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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7258

Senator DASTYARI (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (21:42): Mr Acting Deputy President, thank you for including me late on the speaking list. I wasn't intending to get up at this stage of the debate, and I note that at this stage it looks as if we will very soon be moving to the committee stage, which will be an opportunity to look at some of this in detail. But what I want to say is this: let's just reject outright the notion that this is anything other than what it is. This is an eleventh hour deal, a dirty deal that is going to hurt public broadcasting in this country, is going to hurt journalistic independence and is going to hurt the future of journalism. Let's not pussyfoot around this. Let's realise what has happened.

The government firstly did a deal with One Nation. We know they did a deal with One Nation, because One Nation stood up today and told us so.

Senator Hanson-Young: Bragged about it!

Senator DASTYARI: Bragged about it. To quote Senator Hanson-Young, they crowed about it. They're doing in the ABC and they're doing in SBS.

Then they had to find a way for Senator Xenophon and the NXT to keep their hands clean of this dirty deal. I have worked with Senator Xenophon on many occasions and I have an incredible amount of respect for Senator Xenophon on many issues, but, Senator Xenophon, you are better than this deal. You are better than this dirty deal that has been done at the eleventh hour. Frankly, you have enabled and you are enabling what will be a funding cut to the ABC and an attack on the ABC. We know what happened here. Xenophon's party said, 'We can't have our hands on anything dirty happening with the ABC because of our base,' and the government said, 'Fine. We'll just separate it out. We'll deal with it at the next budget, we'll deal with it at MYEFO and we'll deal with it in other ways.' We know this because One Nation are saying this. They're saying they're supporting all of this because of what will happen to the ABC and SBS. When we get to the committee stage, we'll have an opportunity to go into this in more detail.

Let's be clear: media diversity should not be traded off in exchange for support for journalism. It's not an either/or proposition. Australia can do both. I've had the fortunate opportunity through this Senate to chair a committee inquiry into public interest journalism. We started off with these big ideas—big ideas, Senator Xenophon—about creating tax deductibility around journalism. Do we look at taxing some of the big aggregators like Google and Facebook and using that money to pay for public interest journalism? All of that's gone. Now we have a $60 million slush fund, and let's be clear about where it will go. Again, we'll have an opportunity in the committee stage to get to the detail of this. It won't go to The Guardian. It won't go, it appears, to BuzzFeed and others. It is structured in a way so that the conservative parties, the Liberal and National parties, could get it through their own base.

Senator Bernardi: They're not conservatives.

Senator DASTYARI: They're not conservatives, says Senator Bernardi—I will take that interjection. They're conservative compared to me. This is an attempt by the right-wing parties to get it through their own base. They've done in The Guardian. Let's be clear. Senator Xenophon, they are doing in The Guardian. You know this.

Senator Hanson-Young: Threw them under a bus.

Senator DASTYARI: You've thrown them under a bus. We heard evidence in our inquiry from companies like BuzzFeed and others—these new, exciting, fresh, interesting companies. They're the ones who won't benefit from these measures as they appear to have been structured. Again, we'll have the opportunity to ask some specific questions a few minutes from now.

What we have here is a very dirty deal, and it didn't need to be done like this. It didn't need to be rushed through in this way. A $60 million slush fund is going to be the replacement for what could have been big, exciting new ideas. Senator Xenophon, I sat beside you when you asked question after question about whether Google and others are going to have to pay some kind of a levy or tax and about making public interest journalism tax deductible. These are big, exciting ideas. Whether they are the right ideas or the wrong ideas, we're going through a process to determine that, but what they weren't was a $60 million slush fund that will be targeted to exclude certain media providers. This is not how it should be done. We should not be debating big issues like this at the eleventh hour in this way. We, as a Senate, should be better than this. We, as a parliament, should be better than this.

I'm not going to hold up the chamber any longer, because I note the minister is speaking next and we'll have the opportunity to go to the committee stage, but, frankly, I have to say: this is a very, very disappointing situation to be in. It is an absurdity that we're creating, what, 60 scholarships? We're selling out journalism for 60 scholarships? We're selling out the ABC and SBS for 60 scholarships and $60 million? That's it? Perhaps those who know my history in ALP politics know that I'm not opposed to a deal, but make a good one. At least get something for it. How cheap do you have to go in this? With $60 million and 60 scholarships, at the end of it what jobs are actually going to be left?

Senator O'Neill: There won't be any at the ABC.

Senator DASTYARI: Well, no. The idea that you are going to give in to Pauline Hanson! Malcolm Roberts gave another crazy speech tonight.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Whish-Wilson ): Senator Malcolm Roberts and Senator Pauline Hanson.

Senator DASTYARI: Sorry. Senator Malcolm Roberts gave another crazy speech tonight. His entire contribution about the future of public journalism was about a conspiracy at the ABC with their views on climate change. You had Senator Burston and Senator Hanson start outlining journalistic stories they didn't particularly like. If that is the basis for their negotiation, why would you enter into that? Why would you do a deal on that basis?

Frankly, this is an attack on the ABC. This is an attack on public broadcasting. This is an attack on the institutions that the right of politics believe they cannot support, be they BuzzFeed, The Guardianor others. Frankly, as a parliament and as a Senate, we are better than the rubbish that it looks likely we'll be passing tonight.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Whish-Wilson ): Minister, would you like to finish us off?

Senator Hanson-Young: They haven't finished negotiating.

An opposition senator: They're still cooking it up.