SPEECH - Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017

If we're going to talk about grubby political self-interest, we could be here all day talking about the grubby deals of those opposite. 

But the only question before the House right now is one dealing with programming requirements and additional points in the realisation of a trigger event. That is the only question before the House today, which is why Labor is not opposing this bill, the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017.

But Labor's view on media diversity and the way in which this government has undermined it for this and future generations remains clear: the level of media concentration in Australia is already one of the highest in the world and it is about to get a whole lot worse thanks to those opposite. Though they think this doesn't matter to people, I would point out that an Essential poll has shown that the majority of Australians, 61 per cent of voters, disapprove of changing media ownership laws to allow a single company to control a newspaper, TV network and radio network in the same area.

Time will tell what the public will make of how the media reform sausage got made by those opposite. What will they make of the Turnbull government attacking our national broadcasters in a grubby deal with Pauline Hanson's One Nation? The substantive bill before us not only is contrary to the public interest but—do you know what?—doesn't even contain half the measures struck behind closed doors to change Australia's media ownership laws.

The very laws that govern the fourth estate in Australia were traded away behind closed doors. And for what? For a flimsy so-called innovation fund for journalism that will run out in three years and for taxpayer funded handouts to commercial media—$30 million to Fox Sports—document free. Ladies and gentlemen, these days you can get $30 million from those opposite, document free, in taxpayer funded handouts to commercial media to attack public broadcasters at the behest of One Nation.

There's a list a mile long of the backroom deals and handshakes that were done here, and what have we got at the end of it? We've got more questions than answers, such as: where does the existing $60 million come from for this so-called innovation fund? What was it previously set aside for? Why are news organisations with foreign based parent companies not eligible for the fund but eligible for the cadetships and scholarships program? Does the Turnbull government concede that permitting the biggest media companies to consolidate by repealing the two-out-of-three rule could actually squeeze smaller publishers out of the market?

If media mergers that occur after the repeal of the two-out-of-three rule result in job losses, where are these 200 new cadets going to work? Where will the 60 regional journalism scholarships go? Who will select the universities that are eligible for the fund? When will further details on the fund be revealed? How will the fund be administered? When will it be released? What are the 'business activities to drive revenue and readership'? Does that mean advertising, and does it include advertising on social media platforms?

One of the grossest things about the whole debacle in the Senate was that when all of these questions were being asked by Labor—what are the details of this?—we had the spectacle of the Minister for Communications being completely unable to answer those questions. Instead, he delegated responsibility for answering them to Senator Xenophon. That's the kind of minister we have—one that doesn't even know the details of these issues.

It goes on. Why are innovative publishers like The Guardian, Buzz Feed and the New Daily being cut out of the deal? Why are publishers affiliated with superannuation funds excluded from accessing the fund? As I said, where are all these new cadets going to work? No-one can tell me that having efficiencies, synergies and these back-end cost savings realised is actually going to promote more jobs. That is an absolute furphy.

I reiterate: Labor has made its position on this bill abundantly clear. All we have before the House today are two small amendments dealing with changes in points for regional programming in the event of a trigger event being realised, so Labor will not be opposing these two small amendments that are before us today.

Our position on this bill has been made abundantly clear. Again we reiterate that if those opposite think Australians will simply bat this away and forget about it they've got another thing coming. When Australians find out how this sausage was made, they will give their judgement.