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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 12440

Senator BROWN (10:22 AM) —We do not know what the vote will be at the end of this process. Amendments that try to lessen the deleterious aspects of this legislation have to be entertained. I appreciate the opposition's strategy, but it has its own worries. Where the Democrats bring forward amendments like this, they have to be seriously considered. If those amendments can improve the outcome, were the legislation to get through, they need to be looked at seriously. I see this in the light of what happened last night, which was absolutely extraordinary—quite epoch making. The opposition and One Nation joined the government to remove any restrictions on foreign ownership of the media in this country. That was a monumental vote in the Senate—quite extraordinary. I do not know whether it was more extraordinary in terms of the opposition or One Nation, but for One Nation to be supporting the removal of any restraint on overseas ownership of the Australian media was akin to me suddenly supporting `Gunns Woodchipping Corporation' in Tasmania. Incomprehensible! Remarkable! Extraordinary! The one tenet of a belief system that was at least trackable to the public was turned on its head with one vote.

Senator Alston —Apocalypse now!

Senator BROWN —For One Nation, I would think so. That said, the opposition voted with the government to remove all restraint on overseas ownership of the media in Australia. As I said last night, the media is absolutely pivotal to the development of Australian culture, to the protection of Australian culture, to the celebration of Australian culture and what gives us pride of place in the world and pride in the community that we are. It runs totally in the face of the promotion by the Prime Minister of what it is to be an Australian that he should be supporting the legal requirement—

Senator Alston —Are you going to get on to today's amendment, Bob?

Senator BROWN —The minister may not like what I am saying, and may not want it to be said, but I am going to say it. That he should be supporting this opening of the Australian media to complete foreign overseas domination is the course that was set with that vote last night. The Greens totally opposed that; the Democrats voted against it as well. It was a monumentally important and pivotal vote that took place last night. It has ramifications outside this legislation, but it has extraordinary ramifications for the future of Australia. It helped open the floodgates to the domination of Australian entertainment and news presentation by overseas interests, right down to the local level. At the moment the United States is the predominating culture and economic power but, further down the line, it will be other centres. It does not matter where it comes from, the fact is that we are not just talking about ownership of the media but the whole way a culture expresses itself to a nation of 20 million people—and it lost out last night. I find that very worrying indeed.

This amendment does have problems, but I congratulate the Democrats for bringing the amendment forward. They are having a go. It is better than not having the amendment. It is better than simply saying that whoever owns the media can dictate editorial content and can dictate the presentation of news and culture to the Australian people through the television outlets. If you are going to open ownership to people who are sitting in cities outside this country, I would have thought it incumbent on the government, the opposition and One Nation to look at having some check in there to ensure we do get coverage that is best for Australians. This amendment says there will be an editorial board of three: one appointed by the proprietor, one elected by the staff of the news and current affairs operation and an independent chair appointed by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. Senator Alston zeroed right in on the latter, but that appointment is a minority. I would be more concerned about the former. It is obvious that the proprietor is going to have a dominant say. I think it is very healthy indeed that there be somebody there who is elected by the staff of the news and current affairs operation—in particular, that would be the person most acquainted with the locality from which this news or entertainment was being generated.