Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:14): I acknowledge this motion by the member for Mount Gambier, Troy Bell:
That this house—
(a) recognises the importance of independent media platforms as both the voice for regional communities and a trusted information source;
(b) provides financial assistance to help support both new and established platforms to continue to serve their communities;
(c) recognises that print is a vital informative source for regional people; and
(d) commits to an annual spend for communication in regional communities.
I note that the Marshall Liberal government recently launched a regional development strategy focused on growing our regional communities and seeking to overcome the challenges our regions face. We recognise that all forms of regional media play important roles in each community they cover and have been valuable news sources for decades.
The member for Mount Gambier I note largely referred to the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Simplify) Bill 2019, which amongst other things amended 27 acts to add the option of publishing government agency notices online. That change has given government departments the discretion to publish notices online in regional newspapers and newspapers circulating across the state as well as in the Government Gazette. The ability to publish notices in regional and local newspapers does remain available and is certainly utilised by government departments.
Advice we received at the time from our departments indicated minimal negative impact on regional newspapers, and departments certainly continue to advertise in regional newspapers where this is the best medium to reach this audience. I think generally right across the state in regional areas it is the best medium to reach the audience. I note the member for Chaffey said that, given the impact we have seen of COVID-19 on regional media across Australia, the commonwealth government announced initiatives to breathe life back into Australian journalism, including a $50 million fund to support regional news media.
We have seen a hit on print media just by the effluxion of time and progress, to a degree. We have seen online sources of media or information come on board. We certainly see some people—too many people—living their lives online with things like Facebook, which is an interesting way to run your life, but it is how some people choose to do it. You have to have those steady, serious forms of communication that print journalism can bring to communities right across the state.
In regard to print media in the seat of Hammond, we are very well served. We have The Border Times, as mentioned before by the member for Chaffey, a long-running paper in the Mallee centred around issues in Pinnaroo, Lameroo and up towards Peake, with the local Mallee Football League, which obviously also has the town of Murrayville and the surrounding area on the Victorian side that would receive that paper as well. Coming back closer to the centre of Hammond, we have The Murray Valley Standard, which has been in place for many years. When I was growing up, which was a couple of days ago, it was a one-day-a-week paper on a Wednesday, and I always thought it was a pretty good paper. Back in the day it was chock full of information for the local community.
Down the track, and this is quite relevant to what we are talking about today, it went to a two-day-a-week format on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I believe that was mainly based on the ability to capture more advertising spend. It was interesting that some people would not buy Tuesday's paper but would buy Thursday's paper, so it was slightly counterproductive in that way, but in more recent times it has switched back to a one-day-a-week format on a Thursday.
Also serving my community is The Southern Argus, which has recently been modernised, with new ownership introducing colour back to the paper—real modernisation—and it is a fantastic look for TheSouthern Argus coming out of Strathalbyn. The Courier from Mount Barker captures the upper reach of my electorate, up towards Harrogate and the outskirts of Nairne.
We are also serviced by electronic means: we have the ABC in the Riverland, we have other FM stations such as Flow FM based in the Riverland, we have Radio 5MU, which has recently gone onto the FM band with three frequencies, and Power FM is still on there as well coming out of Murray Bridge, so there is a range of media that people can reach out to. I acknowledge Peri Strathearn and his Murray Bridge News, as he went out on this own, doing an online news service.
It is interesting when we talk about things like 'online', as I think that has caused some of the demise of regional papers. As someone—and I am talking about myself—who only switched on his first computer when he was 42 (and I enjoyed that until I had to do it), now the first thing I do in the morning is switch on and download a digital paper, whether it is a regional newspaper or The Advertiser or The Australian. It just goes to show how things have moved on.
I have many friends and there are many people, as has already been indicated, right across the regions who enjoy buying a regional paper so they can have the actual paper in their hands. It is a bit of an experience: it is like reading a book instead of having an audiobook. There will be those traditionalists who will like to read papers forever, and it certainly does make a difference seeing how your kids or grandkids won at footy or whatever else happened. Regional papers give that absolute community coverage of things like community football, netball, bowling, lawn bowls, cricket—whatever is going on—and it is magnificent coverage.
In recent times, we saw the Transcend program from the group that owned papers like The Murray Valley Standard, which was basically a cutback of that paper. The Murray Valley Standard used to print in Murray Bridge and print a swag of other regional papers. Sadly, that printing press has closed down, the paper is printed somewhere else and I believe the block has been sold to Emmett's farm machinery, the John Deere dealer locally. The site will be put to good use, but it is a real pity, as I believe the press was an emergency press to print The Advertiser if the main option for The Advertiser broke down, and I think they had a second option somewhere else.
I commend the motion and long may we keep up advertising in the papers. I certainly see plenty of government advertising in regional papers, including from the government and also from the parliament, whether it be select or standing committees, letting people know about things that committees are looking at, about government jobs and other advertising the government puts in regional papers. I commend the motion.
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