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Community Broadcasting Association of Australia Conference, Cairns

Hello and thank you so much for welcoming me to your conference.

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, pay my respects to elders past and present.

Firstly, let me say I am so sorry I can’t be with you in person.  I want to wish you all the best with your first face to face conference since 2019 as you gather to celebrate the importance of serving your community, providing a diversity of voices and perspectives and programs that are unique to the community broadcasting sector.

I am very proud to be working with your industry as shadow minister for communications – I have a unique background for this role which I believe gives me a unique understanding of the joys and challenges of producing and broadcasting programs and running radio and television stations.

Over a long career which started straight out of school, I worked for all commercial networks as a reporter and presenter, before spending 9 years at the ABC and then working in management at Network Ten and NITV.  I also practiced in media law including in New York – and did some stints working in both commercial and local ABC radio.   I know that feeling of doing a three and a half hour radio show with 5 minutes to go and no first interview locked in!

As a business affairs manager at NITV, one of my most memorable deals with selling the rights to the highly acclaimed Marngrook FootySshow to Channel 31 … content is king … and making good content is really hard work.  So I get it.

As the member for Corangamite, I went into bat for the local community radio station in Apollo Bay which had a few regulatory challenges with obtaining its licence – and I also backed them with a stronger communities program grant to upgrade their station equipment.  I also did a regular spot with Pulse FM in Geelong.  So as I say, I have lived and breathed the importance of community broadcasting – and I salute your work for communities across this nation.

You play a very important role in ensuring we have a diversity of media voices – delivering more than 500 free-to-air broadcast radio services on AM, FM, DAB+ and streaming online.

Community broadcasting provides critical services for communities underserved by other media, with an audience of over 5.2 million listening each week, from first nations people to audiences with muti-cultural backgrounds, and youth shows across all sectors.  This has grown steadily from 3.7 million in 2002 aged 15+.

With the recent floods bringing resilience to the forefront, community radio plays a key role in in community-centred, and community-led, responses to disaster resilience – and can be a lifeline for communities – supplying community specific, in-language COVID-19 information and connecting people isolated through lockdowns; providing emergency broadcasts and coordinating relief efforts for communities impacted by natural disasters; and often serving as the only provider of local news and information in regional and remote communities.

Over the past five years, we have seen growth in the number of stations saving, reviving, or creating local publications, or teaming up with emerging hyperlocal news publishers.  This sharing of resources between community radio stations and print/digital publications has meant that local media can continue to thrive in communities.

And it is for all of these reasons that the Coalition, when in government, provided a funding boost of an additional $4 million per annum over two years from Budget 2021-22. This was in addition to the existing funding of just over $16 million per annum which we continued to provide from 2021-22 bringing total annual funding to just over $20 million.

Our spectrum is a precious resource which is why it needs be managed properly – and in the best interests of all Australians.   Giving Channel 31 the certainty it needed with a 3 year extension to its licence was an important recent decision by the Coalition when in government.

I want to reference the government’s proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act – focused on giving community radio broadcasters a clearer understanding of their ability to renew a licence and ACMA some regulatory certainty.

As the shadow minister I play an important role in holding the government to account but importantly in developing policy in the media sector including community broadcasting.  Underpinned by rapidly changing technology this is a very fast moving environment – and governments have got to keep up – so please make sure you are letting me know about anything that needs change, reform or a total rethink.  We want to ensure we are backing community broadcasting in every way possible – and that means listening and getting things down.

Whether it’s rolling out broadband to 99 per cent of premises across Australia, funding more than 1200 base stations, investing in vital regional connectivity in rural and remote Australia, establishing the world’s first esafety commissioner or holding the big tech giants to account, the Coalition has a very proud history in the communications portfolio.

But there is always more to be done and I look forward to working with you to take community broadcasting from strength to strength.

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