Interview with Richard King, 2SM Breakfast
RICHARD KING, HOST: Read all about it. Well, it's difficult in some areas to read all about it on account of the fact that many local regional newspapers have actually fallen foul of all sorts of things, either being swallowed up by a big company that feels that little bit of their empire doesn't create enough revenue, so they've gone. Others struggling, like the rest of us, cost of living, cost of printing - and that's why the Albanese Government opened up earlier this month the $15 million Regional and Local Newspaper Publishers Program. Submissions close on Friday so if you haven't already done so, have a listen because joining me now is our Federal Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland, who's on the line. Good morning, Minister.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning, Richard.
KING: Apologies for keeping you waiting so long. Look, the program opened up on the 1st of August. What's the response been like to the program set up by the Albanese Government?
ROWLAND: It's been warmly received by the local newspaper sector, Richard. They're very pleased to see that we were able to design a program keeping our election commitment, but also do that quickly with integrity and get that assistance out the door as soon as possible. That’s because these external price shocks, increases in news print prices of up to 80 per cent, really do impact on the cash flow of these publications and as we know, for small and medium businesses cash flow is everything.
ROWLAND: So, I do encourage everyone who is eligible to have a look at the guidelines and to apply.
KING: Alright. Well, who is eligible?
ROWLAND: Well, if I just take the Hunter region, for example, most of the Hunter is considered regional, according to the Bureau of Statistics, so there's several newspapers that could be eligible. You need to have an ABN, registered for the GST and you need to be an eligible regional, independent, First Nations, or multicultural print publisher and all that information is on the grant guidelines website. The Department is very happy to assist people to understand their eligibility.
KING: Okay. Demand-driven program. How do you work out how much funding actually goes to individual applicants?
ROWLAND: Great question. There's two parts. Firstly, we've got that set pool of money for regional newspapers that's $10 million that's available. So, depending on how many people apply and the level of assistance that they are seeking, they actually do receive assistance. So, you will be able to receive assistance if you do apply - that's the whole definition of demand-driven input. The important thing here, too, Richard is I've decided that it's appropriate for the Department to be the decision-maker here and take it out of the hands of the Minister, which gives it that extra level of integrity. I'm very grateful for the sector, too, Richard, they're helping to design these guidelines to give them that level of integrity.
KING: Right, okay, and applications close on Friday, so if you haven't already done so, go to www.grants.gov.au, all the information is there. But the applications close, as I said, on Friday. So, hop to it.
Yeah, look, I'm one who certainly relies on my local daily newspaper, but many have fallen by the wayside, many really struggling at the moment, so good on you. A good program. But, as I said, applications close on Friday so move ASAP. And also, too, look, I might throw it out there to our listeners - how much do you rely on your local newspaper? I know a lot of people do and, of course, we're not just talking about the print version. There's digital versions of all these papers well.
Look, I must ask you, it's the hot topic at the moment, do you think that Scott Morrison, the former Prime Minister, should resign from federal politics?
ROWLAND: Look, he'll have to make that decision himself and I think that this is deeply disturbing and it's an unprecedented trashing of our democracy. So, I would think that anyone would take that into account but at the same time I think that this behaviour is indefensible.
KING: I think a lot of people would agree with you. What do you say of the complaints, and I've had many of them on this program over the last couple of days, that this is a red herring, that your government should get on with the job of governing and not worry about past mistakes?
ROWLAND: We are very focused, Richard, on delivering on our commitments and I think what the Australian people want to see is a government that values accountability and transparency, but also delivers on our election commitments. Equally, this is quite unprecedented and I think that Australians have a right to know what has been going on under the previous government and it's a matter for the Liberal Party to explain why some of them are standing up for Mr Morrison. It’s up to the Liberal Party to explain why this happened because, Richard, I'll end on this point, I think that we're living in really unprecedented times. The values of democracy are under threat right around the world and as far as I'm concerned, you either uphold democratic values or you don’t. I think in the Westminster system, openness and accountability are principles we should always hold dear as Australians.
KING: Another commitment on behalf of your government was the Voice to Parliament. In fact, I think it was the first thing the newly elected Prime Minister spoke about on Saturday of the election that this would be happening. There's a first meeting today since the election. Linda Burney will be chairing a meeting of all the Indigenous State and Territory ministers today. John Howard last night on the ABC said he'd prefer a referendum on recognising Indigenous people in the Constitution's preamble rather than a Voice to Parliament. What's your view on that, Minister?
ROWLAND: Mr Howard is a private citizen and is perfectly entitled to his views. But the Prime Minister has made it very clear that he has a road map to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including a possible question and amendment to the Constitution. Australians should be given that opportunity to finally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution and I think that this will be practical and meaningful reform.
KING: Coming up to 7:50, my guest, Federal Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland. Just a reminder that applications for the $15 million Regional and Local Newspaper Publishers Program ends on Friday. To find out more about it, go to grants.gov.au. All the information is there. And finally, I'm not quite sure whether you follow the national rugby league, Minister. Do you have a team?
ROWLAND: There's only one team, Richard, the Parramatta Eels, yes.
KING: Okay. Now, Peter V'landys is still wishy-washy about where the grand final should be played. You obviously feel it should be played definitely in Sydney?
ROWLAND: Being a Sydneysider, of course, I would say that. But these are matters that are up to people who are running the whole show. As far as I'm concerned next year will be the Eels' year.
KING: If not the Newcastle Knight's year, we're in a world of pain at the moment. Look, thank you very much for your time this morning, Minister, and have a good Wednesday.
ROWLAND: My pleasure, you, too, and your listeners, Richard.
KING: Thank you. Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland. Again, a reminder, if you're involved with, as I said, it's a local newspaper, those eligible - independent, suburban, regional newspapers, First Nations, and multicultural newspaper publishers, the applications close this Friday. Again, the website to go to www.grants.gov.au.
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