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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7205


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (17:49): Senator Brandis has sought to suspend standing orders so that he can move a motion that will provide the Senate with the opportunity to debate the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017. It has been observed by those opposite that this bill has been around since shortly after the budget, in which we announced a comprehensive media reform package that has the support of Seven, Nine, Ten, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, Fairfax, News Limited, Free TV, Commercial Radio Australia, Foxtel and ASTRA. It is not a common occurrence to have all of those organisations on the same page.

In observing that, can I acknowledge the leaders of Australia's media industry, who have been prepared and able to look beyond their own legitimate organisational interests to the wider interests of the Australian media industry. The interest is that they, like those of us on this side of the chamber and a number of the crossbenchers, want to see strong Australian media voices. While we don't always agree with what those in the gallery will write, broadcast, post and blog, we nevertheless do recognise that what they do is an important underpinning for our democracy.

We think this is a very significant package. It is true that it could have been dealt with many months ago if the Australian Labor Party had supported it, but the Australian Labor Party didn't because they're not particularly concerned about the jobs of those who work in Australia's media industry. Let me mention again some of the organisations: Seven, Nine, Ten, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo—

Senator Kim Carr: News Limited.

Senator FIFIELD: News Limited and Fairfax. When I mention Commercial Radio Australia, it's important to recognise that Commercial Radio Australia represents radio stations around the nation, in small towns, in large towns and in metropolitan areas. Free TV represents the major capital city broadcasters but also regional broadcasters. What this package is all about is helping to enhance their viability.

I want to acknowledge crossbench colleagues in this place who have been very willing to engage positively and constructively. I also should acknowledge that the Greens have been prepared to engage positively and constructively.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my left! Order!

Senator FIFIELD: I think it's important to recognise colleagues in this place. Even where you may not have reached agreement with them, they nevertheless have been prepared to engage openly and positively. That really leaves the Australian Labor Party as outliers in this place who haven't been prepared to do that. The Australian Labor Party still believe in media bogey-men, and I suppose they believe in media bogey-women as well. They still have their particular predilection when it comes to proprietors. On this side of the chamber, we are proprietor-agnostic.

Senator FIFIELD: Our package is comprehensive. It's for the entire media industry. I have observed before, and let me do it again, that one of the most peculiar observations was that of the shadow minister for communications, Ms Roland, who said that the only reason that the Australian media industry is supporting this package is that there's something in it for all of them. Indeed, there is. That's the purpose and that's the point. We want to see good, strong, viable Australian media organisations and good, strong Australian media voices who can hold all of us to account and can do the important work that they do. It is important that we deal with this business. Senator Brandis is seeking to suspend standing orders to enable a motion to be moved to enable us to do just that.