The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains has condemned a move by the Andrews Labor Government to suck a significant slice of revenue out of the pockets of regional newspapers.
Mr Walsh said the Nationals strenuously opposed the Regulatory Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2021, which means more than 400 requirements in Victoria that must be published in print media could potentially be pushed online to a central government website.
He said this was a deliberate attack by the government on the viability of regional media that would further weaken the ability of regional communities to have a voice.
Especially those without regular internet access; and those who often are not interested in it, such as many of our older senior citizens – they will be robbed of a vital communications tool connecting them to their communities.
“The Nationals and Liberals will be doing everything we can to stop this in the Upper House, we will be working to make sure we have the numbers to block it and defend the future of print media and the public.
“For this government to say the choice to print in newspapers will remain as a discretionary option is a joke; and Regulatory Minister Danny Pearson knows that,” Mr Walsh said.
“On top of that the Minister will also have discretionary powers to declare new websites as ‘approved’ publications,” he said.
“That’s another joke – this government is taking blatant steps to further destabilise regional media without any understanding of its importance to those communities.
“The more advertising government pulls out of regional media, the more it weakens the very fabric of regional life.”
Mr Walsh said the juggernaut of US-based business such as Facebook and Instagram have already dealt crippling blows to mainstream media in this country.
And he said the ripple effect; the collateral damage, of that has gone all the way down to the smallest of local papers.
“And now we have a government, which thrives on secrecy, doing its best to deliver the coup de grace to the fourth estate so there will not be any platforms for voices of dissent,” Mr Walsh added.
“In my electorate of Murray Plains, you can find example after example of the value of regional media – in Echuca there would be no new specialist school without the campaign mounted by the Riverine Herald; in Swan Hill the Guardian exposed the council’s mishandling of its non-vaccinated chief executive,” he said.
“All levels of government need to be held to account and the regional print media has a pivotal role in that process – a role this government is doing its best to squash.
“It also impacts on local employment; we have already seen a combination of Covid and social media cost dozens of jobs in towns as publishers look to find cheaper ways to produce their products.
“To then turn around and try to ram through a wide-ranging and complex bill which once again puts more control in the hands of Daniel Andrews Inc and that has already gone too far.”