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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7109


Senator HANSON (Queensland) (11:55): I return to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017. Pauline Hanson's One Nation supports the government's broadcasting reform bill with changes we believe will bring better media coverage and support to rural and regional areas of Australia, and accountability for Australian taxpayers. Media diversity in Australia has changed over the decades, but not to the extent that it has since the introduction of digital media and the internet. The two-out-of-three cross-media reach rule prohibits a person controlling more than two out of three regulated media platforms—that is a commercial television broadcasting licence, a commercial radio broadcasting licence and an associated newspaper in any one commercial radio area. Unless a newspaper publishes at least three times a week, it does not come under the two-out-of-three cross-media reach rule. How many newspapers have we seen go under due to the lack of support?

Channel Ten is struggling to survive, as is the case with many media outlets, whether television, newspaper or radio. This is going to be the norm for a lot of media companies unless change is made. Is their failure due to poor management, poor content or not producing a product that the public want? I would say yes. From a personal point of view, I rarely watch Channel Ten, on the odd occasion when I do have time to watch television. CBS, an American company, put in a bid to buy Channel Ten. I don't believe it is in Australia's best interests to allow an American left-wing media company to buy Channel Ten.

I have stated my concern in many other areas in regard to the foreign ownership of Australian assets, business and land. We have to stop the takeover of our country. Do we want or need a mirror image of our ABC, a left-wing dominated organisation that is biased in their reporting and presentation of programs, and that is not reflecting a fair and balanced approach, especially when it comes to political issues? This brings me to One Nation's request that the government introduce legislation to insert the words 'fair' and 'balanced' into the existing subsection 8(1)(c) of the ABC Act. This amendment would mean the relevant subsection would state:

(1) It is the duty of the Board:

(c) to ensure that the gathering and presentation by the corporation of news and information is fair, balanced, accurate and impartial according to the recognised standards of objective journalism …

I have had complaints from the ABC about this inclusion in the charter. They don't want this because, heaven forbid, they may be held to account by the public. Let me tell you, Mr Acting Deputy President, since 1996, I have had a battle with the ABC—not all of the journalists but most of them. Rural ABC have given me more of a fair go—fair and balanced reporting—but their counterparts in the cities, excluding Steve Austin from ABC Radio Brisbane, are reluctant to let their biased opinions get in the way of a good interview, or they try to stitch me up, as was the case when I appeared on Q&A. This was also evident when I appeared on Australian Story in 1999. The producer Wendy Page was given the assignment. After having worked with me for the best part of six weeks, she informed me she didn't want the assignment in the first place but intended to do the best she could to present my story. When her colleagues discovered she was doing a fair story, she was shunned and abused and faced barriers that she had never faced before. She also came across footage filmed by the ABC where I was dressing down all the media for their biased reporting of me during an election campaign. I had asked it to be off the record. I had been told, 'Of course it was,' and the words used were, 'We are honourable people.' This was not the case with regard to the ABC. They kept filming, with the camera sitting on the floor to make it appear they were not filming. Wendy Page used that footage in her story of me.

The ABC receives over $1 billion a year from the Australian taxpayer. We are not all left-wing bleeding hearts wanting to open our borders to illegals and refugees. We are not all supporters of gay marriage. We are not all supporters of corrupt unions and socialist agendas. We are not all supporters of becoming a republic. And we are definitely not all supporters of destroying our Australian identity, culture and way of life to continue the push for multiculturalism and forever saying sorry.

In December 2016, a complaint was upheld that immigration minister Peter Dutton was inaccurately described as making inflammatory statements about Lebanese Muslims that he did not in fact make. In October 2016, a complaint was upheld that a report on the Safe Schools program was not impartial and did not give airtime to controversies surrounding the program. There are no similar examples of bias or overreach favouring the right side of politics and, under questioning during Senate estimates, the ABC was unable to provide any such examples. 'Fair and balanced' means just that. There are two sides to an argument or debate, and this is not presented in many of the ABC's programs or by its commentators, reporters and board. It will be very interesting to see their fair and balanced comments in relation to same-sex marriage.

One Nation has also asked for transparency in relation to the salaries provided to the senior staff and on-air talent of our national broadcasters. The taxpayer has a right to know what remuneration is being paid to ABC staff. It is no different to my pursuit of the excessively high remuneration packages paid to the CEO of Australia Post, the CEO of NBN, and those in other government positions. When you have one ABC presenter who appears on TV one night a week for an hour and receives via the taxpayer more than $350,000 a year, according to figures released a few years ago, it doesn't pass the pub test. If the ABC is confident that their remuneration packages are fair, why are they so reluctant to let the public know about them? They have fought tooth and nail to keep them confidential and they continue to do so.

One Nation also wants a stronger focus from the ABC on providing services to rural and regional Australia by way of a regional advisory council and a requirement that the ABC board have at least two non-executive directors who have a substantial connection to, or experience in, a rural and regional community through business, industry or community involvement. We are calling for a better outcome for rural and regional Australia. How can the ABC justify spending only 17 per cent of their funding in rural and regional Australia when 35 per cent of the people live there?

As I said before, the ABC receives just over $1 billion a year in government funding. Is it fair to say their importance to the Australian public is to provide a service that is not provided by the private sector in general? Because the ABC is an advertising-free network, they rely on government funding. So it begs the question: why is the ABC begging for programs—for excessive amounts of money—against commercial stations that will advertise during their broadcasts and give the companies a return on their investment, and pay taxes? If we intend to have diverse media outlets in Australia, then the ABC has to get out of trying to compete with the commercial market. Bidding on the World Cup that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars is not in the public's interest. If the ABC chooses not to, then I suggest that the ABC forgo taxpayer funding, become a commercial enterprise on the same level playing field and see how well it does without its slush fund.

Senator Jacqui Lambie made some ridiculous statements that One Nation wants to cut the ABC budget. This is all speculation on Senator Lambie's part. For the information of Senator Lambie and others and to set the record straight, it was never discussed with the minister or his advisers. I intend to pursue the ABC's funding with the relevant minister at some appropriate time in the future. The ABC is no different to any other government organisation funded by the taxpayers, and I will pursue with it with regard to accountability and value for money. Senator Lambie is trying to justify her reason for not voting with the government, although she does agree with getting rid of the two-out-of-three rule, by blaming One Nation. I suggest that Senator Lambie pick up the phone and talk to me, rather than ignoring the facts, like so many others in this place, who are ready to have a swipe at me to try and make themselves look good.

I am very pleased to be able to assist community radio in small and remote towns. Local community radio stations are the glue that binds communities together. For locals, it is a job of love carried out by locals who give up their time to keep their communities informed. One Nation has secured an extra $12 million in total funding for community radio over the next four years. Part of that funding will enhance the industry's existing national training program to focus on management and small business skills as well as other training. The grants will enhance their online presence, including the establishment of a central online streaming portal, which will provide more content relevant to local communities and enhance the diversity of media services available to their audiences. There is also provision for additional funding towards the expansion of the national radio news service to assist community broadcasters to maintain or enhance their provision of news content. An additional $2 million will support the rollout of community digital radio by extending the time frame by two years till 2021.

Australians have seen too many iconic assets and too much land in the hands of foreign ownership. Most of the time we are treated like mushrooms and told by our leaders that it is in our best interests to privatise and sell to foreign investment because of the money it brings into the country. The truth is that successive governments have failed to balance the budget. One Nation will not stand by and continue to see this happen. If we can't stop it, at least we will know who is buying us up. We are asking for a register of foreign ownership interests in regulated media assets—be it associated newspapers, commercial television broadcasting licences or commercial radio broadcasting licences. Under the proposal, foreign persons, as defined in the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975, would be required to disclose holdings of 2.5 per cent or higher of these regulated media assets. Any foreign bid of five per cent or more will still have to go to the Foreign Investment Review Board for approval.

I note Senator Bernardi is moving amendments to this bill. The first time I saw these amendments was last night. It's quite interesting that Senator Bernardi is now calling for a public register of foreign-owned media, a rural and regional advisory council, changes to the ABC charter and remuneration—declaration of the names of public employees' whose total remuneration exceeds $200,000. He is also calling for the ABC to be 'fair and balanced'. Well, I might say that is everything that One Nation has been talking to and negotiating with the government about, and it has been out in the public arena for quite some time now. I am amazed that Senator Bernardi has not spoken to me about this. It's quite interesting that, when I called for it to be fair and balanced, I remember Senator Bernardi saying to me that he wished he had come up with that himself. Although I see he is supporting everything I have been discussing with the government, he has not discussed it with the government. It will be interesting to see if Senator Bernardi does actually vote with the government to pass this bill.

One Nation, as I said, took into consideration the opinions and concerns presented to us from many media outlets, interested groups and journalists, in coming to our decision to help pass this bill. Media outlets are struggling and journalists are losing their jobs due to an ever-changing media environment that now heavily uses the internet. I am continually fighting against any Australian losing their job. Removing the two-out-of-three rule and the 75 per cent audience reach rules would reduce the regulatory burden on the media industry and enable them to better compete in the modern media environment.