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Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Page: 4891

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (10:33): I am pleased to rise this morning to speak on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill. This bill will amend the Broadcasting Services Act of 1992 to repeal outdated media ownership laws and control laws to better reflect the changing digital media environment, with three separate things which will change.

First is the repeal of the 75 per cent audience reach rule; second is what is known as the two-out-of-three cross-media ownership rule; and third is the introduction of new programming obligations for regional commercial television broadcasting licences where a changing control, known as a trigger event, results in a licence forming part of a group of commercial television broadcasting licences whose combined licence area population exceeds 75 per cent of the Australian population.

The first schedule of the bill is the 75 per cent audience reach rule. This currently prevents a person in their own right, as either an owner or a director of one or more companies, from being in a position to exercise control of commercial television broadcasting licences whose combined licenced area population exceeds 75 per cent of the population of Australia. This rule has had the practical effect of preventing mergers between any of the predominantly metropolitan commercial television broadcasting licences such as Seven, Nine or Ten and any of the regional commercial television broadcasting licensees—being Prime, WIN and Southern Cross—because such a transaction would result in a person controlling commercial television licences whose combined licence area population substantially exceeds the 75 per cent threshold. Clearly, such a provision in the laws is completely redundant in today's digital media age, where someone can have access simply online to 100 per cent of not only the Australian population but, effectively, of most of the world's population.

The second change is to the two-out-of-three cross-media rule, which prohibits a person from controlling more than two out of three regulated media platforms—that is, a commercial television broadcasting licence, a commercial radio broadcasting licence and associated newspaper—in any one commercial radio licence area. Again, this is a redundant provision, given the change in the media technology.

I myself, and I am sure many in this parliament, have noticed that, when we go to hand out our newsletters at railway stations during election campaigns, we rarely see someone carrying a traditional newspaper. In fact, I saw and said, 'Good morning,' to at least several thousand people at local railway stations over the recent election campaign, and I think I could count on one hand the number of people carrying a newspaper under their arm to read on the train. Being in Sydney, those newspapers were simply The Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph or The Australian. But on their mobile devices, they in fact had access to almost every newspaper in the world—whether it be TheNew York Times, The Washington Post, South China Morning Post, The Straits Times from Singapore; anyone can access any of those newspapers online. So it clearly shows how such legislation once was perhaps fitting to ensure diversity, and how diversity of opinions in our media landscape are no longer.

We need to continue to monitor our media landscape, because diversity of opinions and a variety of ideas—the contest of ideas; people putting up different ideas—across our media are essential for our democracy. We have concerns about that with the growing amount of what is called fake news across the digital spectrum—not only the digital spectrum; also traditional media outlets. I would like to give a couple of examples: during the US presidential election campaign, there was a news report in the major metropolitan papers throughout Australia. It was also reported on some of our current affairs programs. It was alleged that a group of a thousand people, pro-Trump supporters, were chanting disgraceful words in New York: 'We hate Muslims. We hate blacks. We want our great country back.' When I heard that on one of the current affairs programs being stated as a fact, I thought: that just simply does not seem right. I could not imagine people in New York chanting those obscenely offensive words. But, yet, it was reported as news across many different platforms and it turned out to be completely and utterly fake.

Another example is the recent coral bleaching we have seen on the Great Barrier Reef. We have seen stories printed in our newspapers saying the reef was dead or that 70 per cent of the coral reef had died off. Without in any way minimising the seriousness of the recent bleaching on the coral reef—

Mr Dick: Pauline went to a place where it wasn't happening.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: I see the member over there interjecting. I hope this may be an opportunity to educate him, because I am sure he may have been influenced by some of this fake news. It wasn't actually 70 per cent or 60 per cent of the reef that was killed off—

Dr Leigh: On a point of order: the speaker is straying a great deal from the question of media reform. It is not a debate which will allow him to discuss any story he has read in the newspapers this year.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Further to the point of order: one of the crucial points, which was raised by the previous speaker, is diversity in the media. Diversity in the media is important, because of the variety of fake news so, examples of how different stories are reported are clearly relevant to this bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): I think it might be best that we stick to the bill.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Stick to the bill—which is the importance of media diversity. Therefore I would like to give examples of why that media diversity is so important and how different stories give different points of view—some which can be fake to get to the truth—and why this bill is important and, it is clearly allowed under the rule of debates to give examples.

The example that I was giving was of the story about the bleaching of the barrier reef. While it was reported across many media outlets that two-thirds of the reef had actually died off, it was only two-thirds of what is called the far northern parts of the reef. The reef is divided into three parts: a central part, a southern part and the northern part. Yes, those stories that were reported were true that two-thirds of the northern part of the reef had died off. But the central part had only six per cent coral bleaching; and the southern part was less than one percent. So it is very important that we have diversity of media ownership, that we have the two-out-of-three rule and that we have the 75 per cent audience reach rule. It is very important that, within those rules, we have full diversity because, without it, people are simply being influenced by fake news.

Another example of media ownership—also going back to the US presidential election: we saw during the election that those speaking against Trump were telling us that his election, the election of a President Trump, would have a huge detrimental effect on the economy. That was reported in multiple news outlets across many areas, which clearly exceeded the 75 per cent audience reach rule. But what we have seen since the election is the exact opposite: we have seen a boom in the share market, and yesterday the OECD reported that they have actually upped their forecasts of global growth. Global growth at 2.9 per cent—the OECD are now reporting—which was the previous forecast, is now up to 3.3 per cent for 2007; and up to 3.6 per cent in 2018.

In the US, their previous forecast of 2.1 percent—

Mr DICK: Can you speak about Australia?

Mr CRAIG KELLY: I am more than happy to come to Australia. We are talking about the growth in the US which we had reported back in September at 2.1 percent. They are hoping that it will go to 2.3 per cent in 2017 and maybe they might get to three per cent in 2018. So it is the complete opposite of what was reported in the media, which goes to the importance of this bill: media diversity.

I will take the interjection from the member opposite: let's come to Australia. So that is the US growth. They are hoping that they might get to three per cent in 2018, which would be the highest growth in the US since 2005. Guess what, member over there? Australia's growth is at 3.3—you asked me to bring it back to Australia on that particular point; I am more than happy to—so when we talk about economic growth, it shows how well Australia is going. This is an example of why we need great diversity. It is clear the member over there simply either does not understand or he has been reading from media outlets that tell him Australia's growth is not going well. If he did his homework, he would realise that Australia's economic growth at 3.3 per cent is one of the highest in the world.

Another example of why the 75 per cent media reach is out of tune and needs to be changed can be seen in an article by Terry McCrann that was published in the Herald and The DailyTelegraph yesterday. He was talking about a story that had been reported widely, in The Economist, on the BBC and SBS and by literally hundreds of news outlets across the world—so easily covering that 75 per cent rule or the two-out-of-three media ownership rule; the control rule. McCrann said in the article that last month the Paris-based International Energy Agency, in its latest World Energy Outlook, stated that 'renewables have surpassed coal last year to become the largest sources of installed power capacity in the world.'

Mr Dick: Again we have the anti-climate change debate.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Again, I may be able to educate the member over there, because I am sure that he has read that story: 'Renewables have surpassed coal last year to become the largest source of installed power capacity in the world'—reported in The Economist, reported on the BBC, reported on SBS, reported on the ABC and reported across many media streams online.

Mr Dick interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Oxley will get his turn soon.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: In contrast, Terry McCrann, in his article, said:

THE first and most important thing to understand about the global warming true believers and the pushers of so-called 'renewable energy' is that they lie.

They lie effortlessly, seamlessly, continuously and without the slightest sense of shame. They lie deliberately and carelessly and casually …

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Fenner on a point of order.

Dr Leigh: Mr Deputy Speaker, fascinated as I am to hear the member's views on the anthropogenic global warming scam, I do again make the point that this is not an opportunity for him to raise with the House anything that he has read in the newspaper this year on the spurious pretence that that has to do with diversity.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: On the point of order: this bill goes to the 75 per cent audience reach rule and it goes to the two-out-of-three cross-media ownership rule, and it is clearly within the standing orders to give examples of current media stories to show how they fit in with those rules, and that is exactly what I am doing.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no point of order, but I would suggest to the member for Hughes that he stick to the content of the bill so that we can have a nice, pleasant Wednesday morning.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: I had hoped that I would have the opportunity to further educate the member for Fenner in these last few minutes, but the point I was making is that this story that renewables had surpassed coal had gone across countless media outlets—far exceeding the 75 per cent audience reach rule or the two-out-of-three cross-media ownership rule. But, when you actually look at the evidence, this is simply an example of fake news.

If we are talking about electricity generation, from the OECD's own report we see solar at less than one per cent of energy generation—actually, 0.8 per cent—and we see wind at three per cent, compared to coal at 41 per cent. That is just electricity generation. If we go to total power across the world, we see wind at 0.45 per cent and we see solar at 0.1 per cent. So this is another clear example of false news and why we must all protect media diversity in our market. We must have as many independent voices as possible putting independent views across our media aspect.