The Andrews Labor Government has backtracked on its plan to take revenue from regional newspapers after strenuous opposition from The Nationals and the community.
Labor’s Regulatory Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2021, introduced in Parliament earlier in February, sought to remove a requirement for the state government and local councils to communicate changes and consultation opportunities via regional print publications.
Such public notices represent thousands of dollars in revenue for regional media organisations.
Member for Euroa and Deputy Leader of the Nationals Steph Ryan said she opposed the changes in the Parliament because of the impact it would have on communities and regional newspapers.
“The legislative requirement for local councils and state governments to put community notices in the paper when they’re going to make changes is a crucial part of a transparent, accountable government,” Ms Ryan said.
“But the Andrews Labor Government’s reforms sought to take that away, instead moving these notices them to a yet-to-be-determined website, buried somewhere in the depths of the internet.
“The Premier’s admission this week that Labor got it wrong and needs to make changes before the bill goes to the Legislative Council appears to be a step in the right direction, but we’ll be waiting to see the detail.
“Sadly, we know from experience that what the Andrews Labor Government says and what it does are two different things.”
Ms Ryan said transparency on government change was an important part of open and honest government. She said government advertising was also an important source of revenue for small country papers.
“Labor’s move abandoned our country papers by taking out another reliable, constant source of advertising and callously gutting the viability of their business,” Ms Ryan said.
“The Nationals will be closely examining the detail of the amendments to this bill and will fight to ensure all Victorians can continue to be informed of what’s going on in their local community.
“Our communities deserve confidence as Victoria looks to recover and rebuild.”