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  • Jason Regan

Vic govt to protect regional print notices

The Victorian government has guaranteed public notices will continue to be published in regional and local newspapers, committing to amend proposed laws to allow the memos to move online.

The Victorian government says it shall ensure notices will remain in local and regional newspapers. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

The omnibus bill, which passed the Labor-dominated lower house in January, would have negated a requirement for public notices to be published in print newspapers and relocated them "to approved alternative publication" websites.

Public notices include legislation changes, planning permits, road closures and public consultation invitations.

Concerns had been raised the bill may limit readers' access to crucial information and jeopardise a revenue stream for regional newspapers, some of which have been forced to merge and downsize as their print readerships dwindle.

But Premier Daniel Andrews allayed those fears on Wednesday, saying his government would amend the bill in the upper house to guarantee notices are still published in regional and local newspapers.

"Whilst we had intended to enshrine that effort, in regulations and subordinate instruments, we will put this matter beyond doubt," he said in a response to independent Shepparton MP Suzanna Sheed during Question Time.
"We will put these matters beyond doubt by an amendment. So that there is complete clarity: not only are we the government that has supported regional media more than any government in the state's history, but there can be no doubt that that will continue to be our policy."

The premier said the Victorian government has spent $16.5 million advertising COVID-19 information in regional press, including more than $397,000 last month.

Ms Sheed said leaving the Regulatory Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill unamended would have been the "last straw" for decimated regional and rural newspapers. 

She said public notices ensured people in regional areas had access to vital information. Victorian Country Press Association spokesman Rob Duffield said the amendment would strengthen protections for regional newspapers and the information they provide to communities.

"Regional newspapers are the heartbeat of their communities," he said.

The opposition's upper house leader David Davis said the Liberals and Nationals circulated amendments earlier this week to ensure the notices would have to be published in regional papers moving forward.

"The Liberals and Nationals were determined to protect country papers from Daniel Andrews' planned attack. Our amendment has spooked the government into retreat," he told AAP.


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