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Wednesday, 3 December 2003
Page: 23701

Mr MURPHY (9:52 AM) —The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the Howard government still refuse to be honest about their real agenda in pursuing the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2002 [No. 2], which I have been very strongly speaking about in this parliament. The government and the minister, Daryl Williams, refuse to tell the Australian people the real agenda of this bill, which is designed in the main to benefit Australia's major media owners, Mr Murdoch and Mr Packer, further concentrating media ownership in Australia and doing irreparable damage to Australia's democracy.

The bill should be more accurately titled the `Give Mr Murdoch an Australian TV network bill' or the `Give Mr Packer a major metropolitan newspaper bill' or perhaps the `Make sure Mr Murdoch and Mr Packer tighten their grip on Australia's media so the government is guaranteed supportive news coverage bill'. This is outrageous and I will continue to speak out on this right up to the next federal election so the Australian people know the truth about this agenda.

The government's media ownership changes proposed are scandalous but not unprecedented. As I speak, Italy's conservative coalition government has just forced through the Italian parliament legislation that will ease restrictions on media ownership. Unfortunately for Italian democracy, the new laws lift the ban on one person owning more than two television channels, guaranteeing Italy's richest man and Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, a vice-like grip on the media. Berlusconi now directly or indirectly controls some 90 per cent of the country's media through his three private Mediaset channels and the politically appointed board of the Italian public broadcaster, RAI Television. The new Italian media laws will now allow Berlusconi to take over more newspapers and interfere further in the management of RAI. The bill was produced to increase Berlusconi's media influence. Similarly, cross-media changes in Australia are designed to benefit Australia's two most powerful media moguls and their commercial interests.

Government members in Italy argued that the law would rejuvenate Italy's media. That sounds very similar to what is going on in Australia at the moment. The government have got to come to their senses on this because, while governments come and governments go, for the future of our democracy this bill has to be stopped, because it is all about changing the laws principally as they relate to traditional media. As I keep saying, all of us every day turn on a radio station and read a newspaper and every night we watch a free-to-air television broadcast. That in the main influences the way we think and vote, and the government have got to come clean and tell the truth—that is, this bill is about giving Mr Packer, Fairfax and Mr Murdoch a television network. That is the truth. (Time expired)