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Business

25 March, 2021

Unfair government legislation based on mistruths

THE Queensland Government is set to change the laws regarding government advertising this week, a move reported to save them thousands, however, restricting access and community debate regarding vital government announcements.

By Peter McCullagh

The move as reported this week, revealed that Queensland Treasurer, Cameron Dick will introduce the proposed legislation citing erroneous facts as justification for the change.

He is reported as stating, “for some years now, the overwhelming majority of Queenslanders have sourced most of their information from online publications,” he said.

“Queenslanders should have the same access to information wherever they live, and many regional communities are no longer serviced by regular print publications.

“At a time when every taxpayer dollar counts, this change will allow savings to be made without compromising access to important information.”

In 2020 News Corp, owner of virtually every regional paper in Queensland closed and moved their publications “on-line”. This is what Minister Dick is referring to, when he is reported as saying ‘many regional communities are no longer serviced by regular print publications.’

However, he fails to acknowledge the vacuum created by the closure of regional papers by News Corp has been rapidly filled by independent papers, committed to their communities, investing and employing local workers and returning news to their local communities.

In this region, four newspapers were closed. In place of the four closed papers, one existing independent has expanded their distribution, this publication, Cairns Local News was established to cover from Cooktown to Cassowary Coast and another independent newspaper based south of Cairns rebranded to cover a news vacuum created with the closure of the Herbert River Express.

Under the draft laws, government agencies would have to apply for special permission for compulsory advertisements to be published in newspapers, with exemptions for public health and safety matters, firearms amnesties and matters relating to specific locations or people.

However, advertising covering mining leases or amendments to a land use plan in newspapers will be changed so they can instead be uploaded to the department’s own website or through online paywall protected subscriber news sites.

President of the Queensland Country Press Association, Phill Le Petit, of Noosa Today, said that instead of being made aware of local developments through their local newspaper, regional communities will be in the dark about what is going on in their area.

“By taking these development notices out of the public eye, there will be much less scrutiny of government and private development projects,” added Mr Le Petit.

“Development applications regularly generate considerable community debate and it will certainly not be in the public’s best interest or help to achieve practical consultation and beneficial outcomes for communities if the requirement for publicly notifying the general community is removed from public gaze.”

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said many regional communities are no longer serviced by regular print publications.

“This is totally incorrect and bordering on embarrassing from the Treasurer,” added Mr Le Petit.

“The Queensland Country Press Association represents 46 newspapers across the state and that number is growing, with 22 new publications joining as members in past 12 months. The combined monthly audience across these member newspapers totals 1,336,953 and that does not include figures for state and national newspapers bought and read in Queensland.”

 Mr Le Petit said the Treasurer’s comments about the overwhelming majority of Queenslanders sourcing most of their information from online publications is a false comparison.

“When it comes to Queenslanders getting their news, the overwhelming majority get their local information from newspapers or from news that is sourced from newspapers.

“Instead of supporting local businesses who employ thousands of Queenslanders, the government has struck another blow, in what can only be seen as an attempt to avoid scrutiny.”

The Treasurer said this ‘shake-up” of advertising rules was a way for the government to rein in its spending and ballooning debt. Changes will allow statutory public notices to be advertised on the Department’s website or online news sites.

State government advertising in regional newspapers has been virtually non-existent across QCPA member newspapers, compared to what the Victorian and federal governments has done.

The Victorian Government, instead of shrinking their advertising through tough times in the media industry, pledged to spend an extra $4.5 million on advertising in regional newspapers.

The Federal government ran many advertisements throughout the last year, which, no doubt would have helped keep many newspapers afloat.

“For the health of our democracy and the viability of local businesses, we urge the Treasurer to reconsider this decision, added Mr Le Petit.

The four ALP sitting members were all asked if they supported the changing of the advertising rules and if they would support a local newspaper model that represented significant savings over their current model.

Two MPs replied, Michael Healy and Craig Crawford’s office  toed the Treasurers line.” Queenslanders should have the same access to information wherever they live, and many regional communities are no longer serviced by regular print publications”.

 “At a time when every taxpayer dollar counts, this change will allow savings to be made without compromising access to important information.”

Cynthi Lui has not replied at the time of publication and Speaker, Curtis Pit replied ““As a local MP I have no direct role as to the placement or budget of government advertising.

 As Speaker, I can advise that on an ‘as required’ basis, the Parliament advertises in regional media for regional committee hearings.”

Below find a copy of the on page advertisement and letter to the Premier.


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