The Victorian Nationals have stopped an attempt from the Andrews Labor Government to simultaneously hide changes impacting regional communities and axe an important source of revenue for local newspapers.
Labor’s Regulatory Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2022, introduced in Victorian Parliament in February, would have removed the requirement for state departments and councils to inform communities of intended changes via local newspapers.
The Nationals successfully rallied against the proposal, with the government today backing down on its planned changes to public notice advertising.
Member for Lowan Emma Kealy, who spoke on the bill in Parliament yesterday, said the move was yet another Labor attempt to avoid being accountable and transparent with Victorians.
“Under current laws, if governments want to make changes that will impact local people, they have to place an advertisement in the newspaper that circulates in the affected community so that people actually know what’s going on,” she said.
“But Labor’s reforms attempted to bury this information in the depths of a yet-to-be-determined government website instead, which would mean a lot of people would no longer be informed.
“Strong opposition from country communities, the Victorian Country Press Association and The Nationals has forced the Labor Government to admit that its attempt to hide this public information from Victorians was wrong.
“The Nationals agree with country communities that it is critical that there is an open and transparent process whereby people will continue to be informed if there are going to be changes to regulations, rules or by-laws in the future.”
Ms Kealy said Labor’s reforms would have also had a terrible impact on regional newspapers, which rely on the advertising revenue that public notices generate.
“Country newspapers are the crucial voice of country people: they keep us informed, share the successes of local people, and record our history,” she said.
“To think that Labor was trying to take revenue away from our local newspapers – effectively under the guise that this was somehow going to simplify the process of community consultation – shows how out-of-touch they are with Victorians.
“I’m proud The Nationals’ efforts to ensure the concerns of our regional communities were heard pushed Labor to admit it got it wrong and secured a win for transparency and accountability for all Victorians.”
Ms Kealy’s speech in Parliament is available at emmakealy.com/parliament