Remarks at the Future of Media Summit

31 May 2017
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
Business and Employment


Thank you very much Kochie and Mitch, congratulations on bringing the media industry together.

Now I have been involved with this industry for more than 40 years.

In fact 41 years ago, I was covering the New South Wales State Parliament for Channel 9 and 2SM. So for quite a long time. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry.

In fact, my first appearance before a Parliamentary Committee, was representing Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer at a Senate inquiry it was Mitch, into children’s television. Kerry had made the point that he’d appointed a vice-president in charge of children’s television.

And Senator John Button, a great Labor senator, said to Packer: “So Mr Packer, are all vice-president’s equal, or are some more equal than others?”

Kerry took a long drag on his cigarette – that shows you how long ago it was – and replied: “They’re much the same as senators, senator.”

But you know, this senator is not the same as other senators, he has done an extraordinary job. Mitch Fifield has done a remarkable job.

I’ve been involved in this industry one way or another as a journalist, as an executive, I suppose as the subject of some of their commentary from time to time in politics, I’ve never seen the industry united.

What has brought them together is a clear necessity of survival.

Everything you’ve heard about the antiquated nature of the media laws we have, is absolutely right.

These are from not just the olden days, these are from an era that young people in Australia could barely imagine.

It’s an era before the internet.

It’s an era before smartphones.

It’s an era before Facebook.

It’s an era when all of these big broadcast platforms were effectively monopolies and the only way you could reach a large audience was through one of the radio stations or one of the television stations.

Then along came subscription television and that provided another angle.

But as Greg Heywood was saying the internet, the super platform, the hyper-platform that provided access to everybody and access to the world. And what it has done is completely change the operating environment of the Australian media.

And so those laws that we are seeking to change - the two out of three rule, the reach rule - these are laws that catered for a bye-gone era. There is no question about that.

The broadcast license fees that we are removing and replacing with spectrum license fees, those broadcast license fees were in effect a super profits tax for a time when broadcasters had no competition. It was literally a license to make money.

And you’ve seen the same change in the environment too, in the print sector.

Newspapers of course where not licensed but they had enormous barriers to competition. Not anymore.

The internet has been an extraordinary piece of infrastructure - it is probably the most remarkable and most pervasive piece of infrastructure ever created. But it has had huge impacts and we as politicians, we as senators and members and governments cannot be blind to the consequences. The world has changed.

And we have a choice we have to ask ourselves do we want to have a vibrant Australian media sector?

I say we do. I say we do.

I say that the work that the journalists do, however unfair we may think they are from time to time, Julie, the work those journalists do, believe me my friends is as important as every piece of work every senator and member does.

Our democracy depends on a strong Australian media sector.

It depends on stories, Australian stories being told on the screen.

It depends on Australian sport being supported and covered.

And above all, it depends on Australian journalists covering our stories, our news, for our people.

The health of the media sector is not just an interest for shareholders and fund managers and proprieties.

Believe me - our democracy depends on it.

And that is why the industry is united, and that is why the Parliament should unite in changing the law, accepting this reform package, providing enormous benefits in terms of the survival and the viability of our media sector.

Ensuring that parents won’t have to have their children subjected to gambling advertising before 8.30pm. That’s a big concession in terms of revenue, that’s part of this package.

Mitch has done an extraordinary job in bringing this together and of course the industry have done a great job - I would say unprecedented in my rather lengthy experience to see this degree of unity - but believe me this is important.

This is about our democracy, this is about our future, it is about our culture.

We need a strong Australian media sector and we need laws that are 21st century laws that enable them to compete and beat and win on a level playing field.

At the moment our laws are holding them back and the only beneficiaries are their off shore competitors of which the media leaders have spoken, who do not have the same commitment to our stories, our journalism, our way of life as the great companies, the great institutions represented behind me do.

So thank you very much and I urge the Australian Senate to support these reforms. They are vital. This is not just about the media industry, this is about Australia’s future.

Thank you very much.