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Monday, 16 October 2006
Page: 122

Mr TUCKEY (8:53 PM) —I have a personal friendship with the member for Lowe, but I have never heard such a misguided speech in my life. The media, which he suggests is totally dominated by a couple of owners, has been telling us this very day that Mr Packer is, more than likely, going to be a vendor, not a buyer. He has decided that Asian casinos are a much better investment in this day and age, and he is probably right. The member for Lowe has come to the conclusion that Mr Murdoch wants to come back here and buy up big. I cannot say he will not, but I think he is more concerned with Mr Malone over there in America, who has 16 per cent or thereabouts of his business. Mr Murdoch has been working every aspect he can find to try to get rid of him.

It is just evidence that the member for Lowe and too many of his colleagues think Australian media is a big target for these people. One of the reasons that Mr Murdoch has his problems with Mr Malone is that he foolishly abandoned the Australian stock market and went over to make himself a big name in America. In the deflation of his share price, Mr Malone slipped in and got 16 per cent of Mr Murdoch’s business. When you go and play in that big market you have all sorts of problems.

The member for Lowe actually questioned me and I welcomed it. I thought it was a great aspect of the operation of the other place here, the—

Mr Murphy —The Senate.

Mr TUCKEY —No, do not worry about the Senate—you know what your former boss, I mean Paul Keating, said about that—I am talking about our second chamber. We have an opportunity in the Main Committee to question, and I was delighted when the member for Lowe challenged me there—excuse me for getting myself lost for a minute—about the ravages of the Murdoch empire.

You never want to make enemies with someone. Think back to the great icon of the Labor Party, Mr Whitlam, and do not make promises to media moguls which you are not going to keep. It is a matter of history—well recorded in that dreadful media!—that in pursuit of government the Whitlam opposition promised Mr Murdoch, at a time when I guess the duty on newsprint was of some interest to the Murdoch organisation—it would be miniscule in their operating costs today—that they would let him import newsprint duty free. Having been consulted, the unions at a later date told Labor that it could not do that, so it did not. I think to a degree the Murdoch press, or Mr Murdoch, took revenge, and it has been an icon of anger within the Labor Party since.

I remember voting with Labor over the two-airline policy. My view was that Western Australians got screwed by the two-airline policy and that we did not need it. That was the example given by the member for Lowe when he asked, ‘Why not more TV stations?’ I agree with him entirely on that issue but we were fighting against the two-airline policy when the Labor Party wanted revenge on Rupert Murdoch as half-owner of Ansett. There were a few of us—not many; not enough. I think we lost by one vote against Malcolm Fraser’s government at the time. You can have policy for good reason or you can get carried away with ridiculous arguments such as that James Packer wants to come in and dominate the media here. I do not think there is that much money in it and I think his new partnerships in casinos are much more attractive—and someone else will buy.

Maybe Murdoch has been a bit dominant, but the average journalist would be insulted to be told by the member for Lowe that the journalist responds to his boss. I think that is yesterday’s issue. My problem is that we have not won enough journalists but then, as was brought to the attention of the House today, there are a few problems for journalists—such as they cannot get into a Labor Party conference without a union ticket. If you want to get passionate in this place about defending the democracy you had better start by letting the journalists in the door.

It is a bit rough that you come in here and beat your chest and say, ‘I’m for democracy but not if it’s not by my rules.’ We have to be a bit fair about those sorts of things. This is about business. I agree with the member for Lowe: if you are concerned about consolidation do not have limits on the number of TV licences. We do not have limits on the number of newspapers and magazines. Someone starts a new magazine every five minutes and I am not sure who reads them or who has their political interests changed by what they read therein.

I am a bit concerned, as I said, that the journalist profession, which I think dominates the media, is a bit anti us because they hold less conservative views than we do, but one of the more pleasant aspects of my day in this place is having an argument with them out there at the doorstop. Occasionally the Leader of the Opposition gives me a bit of a chance to have a debate with him that he would not offer me in this place. I treat journalists like other people but I do not treat them with either respect or distaste, I just argue with them and that is the best part of my day. I do not think we should denigrate them by saying they will be the slaves of a media mogul. As I replied to the member for Lowe in the Main Committee, I think the media unfortunately is too busy trying to find out what it thinks the public wants to know and telling it.

Debate interrupted.