Senate debates

Monday, 9 August 2021


Australian Content Broadcasting

1:50 pm

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] Australian stories told through feature films, documentaries and television series are a way of preserving and promoting Australia's culture, identity and history. From Underbelly to Rosehaven to Bluey, Australia produces some fantastic screen content. As well as being a means of cultural expression, Australian productions contribute to our local economy and provide work for local producers, directors, writers, film crews and many others in the screen industry.

As the government's media reform green paper points out, Australia's broadcast market is small, and local content is financially risky to produce. If we cannot rely on big media companies to serve the Australian market over their own commercial interests, then we need to compel them. But, instead of strengthening local content rules, the Morrison government has conducted an all-out assault against them.

The Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts was recently criticised by the government's own senators for trying to cut in half the Australian content expenditure requirement for subscription TV services like Foxtel. Last year, the minister temporarily suspended local content rules for free-to-air broadcasters while the screen industry was struggling for survival through the pandemic. The subquotas for drama, documentary and children's content were reintroduced this year, but they're so watered-down that they're ineffective.

The government's savage cuts to the ABC over eight long years have also impacted on Australian screen production. While France, Germany, Canada and the EU are leading the charge on local content obligations for streaming services like Netflix, the Morrison government has promised action but, once again, failed to deliver. Because of the Morrison government's persistent attacks on local content rules, tens of thousands of jobs already threatened by the pandemic are at risk. Australia's film industry deserves better than this.