Today the Turnbull Government showed media diversity the door as their flawed media ownership changes passed Parliament – over a year and a half after they were first introduced.
Showing contempt for the public interest to the very end, again the Turnbull Government squandered an opportunity to explain the deals that form part of their damaging so-called ‘media reforms’.
Unable to get its media ownership changes through on merit, and rather than adopt the recommendations of the Convergence Review, accept the findings of the Department of Communications or build on the work of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the Turnbull Government turned to Senators Pauline Hanson, David Leyonhjelm and Nick Xenophon for deals.
The passage of the Broadcasting Reform Bill through Parliament today ends with more questions than answers.
Just as the Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, was unable to answer basic queries about these deals in the Senate, today the Minister’s representative in the House, Paul Fletcher, failed to answer Labor’s questions.
Some of the questions the Turnbull Government continues to avoid include:
- Where does the $60.4 million for the so-called innovation fund come from?
- Why are innovative publishers like The Guardian Australia, BuzzFeed and The New Daily being cut out of the deal?
- Why are news organisations with foreign-based parent companies not eligible for the fund, but are eligible for cadetships and scholarship programs?
- If media mergers that occur after the repeal of the 2 out of 3 cross-media rule result in job losses, where are the 200 cadets going to work long-term?
- When will further details on the fund be revealed?
Australians will suffer as a result of the Government’s deals, which trade away a key media diversity safeguard forever in exchange for an ideologically-motivated ‘innovation fund’ for journalism – that runs out in only three years – and a vendetta-style attack on the ABC and SBS under a ‘competitive neutrality inquiry’ – for which the terms of reference are nowhere to be seen.
Labor’s position has remained crystal clear, principled and evidence-based throughout the backroom dealings by the Turnbull Government.
The approach of the Turnbull Government, on the other hand, has been piecemeal, underhand and short-sighted.
Last year, the Turnbull Government ignored Labor’s constructive call for a thorough examination of the state of the Australian media landscape, so that Parliament would have evidence to inform any changes to our media laws. Yet, a year later, and only in exchange for Nick Xenophon’s support for repeal of the 2 out of 3 cross-media control rule, did the Government agreed to such a review.
Labor will hold the Turnbull Government to account for its hamfisted and damaging foray into media reform, which will make one of the most concentrated media markets in the world even more concentrated.