Senate debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2018


Communications Legislation Amendment (Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund) Bill 2017; Second Reading

6:54 pm

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

As I look around the chamber, I don't think there are any other colleagues looking to make a contribution, so I will sum up the second reading debate and thank colleagues who have spoken. The Communications Legislation Amendment (Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund) Bill 2017 will implement an important component of the government's media reform package. We are committed to assisting small and regional publishers through a time when the media landscape is in a state of flux. Traditional revenue models have been fractured and media organisations must adapt to move with their audiences. For smaller and regional publications, this is even more challenging. In this disrupted environment, access to locally relevant factual journalism remains important to develop and maintain strong communities. The government's Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund recognises this need. The $50 million fund will provide grants over three years to eligible media organisations for projects that enable new business models and practices. By doing so, the government will assist these publishers to put themselves on a sustainable commercial footing.

I note that industry is supportive of this bill and that submissions received during the inquiry recognised the merit of developing measures to support Australian civic journalism as well as the particular need to support civic journalism in regional areas. The bill will enable the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund, establishing its legislative framework. While the bill is not complex, it must be in place to allow robust design and planning of the fund to be completed so that small and regional publishers can access necessary and timely support for projects.

I take the opportunity to make some brief comments on the opposition's second reading amendment on sheet 8399. This amendment is so full of dross that it almost shouldn't be dignified with a response—suffice to say that the government won't be supporting that amendment. The government's media reform package was unanimously supported by industry, as colleagues will recall. It has very clearly strengthened the position of Australian media organisations and helped to secure jobs and the future of public interest journalism. Those who sit opposite did oppose these reforms at each stage and have not put forward an alternative proposition to the one which was supported by this parliament.

I encourage colleagues to support the bill that is before us so that the government can proceed with calling for applications and that the ACMA can begin assessing applications and distributing these funds to regional and small publishers.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the second reading amendment on sheet 8399, moved by Senator O'Neill, be agreed to.