Bell speaks out against bill to highlight need for newspapers

Friday September 20, 2019

MEMBER for Mount Gambier Troy Bell is championing the importance of government agencies advertising public notices in local newspapers.

The Independent politician has spoken out against a Bill that will remove the need for government agencies to advertise in newspapers.

The Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Simplify) Bill - currently before State Parliament - seeks to modernise and simplify 40 acts and for 27 of these, change the advertising requirements of government agencies.

If passed, the amendments remove the requirement for government departments to publish public notices in local newspapers.

Mr Bell said he took the stance because he believed the action would lead to a “disconnect” between the government and regional communities.

“Like all South Australians, regional people need to know relevant information that is occurring in their communities,” Mr Bell said.

“Only publishing notices online, whether it be road closures or prescribed burns, is not guaranteed to reach everyone.

“A joint approach utilising both newspapers and online platforms will reach considerably more people.”

Mr Bell said print media was an integral part of communities across the state.

“In many regional communities, newspapers are still the preferred public forum,” he said.

“I do not believe people are visiting the PIRSA website, for example, on a regular basis merely to check if something is happening. “Should the Bill pass in its current form, there’s the potential for matters of public relevance to slip under the radar and this is not good governance.”

Mr Bell said any loss of income for newspapers could result in job losses and impact on coverage.

“Part of our job as MPs is to change legislation and keep it up-to-date with modern times but it’s also our responsibility to stand up and speak out on behalf of people and businesses impacted by changes,” he said.

Border Watch editor Brett Kennedy yesterday commended Mr Bell for taking the stance in State Parliament given the importance of newspapers for local communities.

“Local newspapers, such as The Border Watch, are entrenched in the fabric of communities and provide important information for the community,” he said.

“Newspapers provide in-depth and trusted information about what is happening on our streets, in councils, across all levels of government and are widely accessible to the general community.”

Newspapers also provide employment for people living in communities and advertising opportunities for businesses.

If important incomes streams were taken away by the government, Mr Brett warned this would potentially threaten the survival of newspapers.

“Newspapers are still the most trusted media forum in Australia according to the 2019 State of the Nation media report,” Mr Kennedy said.

Importantly, he said local newspapers also act as a tireless “watchdog” for the local community and are often at the forefront of fighting for change.