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Malcolm Turnbull welcomes proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act and denies he is an associate of Kerry Packer

PAUL MURPHY: The lawyer and merchant banker, Malcolm Turnbull, might be seen by some as an associate of Kerry Packer, having worked for and advised him often in the past, having served on the board of the Nine Network, and having given advice on the joint bid for Fairfax. Well, Malcolm Turnbull has joined us on the line now.

How do you read these proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act that Kim Beazley has foreshadowed?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I think they're entirely to be expected and they hold no fears for me, I can assure you. I think that your introduction to this program was completely and utterly misleading. What Mr Beazley said, he has foreshadowed many times in the past. The definitions of associates that are contained in the Companies Code or the Tax Act or the Foreign Takeovers Act could not in any manner at all apply to me.

PAUL MURPHY: Right. So, there's nothing really new, you're saying, in what Mr Beazley had to say tonight, leaving out the introduction?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: No, there is absolutely nothing new, and I think what he's proposing is to insert into the Broadcasting Act definitions of associates which are to be found in almost all of the major bits of legislation in this country. And as I said to you before, there is no definition of associate known to the law which could possibly apply to me in these circumstances, and anyone that suggests the contrary is trying to suggest that you make someone an associate simply by saying they are. I just ask you, who seem to be so interested in this issue: what....

PAUL MURPHY: I'm not the only one. Everybody is.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: No, no, no. But look, let me .. I published in the Australian some time ago, a very detailed article setting out the fallacies in the suggestion that I or, indeed, Trevor Kennedy, were in some way associates of Kerry Packer. That article, you may care to know, was submitted to the Sydney Morning Herald which refused to publish it. The journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald and the management there are so committed to free speech, they're not interested in anyone's point of view that doesn't happen to coincide with theirs.

PAUL MURPHY: Well, I'll have to take your word for that. That's an interesting thing that you informed us of. Trevor Kennedy we've just heard talking of a McCarthyist tendency, to think that he and you, through association with Mr Packer in the past or, indeed, with this bid for Fairfax, that that would give him and Kerry Packer undue influence, if his joint bid for Fairfax succeeds. You'd agree with that, no doubt.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, I'm not sure what the proposition is. I am not an associate of Mr Packer's. I do not do what Mr Packer says. I'm representing other interests. I have represented or advised Mr Packer in two matters in the four and a bit years I've been in the merchant banking business. I am not an advisor of Mr Packer's. The jobs that I've done for him in four and a bit years have contributed considerably less than 8 per cent of my firm's revenues. To describe me as an advisor or an associate of Mr Packer's is a lie, and I am about to start getting very angry with people who continue to peddle this, because it is simply false.

PAUL MURPHY: So, you'd agree then with Trevor Kennedy, who says that any inference like that is pure and simple McCarthyist?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, it's just nonsense. I mean, you know, to people that say that I am an associate of Kerry Packer's, I say to them: call your first witness. What is it that makes me an associate of Kerry Packer's? I can point to hundreds of advisors around the world who have had a great deal more to do with Kerry Packer. Those who know me and those who know Packer, know that I am a relentlessly independent, if not cantakerously independent character.

PAUL MURPHY: All right. Well, if this joint bid succeeds and, say, you went onto the board of Fairfax, which I have seen talked about, then that would be fine and above board, and you don't think that you would have anything to fear in these changes, if they come about, that Mr Beazley....

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Look, to be quite honest with you, I would welcome the changes, subject to this proviso that I think there is - and I'm speaking now, you know, as a lawyer - there is always a risk when you try to dot every i and cross every t in legislation, that you create more loopholes and problems than you're actually solving. In my view, the Broadcasting Tribunal has sufficient authority and capacity to do what it needs to do. If it wants to have the comfort of more, you know, lines of closely typed print, then that's fine. But there is .. I have nothing to fear from that, and I find the suggestions that because I worked for Kerry Packer over five years ago, I find that because of that I'm an associate of his, I find that extremely offensive and false, and it is being peddled by people who are endeavouring to ensure that Fairfax remains managed by the same sort of people and the same culture that it is today. It's got nothing to do with me and it's got nothing to do with Kerry Packer. It's about self-interest for the journalists at Fairfax and that's all it's about.

PAUL MURPHY: Okay. Mr Turnbull, thanks very much indeed for speaking to P.M. this evening. Lawyer and merchant banker, Malcolm Turnbull.