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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Senate Debate « Previous | |Next »
June 25, 2003

I'm currently watching the Senate debate on media ownership. (Broadcasting Services Amendment [Media Ownership] Bill 2002). I also watched some of the earlier debate late last night over localism.

Currently, the Senate is going through the amendments to the Bill line by line.
It is hard to follow what is going on. We have amendments to the amendment, then withithdrawal of the amendment to the amendment, and then replaced it with another amendment to the amendment. And so on.

The ALP ---ie. Senator Sue McKay ---- is being negative. Their line is that it is flawed legislation. We will not support it. We will not support the amendments. But we reserve our right to change our strategy. They are not part of the debate. McKay reads her lines with humor.

The ALP position can be found here and here. The summary of Lindsay Tanner's speech states:

"In conclusion, this bill is bad for our democracy, it is bad for competition and it is bad for public debate. It will lead to the number of big media organisations in this country shrinking to three. I think that is almost certain. Ultimately, it may lead to a situation, if the government is able to privatise Telstra, where we have two totally dominant media organisations in this country. It is fundamental to the health of our democracy, to the strength of our public debate, to having informed public opinion and to ensuring that all citizens have the possibility of getting an airing to their views and to their interests that we have a diverse media ownership in this country. This government is restricting that. It is seeking to undermine it. It is simply seeking to fulfil pre-election promises that it made to a few of the major media proprietors. There is no evidence whatsoever that this legislation will have a significant positive impact in any regard other than on the share price of some of the major media companies. But it will lead to an outrageous concentration of power in our society in media ownership and a substantial reduction in diversity of media ownership and ultimately a substantial degradation of our democracy. I call on all senators from the minor parties to join Labor in defeating this bill when it hits the Senate."

The oppositional work on the floor is being done by Senators Shayne Murphy, Bob Brown, Meg Lees, Len Harris and John Cherry. No Senator Harradine.

Annable Crabb from The Age (no link) calls it the "maddening Dance of the Four Veils around the shaken and traumatised form of Communications Minister Richard Alston."

The tenor of the debate is one of trench warfare. Detail after detail is being fought over as if the whole world (public importance) depends on that detail. Senator Alston has little choice but to give ground---as little as possible though. This is hardly piling the pressure on the Senate to make them buckle under the strong will of a dominant executive. It is Alston on the back foot with his back to the wall fighting a hand to hand combat.

No media headlines there. What is a Canberra Press Gallery journalist going to do?

The debate has stopped. The Senate has moved onto matters of speeches on masters of public interest (MPI) then into the party political atmosphere of Question Time performances that are designed to make the headlines of the media.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:52 PM | | Comments (0)