Politics

Here’s What You Need To Know About Today’s Big Political News

Education reform, media ownership laws... it's all happening in Canberra!

There’s a lot going on in Australian politics today. Too much even, some people might say.

But considering things like education funding and who owns our TV networks and newspapers will literally determine the future of our country, it’s probably best that we’re across it. The Senate is about to hit a six-week winter recess which means that if the government wants any of its agenda to get through, it’d better happen real fkn fast.

So here’s what’s happening in the land of politics!

Gonski 2.0, Gonski 2.1, Gonski 2.1.1, Etc

Debate over the Coalition’s overhaul of education funding has formed the loudest and longest of today’s political shouting matches.

Malcolm Turnbull has promised to increase annual Commonwealth by $30.6 billion over the next ten years. The Coalition will also create a national schools resource body to review and implement the new “needs-based” model, which would, surprisingly, reduce funding to some private schools. But the union representing public school teachers has claimed that some public schools could be worse off, thanks to special deals struck with state governments.

This all creates something of a conundrum for progressive politicians; reject the plan on the basis that it’s not sufficient, or support a scheme that would still deliver a total increase in funding, and cut funding to private schools?

Labor and the Greens, tentatively, are taking each argument respectively, with Labor claiming Gonski 2.0 has not demonstrated any industry consultation and would leave schools $22 billion worse off had their original plan ran its course. Meanwhile, the Greens have been negotiating with the government but it’s taking a long time.

The Coalition has actually met all of the Greens’ additional demands, which means Turnbull and co. can kind of just kick back and watch Labor and Greens scream at each other for a change. And with the Nick Xenophon Team and Jacqui Lambie announcing their support — with a concession to not touch the Catholic schools until further review — Gonski 2.0 will get through no matter what Labor/Greens do anyway. Strange times, folks!

PS. Malcolm Roberts also spoke about Gonski 2.0, but it devolved into some weird point about East/West Germany so I had a stroke.

Australian Media Is Facing A Big Shake-Up

While it involved a lot less screaming, media ownership reform is also on the table today, with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield keen for a Senate vote sometime this week despite his legislation not having enough support in its current form.

The reform package would effectively get rid of our anti-monopoly media regulations, which the Coalition and industry figures argue are unrealistic in the current environment. These regulations include the “two-out-of-three rule”, which stops companies owning a local newspaper, television station and radio station in any one city; the 75 percent “reach rule,” which stops metropolitan broadcasters merging with their regional equivalents; and the “5/4” minimum voice rule, which requires at least five independent voices in metropolitan commercial radio licence areas and four in regional areas.

The reforms have been in the work for years now and, at the expense of media diversity, they have a lot of industry backing. There’s even an extremely-unverified argument that Channel Ten’s decision to go into voluntary administration was in part timed to pressure the reforms.

Both Labor and the Greens are opposed to repealing the two-out-of-three changes and would like the bill split to remove this section; although Fifield would like everyone to just vote and pass the package in its entirety, thanks.

The Greens are also open to repealing the rule if a similar mechanism was introduced to support media diversity. And while they have called for more time to discuss the changes, they see the reform as a way to help local media companies, and are interested in other elements such as tax breaks for subscriptions to smaller media outlets:

“Minister Fifield seems determined to keep this as an all-or-nothing bill, and as a result, he risks getting nothing,” Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said. “The Greens are perfectly willing to discuss the repeal of the two-three rule, but only in the context of genuine measures to support media diversity.”

“He should amend the bill to pass the elements the parliament agrees with, and delay any change to protections for media diversity until substantial alternatives can be put in place later this year.”

Naturally, this was met with all the respect you would expect from News Corp commentators.

And look: the industry clearly needs some kind of legislative support. The old system is wrecked up, so something has to change soon. But from the outset, this package is extremely unlikely to get through this week.

But hey, with Gonski 2.0 receiving enough support to pass the Senate, the government can still claim today as a win.