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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2346


Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (14:54): I second the motion. Last week we gave the Prime Minister the opportunity to give us one example of the problem she is seeking to solve with this legislation. She could not give us one. She is going to introduce, so she tells us, the first effort in our peacetime history by a federal government, or indeed any government, to regulate the content of newspapers and that this has to be debated, considered by committees, discussed by the parliament in every way and concluded by Thursday afternoon. This holds the parliament and the people we represent, the people of Australia, in the utmost contempt.

The Prime Minister says this is all about the concentration in the media. She says it is all about diversity. She says our media is more concentrated than it is just about anywhere else in the world. But the reason there is a high level of concentration in our media is that in 1986 it was their predecessors, the Labor government, the Hawke and Keating government, that gave the FIRB approval to allow Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd to buy the Herald and Weekly Times. That is what created the concentration in the daily newspaper market. And to hear the Labor Party saying that they are champions of diversity, that they are losing sleep over concentration, is so much hypocrisy. They have no commitment to diversity. They allowed that transaction to go through because they thought it suited their purposes. They thought they would get favourable coverage as a result.

I do not recall whether they did or not, but I tell you: any public-interest test administered by a government official will be, as this one is proposed, nothing more than a political-interest test. The test will be what is in the interest of the party in power. We say that, if, by some mischance, this power is given to a government by this parliament, if this parliament does not, as we hope it will, reject this outrageous proposal, then if we are elected to government we will repeal it. We will not take advantage of powers that the Labor Party gives a future government to meddle further and interfere with the content of newspapers.

On the subject of diversity, we have every reason to be optimistic about diversity in our media. I look up at the press gallery here. I saw Mike Bowers there. He works for the Global Mail, a new digital newspaper. I certainly cannot remember a new print newspaper in my lifetime. Katharine Murphy and Lenore Taylor are going to work for the Australian edition of the Guardian. That is launching in a few weeks—a new newspaper. Michelle Grattan has gone to work for the Conversation, which is a remarkable new effort headed by Andrew Jaspan. These are just three new sources of news and information. The truth is this: Rupert Murdoch's share of the daily newspaper market is as big now as it was in 1986, when Hawke and Keating gave them the keys to the Herald and Weekly Times. But the slice of the overall news and media information pie represented by daily newspapers gets smaller every day, because we are getting our news from so many different sources: new digital outlets, international publications and new social media. All of that is making it a much more contestable and diverse universe.

The complaint from the Labor Party that we have a problem with diversity and overconcentration is seen for what it is. We have more diversity and less concentration now than we have had for many years, and diversity is increasing. So their concern is not about diversity; their concern is about opinion. They do not like getting a shellacking in the press. But they get it on air, they get it in the pubs, they get it in the clubs and they get it in the streets—they get it all around the country—and they get it because they so richly deserve it. This government gets the press it deserves. Its attempt to bully the press, to bully the media into submission is one which is a disgrace and which this parliament must reject.