Coalition supports regional information | The mail

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A re-elected coalition government will provide support to regional newspapers to help them cope with rising print production costs under global pressures. A new round of $10 million under its public interest news gathering program will allow eligible publishers to apply for funding in the face of rising newsprint prices of up to 80%. During the second leaders’ debate on Channel Nine on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Scott Morrison highlighted his government’s track record in managing the economy. “It’s a choice between a government that has a strong economic plan… now is not the time to risk things on the unknown,” Mr Morrison said. “Work has no plan.” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the government’s public interest news gathering program is a proven model that has provided support to newspapers and regional broadcasters during the pandemic. “The continued volatility overseas is having an impact at home,” he said. “We will act urgently to deliver this new round after the election, working closely with the industry, with payments to be made from July 1, when newsprint prices are expected to rise.” Funding will depend on no newspaper closures or job losses due to rising newsprint prices. In addition, the government will undertake further work after the elections on the long-term viability of the sector. Up to $2 million will also be provided to accelerate an investment-ready analysis for the replacement of the coal-fired boiler at the Boyer mill of Norske Skog, Australia’s only producer of publication grade paper. The analysis is part of a larger investment in partnership with the Tasmanian government and Norske Skog to help secure a long-term future for the plant, located north of Hobart. “Our regional newspaper publishers employ thousands of people in the Australian region and regional manufacturers like Norske Skog employ many more,” said regional communications minister Bridget McKenzie. “Locally printed newspapers are so important to our regional communities because they tell local stories that will never be covered by the biggest publishers.” Australian Associated Press