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A volatile cocktail not even labor can drink

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WARWICK SMITH M.P. Shadow Minister for Communications

14 October 1991

"A Volatile Cocktail - n o t even Labor can drink"

The decision last Thursday night by Caucus has all the hallmarks of changing the Fairfax rules to favour one bidder over another at the eleventh hour. Senator Button's "Sunday" revelations add to the incoherence of the Government's position. Policy is being subordinated to crass politics.

The prospect of a deal is apparent. The eleventh hour change at the behest of Cabinet is intriguing to say the least. Bids must be lodged by this Tuesday. The fact that the Cabinet Ministers were "stampeded" into voting with Mr Beazley now

raises a further fight and instability on the very eve of the Fairfax bid finalisation.

The call by acting Anglican Primate Dr Keith Rayner on Friday for more concern by the Government of the prospect of greater media concentration in this country is one that I strongly support.

The complete absence of a coherent competition policy in this country is now glaringly exposed by the confusion the Government has created within the media industry, and investment community, by its "chop and change" policy attitude. Does the Government really know where it's going on these vital issues, or is it driven by short-term expediency to do a deal to secure favour for its base political objectives? The combination of

. the current print media inquiry . the broadcasting amendment bill (now in the Senate) . the foreign investment policy fiasco . the total mess of anomalous cross-media ownership rules . the lack of a competition policy

has created a volatile cocktail of powerful political media interests that is causing wide community unease.

The Opposition has long argued that the process must be transparent, that the test ought to be one of concentration, and that there be certainty and clarity in Government policy. On all counts, the present Government has failed.

With the Prime Minister and Treasurer overseas, who is in charge of media policy during this crucial week? Senator Richardson?

Contact Canberra (06) 277 3332