Yesterday’s hearings into the Gillard Government’s proposal for state controls over the press made clear this was driven by a hatred of the Murdoch media, parts of which have been very critical of government blundering:
Labor Left figure Doug Cameron, his colleague John Murphy and Greens senator Scott Ludlam led the charge against [News Ltd] at two separate parliamentary hearings into media reforms.
Their questions focused on ownership and privacy, as well as revisiting the 2011 British phone hacking scandal and the so-called “hate media” complaints.
Liberal senator Simon Birmingham dubbed it a case of “vengeance and vendetta”, saying the government’s push to overhaul press rules was not about “serious public policymaking”.
“I think we have seen an obsession across both inquiries where John Murphy in the joint parliamentary inquiry asked about Murdoch family interests at every opportunity he was given,” Senator Birmingham said…
Senator Cameron, however, relished the chance to muscle up to News Limited chief executive Kim Williams. Taking a combative stance, Senator Cameron said: “I find it absolutely breathtaking to be lectured by the Murdoch press about the privacy laws, I really do. I think the hypocrisy is huge in coming here and lecturing the Senate about privacy laws after what the Murdoch press did in the UK.”
Later Mr Williams shot back, saying he didn’t travel to Canberra to have a “chemically difficult discussion” but to assist the committee to “actually look at the legislation”.
Senator Cameron replied: “Oh thanks, all the chemically difficult issues are done in your press.”
The Greens were also keen to vent their criticism of News Limited, with Senator Ludlam using the hearing to ask Mr Williams what the attitude of all News Limited papers was towards the Australian Greens.
“Is it the view of the whole News Limited stable that the Australian Greens should be destroyed at the ballot box, or is that just the view of The Australian?” he asked…
Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said it was “pretty obvious from the questions I got this morning, and subsequent questions, that they don’t like what News Corporation has being doing to them or saying about them”.
Their own action suggest this is indeed an attempt to muzzle and intimidate the press – at least those parts of it hostile to Labor.
“… this is the Prime Minister who said that News Limited had hard questions to answer and was then unable to specify what those questions might be,” Mr Abbott told parliament.
“This is a Prime Minister who had a screaming match with the then boss of News Limited in Australia because one of his papers had dared to talk about the Australian Workers Union slush fund of the 1990s.”
News Limited is the publisher of The Australian and Mr Abbott appeared to be referring to a phone call the Prime Minister reportedly made to the company’s former chief executive, John Hartigan, in 2011.
That the laws are driven by a hatred of conservative media outlets and writers explains why they are supported by so many journalists of the Left in betrayal of their duty to defend free speech. These journalists defend a side rather than a principle, not aware that such laws could be turned one day on them, too.
But with key independents now backing off the restrictions, the Gillard Government looks to make private peace deals with the media. At least two senior media figures, I understand, have been sounded out by the government, which seems unable to understand that no compromise can be made over such an important principle:
JULIA Gillard is battling to salvage Labor’s media reforms by adjusting plans for press regulation as caucus members blast her handling of the policy and key independents seek to veto the changes…
Ms Gillard said there would be no “horse-trading” over the bills but left room to change the plan to overcome objections from independent MPs. “If there are sensible suggestions consistent with our reform intentions . . . that come out of the parliamentary committee process then certainly we will listen to those,” she said.
The Australian heard from two sources that she phoned [Fairfax chief executive Greg] Hywood on the weekend, but the conversation did not produce any change in position. Fairfax Media declined to comment.
Good on Hywood.
Troy Bramston says Communications Minister Stephen Conroy – who is convinced News Ltd papers want “regime change” – pushed for even worse laws, wanting a supercop who could micro-manage newspapers:
Conroy had wanted to go “the full Monty”, as one minister described it at the time, on the media reforms. He was eager to adopt the Finkelstein’s inquiry’s recommendation for a statutory-based, government-funded super-regulator, the so-called News Media Council.
He was strongly backed by Wayne Swan. But they couldn’t get it past Julia Gillard. Conroy has long wanted to present it to cabinet as an “under the line” item, avoiding the requirement for a submission to be developed and circulated for departmental comment and ministerial consultation. Gillard initially resisted. But after a number of meetings, she relented and agreed to railroad it through the cabinet.
And so, with a haughty wave from the top of the steps, we are off on another flight of fancy, another extra-democratic adventure aided and abetted by a political class anxious to avoid the mistake of 1999, when they allowed John Howard to put their beloved republic to a referendum. One vote, one value is all very well in theory, but as George Orwell observed in The Road to Wigan Pier: “I have yet to meet a working miner, steelworker, cotton-weaver, docker, navvy or whatnot who was ‘ideologically’ sound.”
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.