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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 3040


Mr MACPHEE(10.38) —I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) to several parts of the clause that I think are poorly drafted. Because we are opposing the Bill, I do not intend to move amendments-I simply draw the Minister's attention to this matter, and the Senate may wish to debate it. Clause 18 (d) (b) refers to a newspaper that is published at least four days in each week. I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that it omits mention of magazines. Magazines are often more influential than newspapers. We can think of several, such as the Bulletin, Business Review Weekly, Australian Business and, dare I say, the Australian Women's Weekly which is now a monthly, and Woman's Day, which is a weekly. These are very influential. Sub-clause 18 (d) (c) states `is sold as a newspaper'. I make the point that we should not only include magazines in these cross-media ownership rules; we should include free newspapers that are distributed. Suburban newspapers have a tremendous influence. In my opinion, the fact of their being sold is not relevant. Increasingly, local newspapers are covering national events. I can say that from my experience; in my suburban papers the Premier of Queensland attacks me week in and week out-all of which increases my votes, so I am not complaining. But the fact is that they are not just covering who is putting a pedestrian crossing where, or whether there is a bus stop at a certain corner. They cover national politics and they are owned by these same media magnates who own our television stations, our daily newspapers, our magazines and our radio stations. All of that is important. So obviously the word `sold' should be deleted.

In sub-clause 18 (e) we have the definition of `publisher'. In the light of what Mr Murdoch got up to when, as a foreigner, he was creating his shelf company to try to circumvent the Broadcasting and Television Act-when he was trying to say that he was not a foreigner, he created a shelf company by a man who has now been appointed by the Government as head of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, already being head of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission-I ask: Does this definition of `publisher' guarantee that subterfuges of that character designed to circumvent the law will reach somebody? In other words, will it cover trust arrangements such as those that were employed? If it does not, the Bill should be amended if it is re-presented in any form.

Sub-clause 18 (j) seeks to add at the end of section 91 of the Principal Act the following sub-section:

(12) Where, having regard to the ownership, editorial control and style of 2 or more publications, it is reasonable to conclude . . .

I would say that ownership is the only test that matters here. Editorial control and style will be difficult for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal or the courts to interpret. In fact the three add up to a cumulative expression, which makes it all the more complicated. For example, the Daily Mirror in Sydney and the Australian have the same owner but a very different style. On occasions they also have very different editorial content. But their influence is massive and, as with the magazines, influence is the test. So I think only ownership should be taken into account in that clause. They are my contributions to clause 18.