A BILL which could see cuts to State Government advertising in regional newspapers has received the support of the Liberal Party, despite attempts to amend the legislation on Wednesday evening.
In a blow to newspapers and regional communities, the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Simplify) Bill, which changed the rules for government advertising, passed through the lower house.
The bill included the removal of a mandatory requirement for public notices to be placed in the local newspaper and instead allow them to be placed on a government website.
Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan attempted to have an amendment made to the bill, so public notices advertised in regional newspapers would remain mandatory.
Liberal Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni attempted to alleviate fears by highlighting the government’s commitment to regional newspapers, which he claims has seen more money spent on advertising than the previous Labor Government.
The Labor Party’s amendment was supported by Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell who described the Liberal Party’s position perplexing in parliament on Wednesday.
“It is a perplexing situation when you are trying to defend a position and say ‘trust us, because we know what’s important we will direct our departments to advertise in regional newspapers,'” Mr Bell said.
“If you think about that, it is a fair enough commitment, so why not keep the clause in the existing legislation that mandates it?”
He said the amendment should be supported because it keeps the status quo, which the government have indicated they are going to do anyway.
“This is just an extra level of protection,” Mr Bell said.
“In a worst case scenario and if the fears of the minister that another government may not advertise in regional areas or statewide papers are correct, then support this amendment.”
Mr Bell also highlighted the importance of classified advertising in revenue for regional newspapers.
“I just want to put on the record that classified advertising, which includes public notices, actually comes in at about $35,000,” he said.
“When all state government advertising and contribution is made – and that is from various sources – it is closer to $100,000, so it is vital for regional papers and regional employment that we continue to support our papers.”
Despite Mr Bell’s attempts to convince members of the Liberal Party, the amendment was not supported and the bill was passed.
Mr Mullighan said the decision would result in a cut to a significant revenue source that local newspapers rely on.
“Local newspapers are a vital part of the fabric of local communities,” he said.
“This is simply cruel penny-pinching from the Marshall Liberal Government which will hurt local newspapers and more importantly hurt local communities.”