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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2340

Media Reform


Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (14:30): My question is to the Prime Minister. If this week she is unable to persuade the parliament to establish a public interest media advocate to regulate the content of newspapers for the first time in our peacetime history, will she have the courage of her convictions and commit today to take that policy to the next election and pledge to legislate it if she were to win government again?

The SPEAKER: The difficulty with the question is that it is slightly hypothetical.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: And I am not referring to the last part of the question. It also presumes the outcome of a vote in this parliament, and that is a very dangerous precedent to set.




Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:30): In answer to the question from the member for Wentworth, the government does not have before this parliament and does not have as its policy a proposal to have a public interest media advocate that regulates newspaper coverage. That is not the case. That is a distortion of the reform proposition. I said it last week and I will say it again: I understand why the member for Wentworth is seeking to curry a bit of favour with those who run media outlets in the hope of some good publicity—presumably for himself; maybe for the opposition—in the future. I understand that craven attempt at political advantage. But on more than one occasion—

Mrs Mirabella: That is the pot calling the kettle black.

The SPEAKER: The member for Indi will leave the chamber under 94(a). She was warned just moments ago.

The member for Indi then left the chamber.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The imputation from the Prime Minister concerning the member for Wentworth was unparliamentary and I ask that she withdraw it. It was absolutely outrageous.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister has the call and will refer to the question before the chair.

Ms GILLARD: I was referring to the question before the chair and the distortion that appeared in the question of what the government's intentions are. There is legislation before the parliament this week. The government will continue—

Mr Pyne: Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Madam Speaker, I am wondering whether you heard exactly what the Prime Minister said. She accused the member for Wentworth of improper motives for the position that the coalition has taken on the media reforms. We have asked her to withdraw that accusation.

The SPEAKER: I probably did not hear, actually, given the level of noise that continues to flow around the chamber. I did not think that the issue warranted a withdrawal. But I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw in order to assist the parliament.

Ms GILLARD: I withdraw. In answer to the question from the member for Wentworth, firstly, his question misconstrues the proposition that is before the parliament. Secondly, the parliament is yet to have a debate on these various pieces of legislation and the government obviously in that debate will be putting forward what is in the public interest in our nation. I am not going to speculate on the outcome in this parliament. We will work, as we always do, in good faith with those parliamentary members who are prepared to deal with reform propositions on their merits and on their facts.

When it comes to reform propositions on their merits and on their facts, the member for Wentworth has characterised this reform proposition one way in his question. I would refer him to the following: according to the international and well-respected organisation Reporters Without Borders, Australia currently sits 26th in the world when it comes to a free press. The country in first place, Finland, has specific laws that dictate to media organisations that they must provide a right of reply and correct factual errors. We are not proposing to do that. In Finland, the press council gets 30 per cent of its funding from the government. We are not proposing to do that. Denmark, which is sixth on the list, has a press council that was established by legislation in 1991. We are not proposing to do that. What the government has put forward are some propositions clearly in the public interest. They are propositions about freedom of the press, about diversity of voices and about self-regulation by our media. We believe that they are propositions of merit to be pursued this week in parliament. We will join in that debate well and truly.