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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 1757

Senator MARK BISHOP (Western Australia) (15:09): We have just had a brief tirade—

Senator Brandis: That was not a tirade; that was a discourse.

Senator MARK BISHOP: No, it was a tirade, not a discourse. It was not a learned discourse. It was not any sort of discourse. It was a tirade which is accurately described as an example of the original straw man. Senator Brandis commenced with a flourish when referring to yesterday's paper depicting six odious dictators, and then he did a quantum leap in logic and runs to some obscure quote running to three lines from a 400-page report addressing the issues of collectivism and individualism as philosophical movements. On those two legs of a stool he manufactured his argument to say that, somehow or other, the proposition advanced by Senator Conroy on behalf of the government is on par with all the activities undertaken by those six men featured on the pages of the Daily Telegraph yesterday.

Let us say at the outset, from the perspective of the Australian Labor Party and the perspective of the government, that where freedom of the press is concerned, where freedom to speak and freedom of individuality are recognised, we stand 100 per cent behind those principles and those commitments. We always have and we always will. But we also say that there is another set of important matters that the government will bring to this chamber in due course for discussion and debate. They are also values along with collectivism, individualism and privacy. Those additional values are privacy, fairness, accuracy and diversity—diversity of voice, diversity of choice. They are things that are important in any intelligent, reasoned debate and in any matter that needs discussion and progress, particularly in this chamber but also in the wider community around Australia.

We say at the outset that we accept and are proud to accept matters addressing freedom of choice, the spread of discussion, matters of knowledge and issues going to communication. We do not in any way think that they should be restricted, whether they be on the internet, in the media or in social media platforms. Along with that, in this modern age citizens, companies, individuals, those engaged in public discourse and those who have responsibilities in a public sense also have a right to privacy, to fairness of reporting, to accuracy of reporting and, as is always happening in the media market, to different perspectives and different viewpoints that come from diversity of voice and diversity of choice.

In fact, it is a burgeoning market. What is happening in social media—in Facebook, in Twitter and in all of the other platforms that have taken over the world in the last five to 10 years—is something we think is a good thing. It is a democratisation of choice, a spread of information and a disclosure of knowledge. None of that impacts upon the proprietors of newspapers in this country, who are outraged as their market share shifts, as the volume of papers they sell declines, as the cash flows that established their companies decline, as their margins are compressed and as they engage in cost-cutting on a scale unprecedented in the media industry in this country. Their market share has declined and they can no longer afford to vest necessary capital or pay cash cost going to wages because we already have the spread of knowledge; the information is widely dispersed in the community.

That is why the proposition that Senator Conroy took to cabinet on Tuesday morning, that will come to this chamber in due course, addresses those sorts of principles in the modern age and in a modern context. Those principles, as I said, go to matters of privacy, fairness, accuracy and diversity. You could not ask for a more modern and up-to-date— (Time expired)