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

Senate does its job « Previous | |Next »
June 26, 2003

So the Senate stood firm last night on Senator Harradine's amendment to Alston's Media Bill. In doing so they blocked the formation of two giant newspaper/television groups in Australia.

I missed the debate. I was at a seminar on urban renewal and development.

The Hansard record is here,( June 25, scroll down to p. 12175) Senator Bob Brown reads Paul Keating's witty and acerbic reply to Eric Beecher into Hansard after reported that the Sydney Morning Herald refuses to publish it. (p.12178).

The Senate rejected the Howard's Government's Media Bill because they judged that this legislation would have permitted a Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer snatch and grab that would give them overwhelmingly control of Australia's media. The Senate did so by voting in favour of Senator Harradine's amendment.

As Margo Kingston puts it that amendment:

"...was simple. No proprietor would be permitted to own a television station and a newspaper in a mainland capital city. Without that amendment, Rupert Murdoch could have bought a television network, adding to his dominance of our print media. Kerry Packer could have added Fairfax to his Nine Network. These men are the wealthiest, most powerful and most feared men in Australian life. Their power is so great that successive Prime Ministers have sought to curry favour with one or both of them in the hope that with their help they can retain government. It is very rare for either main party to reject their demands."

Why stand against Packer and Murdoch? Harradine states the case:

" position is not a secret. My entire approach to this issue has been guided by the importance of media diversity: preserving independent sources of news and information to meet community needs. The media is essential to the operation of democracy. Without a range of opinions through TV, radio, newspapers and other sources, it is hard to make an informed judgement about what is happening in government. An equitable system of media regulation would enhance the diversity of news services, ensuring that the market is more open so that new providers can provide other voices."

Harradine puts his finger on the issue:

"I can't accept that letting the big players make large cross-media purchases to form a combined newspaper and TV group is in the interests of the general public. It might be in the interests of media groups - but it's not in the interests of the broader community."

The tone of the debate was heated. Alston never addressed the issue raised by Harradine's amendment even though Alston has had it on his desk since March. He engaged in political polemic. All 4 Independent Senators stood firm. (p.1287)

So much for the Senate being a feather duster in relation to executive dominance or to the big media corporations standing behind the executive.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:36 AM | | Comments (0)