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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 4328

Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (13:19): Labor does not oppose the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017 but, for the record, Labor notes that the measures in this bill were negotiated by the government and One Nation in exchange for One Nation's support for the Turnbull government's damaging repeal of the two-out-of-three cross-media control rule last year. Not only is this bill yet another example of the cosy relationship between the Turnbull government and Pauline Hanson's One Nation party but it does precious little to fill the void left by the repeal of the two-out-of-three cross-media control rule. Australia already has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world, and removal of the two-out-of-three rule, under this government, undermines media diversity by permitting an even greater concentration of media voices in this country.

The Howard Liberal government abolished foreign media ownership limits in 2006 in recognition of the need for foreign investment to support media diversity in Australia. The recent CPS acquisition of the Ten Network demonstrated the power of the two-out-of-three rule in fostering competition and diversity just prior to the abolition that was achieved in the deal with this government and the One Nation party. This acquisition showed the utility of foreign ownership as a safeguard on media concentration by improving access to capital and increasing the pool of potential media owners. This bill will provide some further information about foreign ownership of media in Australia, which is already considered to be a sensitive business.

The community broadcasting sector needs all the help it can get, given the Turnbull government has been so inconsistent with the sector on certainty of funding for community radio and certainty of access for spectrum for community television to broadcast over. Community radio services play a very important role in informing local communities and providing community members with the opportunity to have their views heard. Labor, along with the CBAA, supports the intent of the bill to strengthen local community radio broadcasting and understands the need for the proposed changes to strike a balance between providing clarity for the sector and avoiding overly prescriptive or burdensome requirements. Labor notes that the CBAA is concerned about the wording of the bill as it currently stands, and we encourage the government to address the CBAA's concerns to ensure clarity and certainty for the sector.