Press Gallery, Canberra
15 September 2017
First of all, quite a long and protracted negotiation with the crossbench to get these measures through, why are you so confident that this is actually going to be beneficial to Australian media jobs?
Well, the Australian media environment before the passage of this legislation was governed by laws which were drafted in the 1980s when Kylie Minogue was still singing ‘The Locomotion’. The media laws didn’t recognise the fact that the internet existed. In practice what that meant was that Australian media organisations were constrained from being able to configure themselves in ways to support their viability. We have now unshackled Australian media organisations so that they have the opportunity to compete on more a level playing field with internet based providers. So, this is good news for strong Australian media voices and good news for jobs in the Australian media industry.
This will lead to mergers between various companies, won’t it? Doesn’t that sort of reamplify those concerns about lack of voices in the media?
Well, the greatest threat to diversity in the Australian media would be the failure of an Australian media organisation. So we wanted to give Australian media the opportunity to configure themselves in the best ways to support their viability. If you’ve got more viable media organisations it means that they are in a better position to employ and continue to employ journalists.
The negotiations you had with One Nation to get some added scrutiny for the ABC, you’ve kicked that off into a separate piece of legislation to be dealt with at a later date, is that just a canny piece of negotiating by the Coalition given its quite clear that doesn’t have support of the Senate and it wouldn’t get up?
People said that we would not be able to legislate our media reform package. Yet we have. People said that we wouldn’t be able to legislate schools reform. Yet we have. People said we wouldn’t be able to legislate the reestablishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Yet we have. Likewise, they said we couldn’t establish a Registered Organisations Commission. Likewise they said we couldn’t get our omnibus savings legislation through. So, every time that people say that something can’t be done, it just makes me and my colleagues more determined to do it on behalf of the Australian public.
Senator Xenophon this morning seemed quite angry at suggestions that he was going to look at any measures that would touch the ABC. It’s simple maths, isn’t it, that if you can’t get the Nick Xenophon Team over the line, you’re not going to get it through?
They said we wouldn’t get media reform through the Parliament, yet we have. And what we’re proposing in terms of the ABC really should be embraced by everyone. We want to put into the ABC charter the words ‘rural and regional’, something that most Australians would assume is already there. We want to put into the ABC’s Act in relation to its journalism and news activities the words ‘fair and balanced’. Again, this is something that should be readily accepted because chapter four of the ABC’s editorial guidelines talk about the importance of fair treatment and in terms of balance talk about looking at the weight of evidence.
Also, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance journalistic code of ethics talks about fairness on no less than six occasions. So, these are well established journalistic principles and everyone should be very relaxed about their incorporation into the ABC Act.