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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 3033

Mr STEELE HALL(9.47) —There is a principle that stands well above the content of the Broadcasting (Ownership and Control) Bill and it is the principle of orderly and effective government in Australia. That is why I believe the legislation should be opposed first and foremost before the intricate details of the legislation are approached. If Australia is to be governed by the methods that the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) and the Government have presented to us, there is no future for this Parliament in deciding the wishes and desires of the Australian electorate. It is absolutely outrageous that the Minister can advise the moguls of the media to take action to feed in a frenzy, as a pack of sharks do, on the new media opportunities on the promise that he can have Parliament sanction the changes he wants. It is an outrageous proposition. Of course, it is antagonistic to the views that members of the Australian Labor Party have presented in the past to Australians.

I remember clearly the 1979 election in South Australia and the dismay of the Labor Party which lost it. I remember the remarks of Labor Party heavies about the activities of the media in that election. I quote from a program of 9 March this year when archival material was used to illustrate Labor Ministers' previous views on the media. I quote the comments made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Young) which he made in 1979. The Minister is well known in this House for his various perambulations in and out of the Ministry and his various activities. Regarding the media he said:

I really do sound a word of warning to the voters of Australia that we live in a very sick situation with the ownership of the media in Australia. We should demonopolise it if we possibly can.

I repeat:

We should demonopolise it if we possibly can.

The Minister made those remarks in 1979. Now the Minister will vote for this legislation to give the rich friends of the Labor Party the fruits of the decision made by the Minister for Communications and the Government on the media. There are plenty of examples of how this Government stands for the rich in Australia. The people who have been disadvantaged under this Government's policies are those on the middle ground; those who are trying to buy a house, raise a family, educate a family and look after a family's health. They are the people in Australia who are finding it hard going. But ask the first 200 or 500 richest people in Australia which government they will vote for at the next election and they will say that they will vote Labor, because they are the people whose wealth has increased in this country beyond all the dreams of avarice. The people at the forefront of that increase in wealth are the moguls of the media. We remember the seven Ministers of this Government who sat down with Mr Holmes a Court and discussed and connived with him about the takeover of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Limited and then brought into this House legislation to change the rules of the takeover at the same time that the takeover bid was standing.

The people opposite are the people who now want us to believe that this legislation is the best thing for the good of Australians in relation to the media. It is a lot of arrant nonsense and the Government's past record and views show that. How much wealth does one have to have in Australia to be influential with this Labor Government? Is it $10m, $50m, $100m of $1 billion? What is the measure of influence with this Government? All I can say is that if someone can muster up whatever the required figure is, the Treasurer (Mr Keating) will come in and battle a proposal through Caucus-battle with those weak, lame ideologues who fall around like a bowl of mush when the Treasurer puts the word on them on behalf of his wealthy friends. They stand exposed. Talk about wet, they are mush in the hands of the Treasurer, and they produce this sort of legislation which has only one or two aims: First to increase the Labor Party's chances of electoral success by currying favour with the richest media people in Australia; and second, of course, for them to state their support, which they have already stated. If honourable members want to find out the views of Mr Bond or Mr Holmes a Court about this Government, they will find that they were given quite freely in the last few weeks. `Oh yes' say Mr Holmes a Court and Mr Bond, `the Labor Government and Mr Hawke have got it right'. These people say the Government has got it right because they have been handed hundreds of millions of dollars on a plate by legislation which, I remind the Minister at the table, has yet to be passed by this House.

The greatest blow that Parliament could make on behalf of freedom in Australia, the future accountability of Parliament and the future of democracy in this country is to disregard the detail of this Bill. I do not care one iota whether these amendments are successful. I think they are extraneous to the major concept that for the sake of the future of this country this Bill must be defeated and this Government must be shown to be what it is, to have disregarded the mainstream of Australian people and their needs and to have gone right across the spectrum to reward and curry favour with the rich and the powerful and those who have influence.

I urge this House to throw this Bill to the wind-and I certainly hope those in another place will do that-and to require the Government to bring back a sensible proposition which takes into account the needs of Australians and not the Government's rich and powerful friends.