First of all, quite a long and
protracted negotiation with the crossbench to get these measures through,
why are you so confident that this is actually going to be beneficial
to Australian media jobs?
Well, the Australian media
environment before the passage of this legislation was governed by laws
which were drafted in the 1980s when Kylie Minogue was still singing 'The
Locomotion'. The media laws didn't recognise the fact that the internet
existed. In practice what that meant was that Australian media
organisations were constrained from being able to configure themselves in ways
to support their viability. We have now unshackled Australian media
organisations so that they have the opportunity to compete
on more a level playing field with internet based providers. So, this
is good news for strong Australian media voices and good news for
jobs in the Australian media industry.
This will lead to mergers between various
companies, won't it? Doesn't that sort of reamplify those concerns
about lack of voices in the media?
Well, the greatest threat to diversity
in the Australian media would be the failure of an Australian media
organisation. So we wanted to give Australian media the
opportunity to configure themselves in the best ways to support their
viability. If you’ve got more viable media organisations it means that
they are in a better position to employ and continue to employ journalists.
The negotiations you had with One Nation
to get some added scrutiny for the ABC, you've kicked that off into a separate
piece of legislation to be dealt with at a later date, is that just a
canny piece of negotiating by the Coalition given its quite clear that
doesn't have support of the Senate and it wouldn't get up?
People said that we would not be able to
legislate our media reform package. Yet we have. People said that we wouldn't
be able to legislate schools reform. Yet we have. People said we wouldn't
be able to legislate the reestablishment of the Australian Building and
Construction Commission. Yet we have. Likewise, they said we couldn't establish
a Registered Organisations Commission. Likewise they said we couldn't get
our omnibus savings legislation through. So, every time that people
say that something can't be done, it just makes me and my colleagues more
determined to do it on behalf of the Australian public.
Senator Xenophon this morning seemed
quite angry at suggestions that he was going to look at any measures that would
touch the ABC. It's simple maths, isn't it, that if you can't get the Nick
Xenophon Team over the line, you're not going to get it through?
They said we wouldn't get media reform
through the Parliament, yet we have. And what we're proposing in terms
of the ABC really should be embraced by everyone. We want to put into
the ABC charter the words 'rural and regional', something that most Australians
would assume is already there. We want to put into the ABC's Act in relation to
its journalism and news activities the words 'fair and balanced'. Again, this
is something that should be readily accepted because chapter four of the
ABC's editorial guidelines talk about the importance of fair treatment and in
terms of balance talk about looking at the weight of evidence.
Also, the Media Entertainment
and Arts Alliance journalistic code of ethics talks about
fairness on no less than six occasions. So, these are well established
journalistic principles and everyone should be very relaxed about their
incorporation into the ABC Act.