Xenophon negotiates for regional press... and he's off

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There's an irony that just as Australian publishers are looking to implement the package of benefits won for them by Nick Xenophon, the man who negotiated them has announced he is getting out of the Senate.

Regional publishers were to be the main beneficiaries of an innovation fund set up under media reform legislation.

But Star News Group managing director Paul Thomas says what came out of the legislation bears relatively little resemblance to what was negotiated between Xenophon and Country Press Australia.

CPA had championed an initial proposal for 40 per cent tax breaks for small to medium sized publishers, but the federal government rejected this in favour of a $60.4 million Innovation Fund for small and regional publishers whose primary purpose was civic and public-interest journalism. Funds allocated over three years for training and for newsrooms to upgrade equipment and software.

"Ultimately, the government negotiated with Senator Xenophon and their package was quite different," fourth-generation regional publisher Paul Thomas told Queensland Country Press Association.

Not that they are ungrateful: "We're happy to get any support but we do believe there would have been a much greater benefit to ensuring quality journalism well into the future if they had gone ahead with the proposed changes that were originally on the table."

CPA will be part of the advisory committee for the fund, with Australian Communications and Media Authority and other representative groups, but details are still to be determined.

Star News Group - founded by his great grandfather - has become one of the largest groups in the Country Press Association following Fairfax Media's decision to leave the group this year.

Senator Xenothon has just announced his decision to leave the Senate and enter South Australian state politics, running in the eastern Adelaide seat of Hartley. He says he wants his SA Best party to be a power broker in the same way as his Nick Xonophon Team had been in federal politics.

Pictured: Paul Thomas

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