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Monday, 22 March 2004
Page: 26798

Ms HALL (4:45 PM) —I would like to congratulate the member for Brisbane for bringing this very important motion to the House. In doing so, I wish to place on record my absolute support for the independence and the rights of the media to print, write and put out there to the public whatever they believe is the right thing. This motion is not about attacking the press—it is not about any of those issues. It is not about placing any restrictions on what they write—it does not discuss any of those issues whatsoever. Rather, it is about the credibility of the media and the removal of the scepticism that often surrounds the media. I see this as an excellent opportunity for us in Australia to adopt practices similar to those overseas. It also gets around any perception of conflicts of interest.

As I mentioned, this is a very important motion. It places on journalists who work within this place requirements similar to those placed on those of us who are members of parliament. I do not have a problem with that, because they are involved in the intricate workings of this place and, as I mentioned earlier, I think all members of the gallery should actually support the provisions of this motion. It is about improving the way we operate here in parliament, it is about transparency, openness and accountability and it is about making sure that here in Australia we have the best operating democracy that is possible.

As I mentioned, the underlying principle of this motion by the member for Brisbane is the fact that, just as we, as members of parliament, are accountable, so too those who report on us should be. We should—and the Australian people should—be able to understand if there is a conflict of interest and, alternatively, be able to see that there is no conflict of interest, that what is being put forward is the opinion of the journalist or what that journalist believes is fact. In such a way, it ensures that we have a better informed constituency.

I referred a little earlier to similar situations overseas. Since 17 December 1985, journalists in the House of Commons have been required to register their pecuniary interests. I want to refer to something I took from the web site of the UK parliament. It says:

... those holding permanent passes as lobby journalists accredited to Parliamentary press Gallery or for parliamentary broadcasting be required to register not only the employment for which they had received their pass, but also any other paid occupation or employment where their privileged access to Parliament is relevant.

If it is good enough for the United Kingdom—for the House of Commons—I think it is good enough for us in Australia. I believe that it will improve our system. We only have to look at company directors outside this parliament: they also have to be prepared to disclose their interests.

I think that this motion fits in very nicely with what the Leader of the Opposition released last week—a proposal for lobbyists to disclose their pecuniary interests. I think that this is a natural progression. It is a system that I think is best practice, as outlined by the member for Brisbane, and it is a fair system. Any changes to a system should improve it and make it better. The proposal set out in this motion by the member for Brisbane does just that. The media—as we all are—are in a very privileged position, being able to work in this parliament. I believe that that privilege places obligations and responsibilities on all of us—the obligation to be accountable and for transparency. The structure outlined in this motion will ensure both accountability and transparency and improve the operation of this parliament. This motion puts in place a structure that will ensure that accountability and transparency. (Time expired)