads for gambling during sport—$30 million to a station that the public has to pay for in order to watch sport. It does beggar belief that the Australian taxpayer is funding a subscription television channel in exchange for what the government calls women's sport and niche sport. I might point out that I don't think women's sport is a niche sport. I've questioned the minister about this; he says they are different things. That's good to know. But I point out that taxpayers are going to fork out $30 million so that Fox Sports can play and show women's and niche sport when, in fact, that money could have gone to a free-to-air channel where every Australian would be able to watch it as they are paying for it as taxpayers.

The sticking point in all of this is the scrapping of the two-out-of-three rule. We have the broadcasters and other media organisations arguing that, in order to be able to restructure their revenue options and their business models, we need to scrap the two-out-of-three rule so that there can be a concentration of media and we can keep media organisations afloat. The question here is: in exchange for what? There was a promise that, if we were to scrap the two-out-of-three rule, we'd see journalists' jobs and content production jobs saved in this country, the protection of media organisations and the protection of diversity. Of course, the exact opposite is being borne out to be true.

What we do know, thanks to the tabling of documents in the New South Wales court only yesterday, is that even if Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon were able to win the bid to take over Network Ten, there wasn't going to be a guarantee that Australian jobs would be saved at all. In fact, the exact opposite was the case: jobs would be lost and offices and bureaus would be closed. We wouldn't see a protection of media diversity; we would see less and less.

In all of this conversation, we've heard the government say that they need to rush these media reforms through in order to ensure that we protect our media organisations. What we are seeing instead is a contraction of diversity, not an expansion—or, indeed, at the very least, a protection of diversity. That is of huge concern to the Australian Greens and a huge concern to many, many Australians right across the country. People want to know that, when they open up a newspaper, turn on the radio, watch the news on the television or pull out their iPhone or iPad to look at the news online, there is a genuine commitment to Australian news and public interest journalism. Australians want to know what their government is up to and they want to know what's going on in their local communities. They don't want to just be dictated to by a few select voices.

The other outstanding issue now confronting us in relation to these bills is the deal that has been done between the government and One Nation in order to secure One Nation's support for the passage of this legislation. That is deeply rooted in One Nation's irrational and crazy view about our public broadcasters: the ABC and the SBS. We heard Pauline Hanson, the leader of One Nation, earlier today outlining all of the different stories that the ABC has run on her that she hated. She went right back to the 1990s. That's how long she's been holding a grudge against the ABC. Since day one of her return to Canberra and the Senate, Pauline Hanson, the leader of One Nation, has had the ABC in her sights. She's using this legislation and the negotiation with the government to ramp up the attacks on our public broadcasters.

We know that they've been able to get support from the government to open up the charter and change a number of things. They want the words 'fair and balanced' inserted into the charter. Heaven knows what that actually means. Of course, it did come from Fox News in the United States—because that's very fair and balanced coverage over there! We also know that they want to be able to publicise the salaries of those working in our public broadcasters who earn over $200,000. It seems a bit ridiculous that ABC staff and SBS staff have to have their salaries publicised, yet media executives of companies that are now getting free licences and handouts from the government of $30 million aren't going to have to publicise their salaries. There's one set of rules for the ABC and the SBS and another set of rules for the private sector. That's not very fair when the private sector keep putting their hand out for government leg-ups and support from the Australian taxpayer.

There is also the review that One Nation has managed to secure in a deal with the government—a review into the competitive neutrality of media. Of course, we know what that's all about. It is the Trojan horse to crack down on the ability of our public broadcasters to do their job, to provide content and news to Australians in the new media landscape, and that of course is online and through streaming services. It is incredible to see that One Nation has managed to convince the Turnbull government to set up a review that would effectively put ABC iView's work on the chopping block. That's what is going to come out of this review. That is what this is designed to do. This is designed so that Australians will not be able to enjoy watching their favourite shows or using the catch-up services to see what happened in the news that day; here in Australia, in their local community or, indeed, around the rest of the world. Australians will not be able to access a quality service like the one that exists today. If they do, do you know what's coming next? They want to start putting a paywall on ABC iview and SBS On Demand. That is where this is going.

This review that has been signed off by the government and was begged for by One Nation is all designed to kick and hobble our public broadcasters. Of course, let's not forget the real objective of One Nation in all of this and the secret deal that has been done with the government for massive budget cuts to our public broadcasters. The night that this arrangement was announced, Pauline Hanson was on Sky News on the Andrew Bolt show crowing: 'It's all right, Andrew, come the next budget we're going to get the government to whack hundreds of millions of dollars out of the ABC.' She was crowing about it. That is what is coming down the line here—and it is all being done in order to secure the support of the crossbench for this media reform package.

The government had a choice. They could have worked with people who wanted to protect and enhance diversity in this country to inject support into the creation of local and Australian content—Australian shows made in Australia for Australian audiences—to perhaps even sell more content made here in Australia overseas, and to protect and support the ABC and SBS, our public broadcasters, that we know the Australian public have such regard for. Or they could do a deal with the devil. They did a deal with Pauline Hanson to fulfil her personal vendetta against the ABC, because she doesn't like the stories they write and run about her. We're in a situation where this Senate is having to debate a bill where the details are not within this package of amendments put forward by the government and where a deal has been done with One Nation because of a personal vendetta that Pauline Hanson has against our public broadcasters because she doesn't like what people say and write about her. Well, bad luck—most of us don't. She's using the Senate's time and the powers in this place to fulfil a personal grudge.

What happened to independence in journalism? What happened to the ability to support our public broadcaster to do its job? The Australian people hold very dear the ABC and SBS. In fact, when you look at how highly regarded the ABC is by the Australian public, over and over again the ABC comes up as the most trusted news source in the country. Yet Pauline Hanson doesn't like what it says and doesn't like the stories that are run, so she's going to 'whack hundreds of millions of dollars out of them'. The government won't admit that this is going on because they're just so desperate to get this bill through and they had to do everything they could to get Pauline Hanson and One Nation into the basket, but we know about it because Pauline Hanson can't bloody help herself. She went out and told everyone that there would be hundreds of millions of dollars whacked out of the ABC come the next budget. That is what is going on here, folks.

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Three times in the last few minutes Senator Hanson-Young has referred to Senator Hanson as Pauline Hanson. Will you ask her to refer to her by her correct title and show some respect in this chamber, please.

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't know that that's against standing orders. All right—I remind you, Senator Hanson-Young, to use appropriate titles, please.

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

I wish that Senator Hanson had some respect for the Australian taxpayer. She's wasting time in this place on personal vendettas, because she can't stand a genuine news service reporting on the dodgy operations within her own political party. That is what is going on here. Of course, we've heard the lunacy coming from Senator Roberts tonight: conspiracy theories about our public broadcasters. Thank goodness that the Australian public can see what a joke and a fraud One Nation are, because they trust the very real, quality journalism that comes out of our public broadcasters and the quality content in Australian shows made by our public broadcasters and shown on their services. They trust the ABC more than they trust Senator Hanson and One Nation.

The looming question, as we draw towards the close of the second reading speeches and head into the committee stage, is: what will the Nick Xenophon Team do here tonight? Voting for this piece of legislation allows this dirty deal with the devil that has been done between the Turnbull government and One Nation to whack hundreds of millions of dollars away, cripple the role of the ABC and shoot holes in ABC iview and SBS On Demand. That is what is before us. If the Nick Xenophon Team flick this through, they will be absolutely complicit in the attack on the ABC, SBS—our public broadcasters. It's hard to rationally argue that a deal done by this government with One Nation to pass this legislation is separate to one done by Nick Xenophon's party and the government. We all know what is on the table. Voting this through tonight means being complicit in whacking the ABC and SBS, and the public don't like it at all.

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Hanson-Young, are you foreshadowing your second reading amendment?

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

I need to foreshadow my second reading amendment, which is about the Senate protecting the ABC and SBS.

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You're seeking the call, Senator Di Natale? I was under the impression that Senator Xenophon had the call.

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes. I've let Senator Xenophon know.

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You've negotiated. Go ahead.

9:08 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

At the heart of any media reform package, there have to be two important principles. The first is: how do we ensure that we have diversity in our media landscape? The second is: how do we ensure that we protect independent journalism at a time when current business models are failing, where we're seeing the collapse of independent media right around the country and, indeed, right around the world?

On the first point, the question of media diversity, Australia's right up there, with one of the highest concentrations of media ownership amongst any liberal democracy anywhere in the world. It is remarkable that in our country we have one proprietor who alone controls 70 per cent of the newspapers that are read in this country. We have to ensure that, whatever we do, Australians right around the country have access to a diverse range of voices. That is so critical in any democracy. Ensuring that we have a public debate in this nation that reflects the diversity of opinion has to be reflected in the media that people can access. Yet here we are, with the very real potential that, rather than increasing media diversity in this country and ensuring that we have a broader cross section of voices, we may see further concentration here in the Australian media landscape. That is one of the great concerns that we have: that a shrinking range of views will be captured by the wealthy and powerful players in the world of Australian media.

The second point is the question of ensuring that we try to encourage and in some ways protect a business model that is failing. Let's remember why it is important that we have independent journalism in this country. We've got the fourth estate that exists here to ensure that the three branches of government are accountable, that they can inform the public and that people are given access to up-to-date and accurate information and a range of views so that they themselves can form their own opinions. I've got to say what we're seeing at the moment is of great concern to the Australian Greens. We're seeing the loss of dedicated reporters. I can tell you: when I first started here in the parliament almost six years ago, there were a range of dedicated health reporters, all of whom had experience in the health sector, understood the space and could analyse policy positions from the point of view of experience and expertise. We've lost that. We've lost that in the reporting around the energy sector. Right now we're having a debate around energy, and there are so many reporters who were here when I first started, working across a range of papers, whose analysis was something you could go to, understand, trust and respect. You would not always agree with it, but you would know that you're getting an informed opinion. That's gone.

There is a huge concern that, as these redundancies across our major print media and indeed right across the board continue, we're losing knowledge and experience, and as a result our polity is poorer. That's why we supported the Fairfax strikes when the executive staff continued with their multimillion-dollar salary packages while people were being laid off by the dozens. The view seems to be that one of our major media empires would be better if it were a property magazine rather than a newspaper to inform the public.

So the issue is that we've got a rapidly changing media landscape, and the regulatory environment doesn't match the changes that we're seeing today. You only need to look at Fairfax through Stan or News Limited through Foxtel. They've got television audiences, radio and print, but they're not caught by the two-out-of-three rule because they aren't network licences, and that reflects the changes that are going on at the moment. So the power of the two-out-of-three rule is diminishing. It still has some effect, but it is diminishing. The question is: if we are to get rid of it, what takes its place to ensure diversity, and what can we do to try to encourage independent journalism?

The 2013 Convergence Review recommended that we have an independent regulatory body, something like the KEK in Germany or Ofcom in the UK—basically, to modify regulatory environments as new technologies develop and the way that people access media changes. The reason that those bodies exist is to ensure a diversity of voices so that we don't see further concentration in the media market.

In Australia, here we are with an opportunity to come up with a 21st century regulatory model. If we scrap the two-out-of-three rule, which we agree is losing the power that it once had, what do we put in its place? How do we create a new regulatory environment for start-ups and emerging media organisations? How do we come up with a comprehensive package for the 21st century? That's what the outcome of this debate should be, and I have to say, unfortunately, from what we've seen and from the little that we have heard, that's not what we're going to get.

The first thing is that the package clearly contains what looks like a bribe to commercial networks—a gift of $90 million to their bottom line. 'Here you go, here's a reduction in your licence fees. Have it. Have it! No corresponding duties to boost local content or provide audio description services. Have this gift on behalf of the Liberal-National Party.' Of course, we know where that gift comes from. It comes from ordinary mums and dads right around the country. It comes from the taxpayer. It comes from the people who are listening to this broadcast, right now. You are giving wealthy media proprietors a gift, with nothing in return.

Next we saw another gift given to Foxtel—a $30 million handout was just given to them. What was remarkable about it was that, when we tried to find out why on earth Foxtel was given a cheque for $30 million, there were no ministerial documents to justify that pay-off—no paperwork, nothing. So $30 million—taxpayer dollars—were given to Foxtel. We don't know what it was for. Given that there were some restrictions around gambling advertising, this was a pay-off. We can only assume that was the case, because there's no paperwork. It is remarkable that you could give a $30 million cheque to Murdoch's Foxtel and not have any documentation to demonstrate why it was done.

What we're worried about is that we've got two out of three being secured in exchange for what is going to be a completely deregulated media ownership environment. We're going to see big players swallowing up smaller players, including some of the emerging successful enterprises that might provide a bit of healthy competition. That is the great concern here. We understand that there might be a few scraps for regional cadetships. We support regional cadetships, but, alone, that's not enough. What is the point of training journalists if there are no jobs for them to go to? What's the point of having a regional cadetship, if you haven't injected the sorts of incentives that are necessary to turbocharge independent journalism in this country and give people a job? We're training them for no reason. This is a pathway to nowhere. The media landscape in Australia is crumbling before our eyes. It's changing rapidly. Training journalists for jobs that don't exist is a waste of taxpayer money. Now, of course, if there's a pathway to ensure that there are going to be new jobs then training journalists has merit, but so far that's not what we understand to be the case. We don't know what the case is, because the details of any deal that has done so far have not yet been announced.

That brings us to another question, which is the process for dealing with a piece of legislation like this that has been a year and a half in the making. Yet, here we are, 20 past nine at night, and about to sign off on a deal that we haven't even seen. It's such incredibly poor process. I have to say that I expect better from my colleagues on the crossbench, Senator Xenophon. We would have at least liked to have known what was part of this deal so that we could scrutinise it and make sure that there are no unintended consequences.

You have already heard from my colleague Senator Hanson-Young about our concerns about the impact any potential deal will have on the public broadcaster, the ABC. This deal gives the green light for the ABC to be subject to the competitive neutrality review, and that worries us deeply. It should concern anybody who, late at night, might be snuggled up under the doona and wanting to catch up on the latest Utopia episode or have a laugh with Shaun Micallef. We don't know if people are going to be able to do that anymore, because there may be a paywall erected around iview. If this review does lead to iview or SBS On Demand being put behind a paywall, you can come back and look at the deal that has been done today to know the origin of that. This deal today may give, through the competitive neutrality review, the green light to put up a paywall around iview or SBS On demand. I know there'll be many Australians right around the country who will be deeply concerned if that's the case. The truth is that Australians love their ABC, and they are right to do so.

I heard the unhinged rant from the One Nation senator before. Look, as unhappy as One Nation are with their coverage on the ABC, let me tell you, the Greens are often not thrilled with our coverage on the ABC, but that's not the point. That is not the point! The point of any media reform shouldn't be to make sure that, whatever you do, you get your mates a free kick so that you get better coverage through the media. That's not the way this should work. In any democracy we should be encouraging a range of voices and, in that, the voice of the national broadcaster is absolutely critical.

Like many Australians, while we might have our criticisms of the ABC at times, we know how precious it is, the important role that it plays. We need to ensure that they get, through any changes around media reform, a fair hearing. And it seems that while Foxtel are getting a great deal out of this, while all the private broadcasters are getting a great deal out of this, the ABC looks like it's getting screwed over. The national broadcaster is getting a terrible deal out of this. They're going to be under pressure, as a result of this review, to vacate the field so that commercial networks can come along and hoover up the audience that is so dedicated to the ABC.

So let me just finish by saying: we did undertake to have discussions with the government through this process. We did do that. We did it because, in our view, here was an opportunity to increase the range of voices in the media, to improve diversity and to look at potentially putting in place some incentives that might actually give a future to independent journalism in this country. That's why we engaged in this review. We knew that if the two-out-of-three rule was to be scrapped, there had to be something meaningful in its place. A modern, 21st century regulatory environment that ensures that all Australians, no matter where they live, can hear from a range of opinions, can be informed and make up their own minds. Sadly, from what we know of this deal, that's just not the case. We've seen a few crumbs thrown to things like cadetships, which won't provide any certainty to independent journalism. We'll see further concentration in the media landscape and, rather than protecting our ABC, it appears that this deal takes a hatchet to it.

9:22 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

This is a very important piece of legislation. I apologise to my colleagues on the crossbench that I haven't spoken to them in the last few hours or the last couple of days. I think it's fair to say that this has been the most difficult and protracted and robust set of negotiations I have engaged with in 20 years of being in parliament, state and federal. I believe the outcome reached, which I will speak to, is a good outcome for diversity of journalism; for journalists' jobs; and for small, independent and regional publications around the country. And I apologise to the journalists who I have ignored in the last 24 hours. It's just been impossible, in terms of these negotiations, to get back to people when I would have liked to.

As most senators are aware, Australia's commercial media companies and the profession of journalism have been, and continue to be, in a period of profound change. Indeed, it's no exaggeration to say that our media, like the media across much of the Western industrialised world, is in a state of crisis. Media companies large and small are under great pressure. A great deal has been said about the impact of the internet, the so-called digital revolution, as the great disruptor of established business models for journalism and publishing. Broadcasters and publishers are operating in circumstances of rapid technological change. There is intense competition for audiences and advertising revenue not only from other companies, including online and on-demand operators, but also from, most fundamentally, foreign technology companies Google and Facebook in particular, which have aggregated news and content while simultaneously separating content producers from digital revenue streams.

When you consider that Google and Facebook are hoovering away over $4 billion in advertising revenue in this country every year—and some say that it could be upwards of $5 billion or $6 billion—of course that will have a profound impact on journalism in this country and on the news organisations that fund the content providers that fund the journalists, the camera operators, the photographers and the editors to bring the news and analysis to our living rooms, to our iPhones and to our doorsteps around the country. When Mark Zuckerberg said, 'Move fast and break things,' that maybe said something about the ethos of some of these technology companies. The fact that they only pay about one per cent of their turnover, of the billions of dollars they make, in taxes is a real concern, although I note that it appears from some media organisations I have spoken to that the technology companies have seemed more willing in recent times to engage with media organisations to give them a better deal, but there is still a fundamental issue of their enormous market power and the data they control—and I'll address that in due course.

It's been much the same story across print, radio and television. Advertising sales and subscriptions of one form or another have fallen and, with that revenue crisis, we have seen dramatic contraction in the business of news, with 3,000 journalists, subeditors, designers, photographers and other content producers exiting this profession in Australia in recent years. Newsrooms have shrunk dramatically. You can see it here in the parliamentary press gallery, but the bigger cuts have been spread across the country even more deeply. Regional newspapers have folded. Regional news services, such as they now are, are being produced from capital cities in many cases. High forms of public interest journalism, especially investigative reporting, are increasingly working with fewer and fewer staff and resources. There are still fine journalists producing excellent product, but they are fewer in number and spread much more thinly. Coverage of local developments, from what is happening in local councils to who won the local football match, is evaporating. Court reporting is also rapidly diminishing. Fewer and fewer journalists are churning out more and more digital product, but more and more of that is 'churnalism': recycled and repackaged PR handouts and celebrity trivia. The production of one form or another of clickbait appears to be an increasingly favoured business model in an environment of declining revenue—constant churn but ever more shallow content. In this environment, increasing PR manipulation, spin and fake news are indicators of a deep malaise.

The seriousness of these issues was reflected in the Senate's decision earlier this year to establish a Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism. I genuinely and sincerely congratulate Senator Dastyari for his leadership on that and for chairing that committee. It has been a very valuable committee in terms of the evidence we've heard to date and the work we still need to do. That inquiry is ongoing but has already generated many useful submissions and valuable debate about the future of journalism in our country.

Many of us have long presumed that a free and vibrant media is essential for a well-informed citizenry and a vibrant democracy. But it can't be assumed that current media business models, especially in a market increasingly dominated by foreign technology companies, will necessarily serve that important democratic role. I don't think anyone could say our media industries are healthy today, and with that our democracy is not healthy either.

That said, the legislation before the Senate today, introduced by the government and now associated with additional measures negotiated between the government and NXT, is an attempt to modernise current media regulation and help the Australian media industry to deal more effectively with the huge challenges it faces. The bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to abolish the 75 per cent audience reach rule, which prohibits commercial television broadcasting licensees from controlling licences whose combined licence area populations exceed 75 per cent of the Australian population.

The bill will further abolish the very contentious two-out-of-three cross-media control rule, which prohibits control over more than two-out-of-three regulated media platforms in any one commercial radio licence area. The bill will also provide further additional local programming obligations for regional commercial television broadcasting licensees, amend measures relating to the anti-siphoning scheme and abolish broadcast licensing fees, datacasting charges and apparatus licence fees paid by commercial broadcasters. The Australian Communications and Media Authority, the ACMA, will be required to undertake a further review of developments by 1 July 2021. And, of course, there are other measures that have been alluded to by other speakers related to a restriction of gambling advertising. It's by no means perfect, but at least it is a significant improvement on what we have seen. It is something I and my colleagues have campaigned for, as indeed have many others in this chamber who believe, who know, that gambling advertising, including sports betting advertising, has gone far too far in this country and that it needs to be curtailed. This will go some way to that, but I see that as a first step, not a final step.

The bill enjoys strong support from major sectors of the media industry. That is important, though one should say that the commercial interests of the major media players should not weigh heavily in this debate. We should look at what this does for diversity. It does weigh heavily on my mind when regional broadcasters tell me how tough it is and how their revenue has been declining. When you look at their share price and when you look at their advertising budgets shrinking, in part because of Google and Facebook, we cannot ignore the pressures on those companies. I do not want to see any other major or indeed minor media company going into administration.

We support the legislation as necessary reforms that reflect the very large changes, especially the convergence of technologies, that have transformed the media landscape. We cannot credibly say that the two-out-of-three rule has the same currency and validity as when it was first enacted in the pre-internet era, before digital broadcasting and the impact that has.

Our support has been conditional on the negotiation and agreement with the government on a major package of additional measures to support the small publishers, especially in Australia's regions but also in metropolitan areas, and the profession of journalism itself in this very challenging period. I and my colleagues welcome the government's commitment to implement a regional and small publishers jobs and innovation package worth $60.4 million over three years. The government has accepted that public support is necessary to help small publishers and small regional newspapers as well as to create opportunities for more cadetships and for regional students to study journalism.

The significance of this agreement should not be underestimated. An important threshold has been crossed. We accept that many elements of Australian industry and commercial life may need government support from time to time, especially in times of rapid economic change and external pressure. I believe that government has a judicial role to play in many sectors of the economy, particularly in these challenging times, where there has been market disruption, where the playing field is no longer level and where you have two foreign technology companies ripping away at least $4 billion in advertising revenue each year, with the impact that has on traditional media, those that provide the content, tell the stories and provide the analysis and the investigative reporting that are fundamental to our democracy. All of my colleagues have long supported public broadcasting through the ABC and SBS, but government support for elements of the commercial media is a new development in Australia. There is no doubt about that.

But it is far from unprecedented. On this, I direct senators to submissions and evidence given to the Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism, chaired by Senator Dastyari, especially the submission of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia, which draws on a review of media systems in 14 European countries as well as the United States, Canada, New Zealand and also Australia. Among the key messages was a conclusion that, because of the current loss of advertising and the need to safeguard pluralism and editorial competition, alternative funding sources for public interest journalism need to be considered.

The report found that indirect subsidies for the media in the form of tax breaks were the most common form of aid, something that would have been my first choice. All 14 European media systems analysed had a reduced form of VAT—similar to GST—on sales of newspapers and magazines, while in four countries, including the United Kingdom, all sales were entirely exempt from VAT. Further indirect subsidies were found via reduced tariffs for telecommunications, electricity, paper or transport and through subsidies for news agencies, journalism schools, journalism research, reading promotion or professional associations. Several countries had a form of production aid for certain media organisations. Mainly these were to support second newspapers in particular defined areas. They were sometimes to support newspapers in minority languages. Other forms of aid helped to support distribution, internal training and the formation or reorganisation of newspapers. No fewer than 12 of the countries analysed used direct financial production subsidies to support private broadcasters, mainly regional and community broadcasters. In Denmark, Sweden and Italy, press subsidy schemes are now open to fully online media as well. So what is being announced today might be new for Australia, but it is hardly unprecedented when one looks abroad at what other countries are doing to deal with very similar challenges in the commercial media sector.

Returning to what has been agreed between NXT and the government, the government will establish, to assist smaller publishers and to foster diversity, a one-off regional and small publishers innovation fund involving $50 million worth of grants over three years from the 2018-19 financial year. The government will set up the fund such that the first round of grants can be announced no later than 1 June 2018, with the first grant moneys to flow from 1 July 2018. The government has undertaken to keep me and my colleagues aware of the process. It needs to be a public process, and it must be one involving the architecture of the scheme. The purpose of the fund is to assist small publishers in transition to compete and innovate more successfully in a changing media environment.

Publishers will be able to use the grants for initiatives that support the continuation, development, growth and innovation of Australian civic journalism, including initiatives that explore and expand the journalism funding model. In the context of this agreement, civic journalism is defined as 'journalism that has a primary purpose of investigating and explaining public policy and issues of public interest or significance with the aim of engaging citizens in public debate and forming democratic decision-making'. Grants could be allocated, for example, to programs and initiatives such as the purchasing or upgrading of equipment and software, development of apps and trading—all of which would assist in extending regional journalism. It will also help fund business activities that drive revenue and readership, something that is very important.

The aim of the fund is to enhance the ability of small publishers to maintain and expand employment. The criteria should be broad and flexible, and it's important that it's there to expand civic journalism. The eligibility criteria will include measures such as: a primary purpose test of producing civic and public interest journalism with an Australian perspective; an Australian resident test where grant recipients must be incorporated under Australian law and have their central management and control in Australia; an independence test where grant recipients must not be affiliated and must not be part of a political party, union, superannuation fund, financial institution, non-government organisation or policy lobby group; a control test, so it's an entity controlled and majority-owned by Australian residents; being a member of the Australian Press Council, or else have a robust and transparent complaints process and do their journalism ethically. They must have editorial guidelines, a code of conduct or framework relating to the provision of quality journalism. Publishers with an annual turnover of not less than $300,000 and not more than $30 million of revenue would be ineligible. Large publishers, such as News Corporation and Fairfax, will be ineligible. Funding grants will be capped at a maximum of $1 million per year for any media group. At least two-thirds of funding must go to regional publishers that have been under enormous stress and not less than 25 per cent for non-regional publishers.

The fund will be administered independently of government by the ACMA. They will seek input from an advisory committee, or representatives invited from each of the Australian Press Council, the Walkley Foundation and Country Press Australia, to give advice on the distribution of the fund. The advisory committee's recommendation will be made public. The fund may well give much-needed support to existing publishers. Those newspapers and publishers may adopt whatever editorial lines they like.

In addition, NXT and the government have agreed to funding to provide opportunities for students, including graduates, in regional areas and/or smaller metropolitan publications to access journalism training. In terms of regional scholarships, the government will establish 60 regional journalism scholarships worth $40,000 each, which will support regional students to take up opportunities to study journalism courses, with the aim of equipping more regional Australians with journalism training. That will commence in the 2018-19 financial year. Funding for the scholarships will be provided through the department of communications to a number of our premier journalism and media training institutions. They will be allocated proportionately so that students in every state and territory will have an opportunity to apply for scholarships.

To assist in creating employment opportunities in regional media, the government will also establish a regional and small publishers' cadetship program. The cadetships will be supported with a wage subsidy, with eligible organisations able to apply for a wage subsidy or a grant of up to $40,000 per journalism cadet. The cadetship program is there to increase journalism resources, not to supplant existing resources. Two hundred cadetships will be available for funding over two years, with 100 cadetships available each year. Of those 100 cadetships in a single year, at least 80, but not more than 90, cadetships will be for regional publications. And I'm sure in the committee stages we can discuss the eligibility criteria, as we must.

In addition to these measures, the Treasurer has agreed to our proposal that he direct the ACCC to conduct an inquiry into the impact of the new digital environment on media, specifically the impact of digital search engines, social media platforms and other digital content aggregation platforms on competition in media and advertising markets—in particular in relation to the supply of news and journalistic content and the implications of this for media content, creators, advertisers and consumers, something that my colleague Senator Griff has done an enormous amount of work on. I congratulate him for that forensic work that he's done. This will be the template for reform. The ACCC inquiry will commence as soon as possible and not later than 1 December 2017. There is to be a preliminary report within 12 months and a final report within 18 months, which has huge implications for the future of journalism in this country and ensuring that the playing field is levelled.

In negotiations with government, the government has agreed to grant a further six-month extension for community television licensees, taking them to 30 June 2018 so there can be, once and for all, a round table to determine their future. I believe in community television. The government has also committed to a review on Australian broadcasting services in the Asia-Pacific region and examining whether short-wave radio technology should be used.

Altogether, this is a very significant package of additional measures that will enhance the proposed media reforms contained in the bill. In this, we are dealing with the circumstances of commercial media in Australia. Some other contributors to this debate have wanted to say that this is a debate about public broadcasting. If they want in some way to modify the editorial independence of the ABC and have it more attuned to their particular viewpoint, they can always introduce legislation to give effect to their objective, but they will not have support from NXT. We are absolutely committed to a fully independent and well-resourced ABC and, indeed, SBS as well. In the $60 million package we have secured, we will not support that.

Honourable Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Let Senator Xenophon finish his speech.

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

This is about—I want to make it absolutely clear—a commitment to the ABC and SBS. This is a package of measures that will enhance journalism in Australia and will mean more journalists being employed rather than fewer journalists. That is why we will support the second reading stage of this bill, and we look forward to the committee stages of this bill.

9:42 pm

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Acting Deputy President, thank you for including me late on the speaking list. I wasn't intending to get up at this stage of the debate, and I note that at this stage it looks as if we will very soon be moving to the committee stage, which will be an opportunity to look at some of this in detail. But what I want to say is this: let's just reject outright the notion that this is anything other than what it is. This is an eleventh hour deal, a dirty deal that is going to hurt public broadcasting in this country, is going to hurt journalistic independence and is going to hurt the future of journalism. Let's not pussyfoot around this. Let's realise what has happened.

The government firstly did a deal with One Nation. We know they did a deal with One Nation, because One Nation stood up today and told us so.

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

Bragged about it!

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Bragged about it. To quote Senator Hanson-Young, they crowed about it. They're doing in the ABC and they're doing in SBS.

Then they had to find a way for Senator Xenophon and the NXT to keep their hands clean of this dirty deal. I have worked with Senator Xenophon on many occasions and I have an incredible amount of respect for Senator Xenophon on many issues, but, Senator Xenophon, you are better than this deal. You are better than this dirty deal that has been done at the eleventh hour. Frankly, you have enabled and you are enabling what will be a funding cut to the ABC and an attack on the ABC. We know what happened here. Xenophon's party said, 'We can't have our hands on anything dirty happening with the ABC because of our base,' and the government said, 'Fine. We'll just separate it out. We'll deal with it at the next budget, we'll deal with it at MYEFO and we'll deal with it in other ways.' We know this because One Nation are saying this. They're saying they're supporting all of this because of what will happen to the ABC and SBS. When we get to the committee stage, we'll have an opportunity to go into this in more detail.

Let's be clear: media diversity should not be traded off in exchange for support for journalism. It's not an either/or proposition. Australia can do both. I've had the fortunate opportunity through this Senate to chair a committee inquiry into public interest journalism. We started off with these big ideas—big ideas, Senator Xenophon—about creating tax deductibility around journalism. Do we look at taxing some of the big aggregators like Google and Facebook and using that money to pay for public interest journalism? All of that's gone. Now we have a $60 million slush fund, and let's be clear about where it will go. Again, we'll have an opportunity in the committee stage to get to the detail of this. It won't go to The Guardian. It won't go, it appears, to BuzzFeed and others. It is structured in a way so that the conservative parties, the Liberal and National parties, could get it through their own base.

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

They're not conservatives.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They're not conservatives, says Senator Bernardi—I will take that interjection. They're conservative compared to me. This is an attempt by the right-wing parties to get it through their own base. They've done in The Guardian. Let's be clear. Senator Xenophon, they are doing in The Guardian. You know this.

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

Threw them under a bus.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You've thrown them under a bus. We heard evidence in our inquiry from companies like BuzzFeed and others—these new, exciting, fresh, interesting companies. They're the ones who won't benefit from these measures as they appear to have been structured. Again, we'll have the opportunity to ask some specific questions a few minutes from now.

What we have here is a very dirty deal, and it didn't need to be done like this. It didn't need to be rushed through in this way. A $60 million slush fund is going to be the replacement for what could have been big, exciting new ideas. Senator Xenophon, I sat beside you when you asked question after question about whether Google and others are going to have to pay some kind of a levy or tax and about making public interest journalism tax deductible. These are big, exciting ideas. Whether they are the right ideas or the wrong ideas, we're going through a process to determine that, but what they weren't was a $60 million slush fund that will be targeted to exclude certain media providers. This is not how it should be done. We should not be debating big issues like this at the eleventh hour in this way. We, as a Senate, should be better than this. We, as a parliament, should be better than this.

I'm not going to hold up the chamber any longer, because I note the minister is speaking next and we'll have the opportunity to go to the committee stage, but, frankly, I have to say: this is a very, very disappointing situation to be in. It is an absurdity that we're creating, what, 60 scholarships? We're selling out journalism for 60 scholarships? We're selling out the ABC and SBS for 60 scholarships and $60 million? That's it? Perhaps those who know my history in ALP politics know that I'm not opposed to a deal, but make a good one. At least get something for it. How cheap do you have to go in this? With $60 million and 60 scholarships, at the end of it what jobs are actually going to be left?

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There won't be any at the ABC.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, no. The idea that you are going to give in to Pauline Hanson! Malcolm Roberts gave another crazy speech tonight.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Malcolm Roberts and Senator Pauline Hanson.

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sorry. Senator Malcolm Roberts gave another crazy speech tonight. His entire contribution about the future of public journalism was about a conspiracy at the ABC with their views on climate change. You had Senator Burston and Senator Hanson start outlining journalistic stories they didn't particularly like. If that is the basis for their negotiation, why would you enter into that? Why would you do a deal on that basis?

Frankly, this is an attack on the ABC. This is an attack on public broadcasting. This is an attack on the institutions that the right of politics believe they cannot support, be they BuzzFeed, The Guardianor others. Frankly, as a parliament and as a Senate, we are better than the rubbish that it looks likely we'll be passing tonight.

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, would you like to finish us off?

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

They haven't finished negotiating.

An opposition senator: They're still cooking it up.

9:50 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm just being courteous to a colleague. As it appears no further colleagues are wishing to contribute to the debate, can I thank colleagues for doing so. Also, more particularly, can I thank the colleagues who have engaged with me over an extended period of time. As I mentioned earlier in the procedural debate about extra hours, it should be acknowledged that crossbench colleagues and Green colleagues have constructively and positively engaged with the government. While we didn't reach agreement with the Greens, we nevertheless appreciated the fact that they were open to discuss this.

Crossbench colleagues have been very open. They've also been subject to a fair bit of criticism, bordering on abuse, by the Australian Labor Party on their exercising their appropriate rights as senators to examine propositions and to make a determination on those. The Labor Party have really been a very stark contrast, and I couldn't help but be reminded of the gracelessness of some of those opposite not only in the contributions in the place but over the last few weeks.

I do want to start with the alternative government. I want to start with something that those opposite have said often, and that is that they recognise the need for media reform and that they support all elements with the exception of the two-out-of-three rule abolition. But it's important not to go by what Labor say but to look at what it is they do. In the House of Representatives, the Australian Labor Party voted against every element in the media reform package in the second reading vote, and they voted against the whole package at the third reading. So there is a contradiction inherent in saying they support everything apart from abolishing two-out-of-three but then voting against the entire package. I've again heard Labor colleagues in this place tonight state that they support everything apart from the two-out-of-three component. So it will be interesting to see if Labor support the second reading of this bill. If they're to be taken at their word, if they're to be taken at what they say, they would support the second reading of this bill, but it will remain to be seen if that is indeed the case.

Something else we've heard repeatedly from those opposite, particularly Ms Rowland in another place, is that what there needs to be, when making decisions in the area of media reform, is an evidence base. The evidence is well and truly in. There is not a need for any more inquiries, there is not a need for any more Senate committees, there is not a need for further analysis of data. The evidence is in. It is clear. This is not 1988. The internet does exist. The media laws that we have were crafted for an era which is barely recognisable today. The media laws that we have had the perfectly good intention, back in 1988, of seeking to ensure diversity by ensuring that there wasn't an excessive concentration of ownership—and that probably made sense in 1988, when the only platforms were print, radio and TV.

We all know that things have changed dramatically since then. We know that the internet is all pervasive. We know that people have an unprecedented range of options when it comes to how they consume their media and how they consume their news. And those well-intentioned media laws, the two-out-of-three and the 75 per cent audience reach rule, now have the effect of constraining the capacity of Australian media organisations to configure themselves in the ways to best support their viability. And all of us in this place want to see, I would hope, strong Australian media voices.

From where I stand, the greatest threat to diversity in Australian media would be the failure of a significant media organisation. I think that would be the greatest threat to diversity. But we agree that it is important that there are diversity protections, which is why we are not proposing the abolition of what is known as the five-four or the voices rule, which says that: in a metropolitan market, you need to have five independent media voices; and, in a regional market, you need to have four independent media voices. We are not proposing the abolition of that. We are not proposing the abolition of the two-to-a-market radio rule, which says that you can't have more than two radio licences in one market. We are not proposing the abolition of the one-to-a-market TV rule, which says that you can't have more than one TV licence in a market. We will also continue to have the competition ruler of the ACCC, so there will still be important diversity protections.

What's being proposed by the legislation that is before the chamber is that we free things up a little for Australian media organisations, that we allow them to have a broader range of dance partners when it comes to who they might configure with to better support their viability. If you have more viable media organisations with scale, they will be in a better position to employ journalists and do the important work that they do. So we recognise the importance of diversity. We will be keeping important diversity protections.

I have commented before, in talking about media reform, that this is a somewhat unusual situation in that we have the support of essentially the entire Australian media industry. We have the support of Seven, Nine, Ten, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, Fairfax, News, Free TV, Commercial Radio Australia, Foxtel and ASTRA. That is—and this is no understatement—unprecedented. The reason it's unprecedented is because these are fiercely competitive commercial rivals who understandably talk their own book, talk their own corner. But what we have seen here is, such is the challenge faced by the Australian media industry from online and over-the-top providers, that the leaders of Australia's media industry have looked beyond their own legitimate organisational interests to the wider interests of the Australian media industry. So it's a credit to the leaders of Australia's media industry, but it is also a key indicator of the fact that they are under such challenge.

What we have before the Senate is a comprehensive package which seeks to provide a shot in the arm for Australian media organisations to give them a fighting chance. The elements, as colleagues would know, include, for commercial free-to-air TV and for commercial radio, the abolition of the existing revenue based licence fees and the replacement of those with a more modest spectrum charge. That is a tax cut. That is an important shot in the arm for these organisations. Every commercial radio station in the nation—and they're in every city and town, big or small—wants to see this package through. Every free-to-air TV station in the nation, be they metro or regional, wants to see this package passed. I have mentioned already the abolition of the two-out-of-three rule and the 75 per cent audience reach rule. Media organisations that I have mentioned are all in favour of the abolition of these ownership control laws. This is a package that, indeed, does have something for each of these organisations, but it also has a community dividend in the form of further restrictions on gambling advertising. This is something that has been welcomed and well received in the community. Yes, there is certainly a dividend for media organisations, and we want there to be because we want them to be strong and viable, but there's also an important community dividend here.

One of the more curious things that I've heard over the past few months is a contribution from Ms Rowland from the other place, in an interview on Sky with Kieran Gilbert. Kieran said words to the effect of: 'Given you've got every media organisation in the nation supporting this package, why wouldn't you embrace it? Why wouldn't you support it? Surely these people know something about their industry. Surely these people know something about what makes a good and conducive environment to employ people.' Ms Rowland's response was, 'Well, they're only supporting this package because there's something in it for them.' Yes, indeed—that's right. That's why they are, and that's why we put this package together, to ensure just that.

Colleagues opposite, like us, want to see media diversity, and we have some diversity protections, but diversity is not something that you can legislate into being. The necessary prerequisite for diversity is to have existing strong, viable media organisations that continue. If you don't have that, it doesn't matter what laws you have, you're not going to have diversity. That's why we think it's important that you have a combination of diversity protections, which we have in the form of the five-four rule, the two-to-a-market rule, the one-to-a-market rule and the ACCC, together with a package of measures which helps support the viability of Australian media organisations.

It has been commented by colleagues opposite that we have entered into agreements with various groupings in the chamber. The answer is, yes, we have. It's funny. When the Australian Labor Party enters an agreement, they call it an agreement. When the other side of politics enters an agreement, they call it a deal—they seek a pejorative term. In politics it doesn't matter the forum, whether it's a local council, a state parliament, the House of Reps, the Australian Senate, a local branch meeting of the ALP or a local branch meeting of the Australian Conservatives, you need 50 per cent plus one to do anything in any of those forums. So we have attempted to get 50 per cent plus one in this place.

There has been a bit of attention paid to some elements which will be the subject of subsequent legislation. I refer to a few matters to do with the ABC. I just want to advise colleagues that what we have agreed and what we will seek to pursue in relationship to the ABC are measures to enhance the ABC. I want to start in particular with some measures which were put forward by our colleague Senator Bridget McKenzie which have been adopted as government policy and do form part of an agreement that we have entered into in this place.

Senator McKenzie put forward, as you know, Mr Acting Deputy President, a range of measures in relation to the ABC and regional Australia. Now, it would surprise many people, I think, to discover that nowhere in the ABC Charter does it make reference to rural and regional Australia. But there is no such reference, and so what we will seek to do is to have a reference to rural and regional Australia in the ABC Charter, because that's an important part of their work, and I think most Australians would assume that's already there.

We're also proposing to ensure that there are at least two people on the ABC board who have a background from rural and regional Australia. Now, that's something that this government has already done by virtue of the appointment of Georgie Somerset, who's a beef producer from Kingaroy, and also Vanessa Guthrie, who is the chair of the Mineral Councils of Australia. We have already done that, but we think it's appropriate that that requirement be enshrined in legislation.

Senator McKenzie also put forward the proposition that there should be an ABC regional advisory council with which ABC management would need to consult when there's a decision being taken which has a material effect on residents of rural Australia, and we think that's a good thing. But there are a range of other transparency measures that she has put forward. There has been mention, obviously, of the issue of 'fair and balanced' being incorporated into the ABC's act. And I know colleagues will take great reassurance from the fact that chapter 4 of the ABC's editorial guidelines refers to 'a balance that follows the weight of evidence'—there's that word, 'balance'—and to 'fair treatment'. The ABC's own editorial guidelines in chapter 4 talk about being fair and balanced. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Journalistic Code of Ethics also talks about fairness no less than six times. So, if it's good enough for the MEAA and good enough for the ABC editorial guidelines, there should be no reason why 'fair and balanced' should not be incorporated into the ABC's act. So I know colleagues opposite will take great reassurance from that.

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

You'll have the opportunity to vote for them later on.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

That's right, Senator Bernardi. I just want to make brief mention of some of those measures, because they have attracted some comment.

When it comes to diversity, obviously, there are a range of measures for community radio that the government has agreed to. There are also a range of measures in relation to cadetships, in relation to scholarships and also in relation to an innovation fund. These are all good and positive things to further support diversity. But the most important thing that is being done for diversity in the package that is before the Australian Senate is measures that will help the long-term viability of Australian media organisations and ensure that we have strong Australian media voices into the future.

While those of us here may not always like what it is that those in the gallery and in other journalistic walks will post, write, broadcast, tweet or blog, nevertheless, what they do is an important underpinning for our democracy. The scrutiny that they provide is one of the things that make us a robust pluralistic democracy. We want to see that work that Australian journalists do continue. It's one thing to say that you value the work of journalists and that you value what it is the media organisations do, but it's another thing to demonstrate that. The package that is before the Senate provides a shot in the arm to Australian media organisations. It provides them with a fighting chance. On this side of the chamber, we're for strong Australian media organisations. Those opposite talk about it, but when it comes down to it in the House of Representatives they vote against each and every measure that would support that. I urge my colleagues to consider this package. I urge this chamber to consider this package.

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Two-out-of-three was the problem, and you're misrepresenting it!

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll take the interjection, in the final 20 seconds, from Senator O'Neill: it's not a misrepresentation. Look at the Hansard in the House. Every Labor member voted against every measure in the House of Representatives. Saying that it's not so does not make it untrue.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the second reading amendment moved by Senator Siewert be agreed to.

10:18 pm

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

I move:

At the end of the motion, add:

", but reaffirms that the Senate is a friend of the ABC, notes that the agreement to support the bill involves a non-statutory review which threatens iView, SBS on Demand and online news content, and is of the opinion that the bill should not proceed if the review is to occur".

This is about showing the Senate's support for our public broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, despite the disgusting attack on them from this dirty deal that the government has done with One Nation.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the second reading amendment moved by Senator Hanson-Young be agreed to.

10:22 pm

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question now is that the motion that the bills be now read a second time, as amended, be agreed to.