• Hannah Phillips

The Week in Parliament


Senator Jacqui Lambie was not enthusiastic about aspects of the media reforms.


It’s been a busy week in Parliament albeit with mixed results.

The government has managed to get its media laws passed with concessions to the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and One Nation.

The new laws implement the government’s policy to abolish licensing fees and data casting charges, introduce a new spectrum license fee, place restrictions on gambling advertisements during live sporting events, amend the anti-siphoning list, repeal the rule that says proprietors cannot own more than two out of three radio, television and newspaper outlets in any one market and the rule that says the one media owner cannot have more than 75% of the national market, and provide funding for the broadcasting of women’s sport.

In a concession to One Nation the government has agreed to disclose the high salaries of the ABC and SBS presenters and other employees, ensure ABC news and current affairs is fair and balanced, establish an inquiry into the competitive neutrality of public broadcasters and provide an additional $12 million for community radio.

In response to demands from NXT the government has agreed spend $60.4 million to support journalists’ jobs and innovation in small and regional publishers over three years, commission a competition watchdog inquiry into the impact of Facebook and Google on the media, introduce measures to enhance local content, and review Asia Pacific broadcasting services.

The debate in the Senate yesterday was enlivened by a Jacqui Lambie dummy spit.

Clearly not enthusiastic about aspects of the new arrangements, Senator Lambie believes that the NXT and One Nation sold out the ABC and SBS to get the changes through. “This is crap ... To go after the public broadcaster is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace” the Tasmanian Independent Senator bellowed.

“You are a disgusting group of individuals at times.” With the support of Labor the government also passed the rules to govern debate in relation to the same sex marriage postal survey.

At the instigation of the Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, the rules include provisions that outlaw vilification of sexuality and religion.

These provisions carry a penalty of $12,400. Unfortunately, as Graeme Orr, Professor of Electoral Law at the University of Queensland, has pointed out, these provisions are probably unconstitutional because they exceed Commonwealth powers.

From the Gallery

• On Monday the Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter delivered the keynote address to the Philanthropy Meets parliament Summit on Monday morning. The event was held in the Parliament House Theatre. As part of the Minister’s speech he released two reports on the level of business and individual philanthropy in Australia.

• The National Rural Health Alliance has been in Parliament House for a couple of days meeting with Parliamentarians to discuss a national rural health strategy. They met with the Nationals in their Party room during the week. The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) is Australia’s peak non-government organisation for rural and remote health.

• QANTAS in a promotion had the Wallabies come to Parliament to meet Members and Senators before their next game with Argentina this Saturday.

• The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop delivered the opening address at the Tourism & Transport Forum Leadership Summit in Parliament on Wednesday at the Theatre in Parliament House.

• The 2017 National rural Women’s Awards were presented at a gala dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House on Wednesday evening. The event held by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation now known as AgriFutures is Australia’s pre-eminent Award for rural women. Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Nationals Barnaby Joyce presented the award winner Tanya Dupagne from

WA’s wheatbelt region.

• The Prime Minister addressed the “Facing North’ NT Business Reception in Parliament House on Wednesday evening in the Mural Hall.

• The House Environment and Energy Committee has heard from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) at a public hearing on Thursday for the inquiry into modernizing Australia’s energy grid that is currently underway. The Chair of the Committee, Andrew Broad MP, said the Committee was happy to hear from AEMO about measures to ensure the security and reliability of the electricity system, both in the short and long term.

• Fencing us in: For those of you who were planning to slide down the grassy slopes on top of Parliament House, we’re afraid you’ve left your run too late. On Tuesday contractors began the process of installing

2.6 metre panels at the foot of the sloping lawns that form one of the most attractive features of the Parliament House roof. This work, which is part of more than $126 million in security upgrades and

fortification works planned for the House, follows the removal last week of a number of mature trees and the excavation of huge trenches in the lawns.

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