The Turnbull Government's media ownership deal hands millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to commercial media and includes an outrageous attack on the ABC and SBS.
Australian voters were not informed prior to the last election that the Turnbull Government would gift $30 million of taxpayers’ money to Fox Sports, nor were they warned of an insidious ‘competitive neutrality inquiry’, aimed at culling the ABC and SBS.
Next the Turnbull Government will spend $60 million of taxpayer funds on a scheme devised by Nick Xenophon and announced at the eleventh hour in the Senate this week.
Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, doesn’t understand, or care, how these taxpayer funds will be allocated. This quickly became apparent when the Minister was unable to answer basic questions about the Nick Xenophon deal during debate in the Senate.
It was a sorry spectacle to witness Nick Xenophon jumping to his feet to explain what the responsible Minister could not - even with all the resources of Government at his disposal.
Key questions about the Xenophon package remain:
- The one-off Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund will dispense $50 million of taxpayers’ funds over three years before it peters out. What then?
- What is the point of a fund that can't even be spent on employing journalists?
- How is some extra taxpayer-funded equipment and training going to save the Australian media industry?
- How many publishers have been excluded from the Fund?
- Why have innovative publishers like The Guardian, Buzzfeed and The New Daily been cut out of the deal?
- What impact will inability to access the fund have on niche publishers?
- Why are publishers affiliated with a superannuation fund excluded from accessing the fund?
- Why are taxpayers’ funds being used for cadetship programs at large commercial media organisations?
- Why expend taxpayers’ money on journalism cadetships and scholarships when there aren’t enough jobs for existing journalists?
- Where are all the new cadets going to work, given there will be job losses once media mergers take place to achieve the efficiencies and synergies of consolidation following the repeal of the 2 out of 3 rule?
As always, the Turnbull Government is giving to big business and taking away from ordinary Australians.
As usual, Minister Fifield has done a deal behind closed doors, without open consultation and at risk of unintended consequences.
The Australian people deserve transparency around the formulation of media policy, and decisions on how taxpayers’ funds will be expended.
Labor will hold the Turnbull Government to account for the pathetic deals they've done to sell out diversity in one of the most concentrated media markets in the world - which is about to get a whole lot worse.