Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Considers An Inquiry That Could Muzzle Her Critics

Posted on Wed 08/31/2011 by

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Andrew BoltBy Andrew Bolt

The threat and the demand:

THE Gillard government has a fortnight to decide whether to hold an inquiry into the regulation and ownership of the media after the Greens leader Bob Brown gave notice last week he would seek to establish one.

Senator Brown’s motion on Thursday went unnoticed amid the furore over allegations against the Labor backbencher Craig Thomson, but a decision will now be made against the backdrop of a bitter dispute between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and News Ltd over false claims in a column published in The Australian newspaper on Monday.

Senator Brown and the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, have been negotiating terms of reference for an inquiry but cabinet has not made a decision.

Some Labor sources said an investigation was likely but others said there were still strong reservations within cabinet and backed broadening an existing ‘’convergence review’’ into media regulation instead.

Yesterday Ms Gillard attacked The Australian for printing assertions without checking or seeking comment in a column by Glenn Milne. The paper issued a correction and apologised.

I think we can safely conclude that if the Government holds that inquiry, it will be punish and intimidate a news organisation for not being kinder to Labor.  And what more leverage would a Prime Minister then have to keep news from you?

UPDATE

More reflections on the threat and how to respond from Professor Bunyip.

UPDATE 2

This was the apology the Australian ran on Monday:

THE AUSTRALIAN published today an opinion piece by Glenn Milne which includes assertions about the conduct of the Prime Minister.

The Australian acknowledges these assertions are untrue. The Australian also acknowledges no attempt was made by anyone employed by, or associated with, The Australian to contact the Prime Minister in relation to this matter.

The Australian unreservedly apologises to the Prime Minister and to its readers for the publication of these claims.

I think it went too far. And it’s interesting to see these exchanges now:

Ms Gillard said the publication of the article meant there was a “question of ethics and standards here”.

“If you are going to make an allegation or assertion about someone, then you’ve got to give them the opportunity to comment on it. Basic standards—they should be adhered to.”

Mr Hartigan said Ms Gillard’s further complaints yesterday were “pedantic”.

“While The Australian acknowledged no attempt was made to contact the Prime Minister’s office, comment is rarely if ever sought in relation to opinion pieces,” he said.

“This is a widely understood and accepted practice in journalism. All of the company’s journalists abide by a code of conduct which is enforced strenuously by editors.”

The Australian’s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, said: ”The bulk of the allegations in the column have been a matter of public record for a long time.”

Most of what Milne said was true. An opinion writer is under no obligation to ring someone he plans to write about.

Andrew Bolt is a journalist and columnist writing for The Herald Sun in Melbourne Victoria Australia.

Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and hosts Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am. He is also heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of radio station MTR 1377, and his book  Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.

Read more excellent articles from Andrew Bolt’s Blog . http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/

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