Wednesday, 23 June 2021                                HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY                               Page 6186 – 6188

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (12:27): Again, like other members in this house, it is my great privilege and pleasure to speak to the member for Mount Gambier’s motion about the importance of media platforms in regional South Australia.

Many years ago, we all had our regular newspapers in our own communities. In my community of Port Pirie, we had The Recorder, which appeared three times per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Port Augusta and Whyalla were similar, as the member for Giles has indicated. In those days, we also had two editions of The News—from memory, one in the morning and one in the afternoon—plus The Advertiser.

Each edition of our local paper was eagerly awaited for the local news plus sporting results and, very importantly, as the member for MacKillop said, the photos of people playing football and things like that. It was not only football but also other social events, whether it was weddings and engagements or other social events. It was one of the biggest things that sold papers: not only the advertising but also the fact that you could buy the paper and see your photo, or a photo of one of your loved ones, and it was absolutely fantastic for those people.

Slowly, these independent newspapers were taken over by various multimedia companies, which in turn have, in my opinion, lost the really local feel in the way they report the news. These papers rely on local business operators placing their advertisements, which not only assists with the cost of production and distribution but, very importantly, is a way of promoting business operations. These newspapers across all our regions relied on the advertisers and the general public who purchased the papers, whilst at the same time numerous newspapers would promote an event, especially if it was a fundraiser or a sporting event, as well as include council information.

As the member for Giles has indicated, we would always have the local paper in our council meetings in Port Pirie, even when I was on council as the mayor. Unfortunately, at the moment that is not happening because of the lack of two things: they do not have a business premise there because they are all working from home, and the number of staff now being utilised by these organisations as a result of dwindling sales and dwindling cost-effectiveness.

At one stage, governments would also promote their services, such as their events that were paid for by the relevant departments. However, in the past few years this operation has been getting less and less by the state and federal governments, and in particular local government. I just want to reflect on a couple of moves that have gone through this house, and I will not mention or reflect on the two bills, but the situation is that the organisations ‘may advertise’ instead ‘shall advertise’. Even with the local government at the moment, it is not, ‘You shall advertise or promote in the local newspapers,’ it is, ‘You may do this at the discretion of the CEO.’ And 90 per cent of councils these days are actually putting it on their websites or on social media, and I believe that is not the right way to go.

It is not the way to get the message out to our communities because, as members have indicated previously, not everybody is on the computer all day and not everybody has access to a computer. The member for Hammond opened his first computer at 42. I have to agree with what he is saying. The first time I had to go on a computer I was so scared of it I made an excuse. When I was in the shipping section of the smelters I had to say, ‘No, there’s something wrong with the vessel. I have to go down and look at it.’ It is a traumatic experience for people who have not grown up with it.

Like the member for Hammond, I like to actually have the paper in front of me, I like to be able to turn the paper over and I like to see it and actually feel it. But that is not the way it is going at the moment, and I think it is to the demise of our printed newspapers across all the regions and even South Australia in general.

These days it appears to be more fashionable to place any information on social media outlets, being Facebook, Twitter and websites. These activities do not have any financial impact on the organisations. There is nothing in that for the organisation at all, but very importantly it does not assist the local newspapers to provide the service with a paper, which most of us read by having the actual paper in our hands.

The operators of these newspapers not only provide vital information for our communities but also very importantly provide employment for journalists, and in particular training for people wanting to extend their knowledge and future employment opportunities in our regions. It is becoming very disturbing that in lots of acts of parliament there is a tendency for the local council and other government departments to not have to place any communication in the newspaper but rather on social media or a website, which takes revenue away from those who employ the journalists, and very importantly not everyone is glued to a computer, their mobile phone or other apps.

Before I close, I would just like to pay tribute and say that in my electorate of Frome and the surrounding areas we are very blessed because we have the Southern Cross GTS4. We also have the radio stations with 5AU, 5CS and Magic FM, plus ABC 891 and also Trax FM. In the print media, we have the Northern Argus, the Plains Producer, the Yorke Peninsula Country Times, The Flinders News, which is now printed in the Clare area and which is a free publication, The Transcontinental from Port Augusta, the Whyalla News and the Port Pirie Recorder.

I will say that lots of people in the media in Adelaide have actually started their media career in newspapers and also the TV and radio stations in Port Pirie. You only have to look at Jane Doyle and Rosanna Mangiarelli and others who actually started their careers in those areas. Without these newspapers these people would not have had a chance, and the scary part about it is that if the newspapers are dwindling down then the next thing that will not be available is our local TV and radio stations, and everything will be coming from the metropolitan areas and the capital cities.

We are seeing that with the ABC on the radio sometimes, after a certain period of time; it is not from Adelaide, it is from Sydney. We in this state and in our regions need to be very proactive about it. I am very happy and pleased to see members on the other side endorsing this motion from the member for Mount Gambier and I hope it gets traction. I commend the motion to the house.