Monday, 18 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and it relates to the announcement by Fairfax this morning. I will keep my question free of references to the carbon tax and I ask the minister that he do the same. When will the government take action to bring forward to this parliament the recommendations of the Convergence Review, particularly those relating to media diversity, alternative media and the public interest test for media ownership?
I thank Senator Ludlam for his question and for his ongoing interest in this portfolio area. Today's announcement by Fairfax Media reflects the significant changes that have occurred and that are continuing to take place in the communications and media landscape, both domestically and internationally. It is important that firms which operate in the media and communications sector continue to innovate and adapt to the changes that digital and online technologies are delivering. More broadly, as the economy becomes more and more digital, the effect of this change is being felt across many sectors of our economy. The government's investment in the NBN will both support and accelerate this; as some jobs disappear, new jobs will be created.
Yes, a Warsaw-Pact-style statement. A report from McKinsey Global Institute—a front for the Warsaw Pact—in May 2011, estimated that, for every job lost due to the internet, 2.6 jobs are created. That is not to suggest for a moment that anyone has no feelings towards the 1,900 workers who will lose their jobs over the next few years, because that is a concern. But, as the McKinsey Global Institute report suggests, our economy is growing and opening up in other areas.
I was asked about the Convergence Review. We are giving consideration to all of the issues recommended by the Convergence Review. We will finalise those and bring them forward as we have indicated. Are we accelerating it due to today's announcement? I do not foresee that. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the government believe that Fairfax should review its decision after consultation with staff? In particular, will the minister commit to ensuring that retrenched workers, particularly print workers, are looked after and given opportunities for retraining and reskilling?
Some of that question, I suspect, goes more to the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations than to me, but it is a very fair question. In an economy that is as robust as ours, we have to ensure—
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
Oh, Senator Macdonald is awake! At least Senator Macdonald is awake; that is an improvement. Senator Macdonald thinks that four per cent economic growth is not a robust economy. Senator Macdonald continues to pretend that we are like the Greek economy. He is now as big a laughing stock as that which Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott turned themselves into just a week or so ago.
I will speak with the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations to see what we are able to do to assist those workers in this circumstance. Many in this chamber who have been around for a while will remember that Kodak used to have a factory in Brunswick in Melbourne. I know that Senator Kim Carr will remember that issue, on which the government assisted. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the government concerned about reports that Gina Rinehart is seeking editorial control over Fairfax? Does the minister believe that competition laws will be sufficient to ensure a diverse media landscape?
I can only say that I support 100 per cent, as I am sure you do, Senator Ludlam, the comments of Mr Turnbull earlier today. Mr Turnbull talked about the importance of not having your business interests conflicting with your media interests—Mr Turnbull, who understands the concept of public trust journalism. Mr Turnbull was right. I can only agree with you that it would be a destruction of the Fairfax company, ultimately, if it agreed to give up its charter of editorial independence. This is a vital part—
Senator Brandis interjecting—
She is welcome to be on the board; she is welcome to launch a takeover. She can do either of those things, because that is the law. But what is vital is that the editorial charter be maintained. (Time expired)