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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1479

Mr BURR —Has the attention of the Minister for Communications been drawn to the February edition of the Journalist? In particular, has his attention been drawn to an article contained in that magazine that makes the accusation that a secret deal was entered into between Mr Rupert Murdoch, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to the effect that Mr Rupert Murdoch would ensure that certain of his publications would publish editorial comment favourable to the Government in return--

Mr O'Neil —When are they going to start?

Madam SPEAKER —Order!

Mr BURR —This would be in return for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer ensuring that legislation would be passed enabling Mr Rupert Murdoch to undertake business measures favourable to his organisation. Is the Minister aware that the article contains the following accusation, and I quote--

Madam SPEAKER —This is a very long question.

Mr BURR —And a very important one, too, Madam Speaker. I quote:

The Prime Minister told Murdoch that he would carry his Labor Party colleagues in the Herald and Weekly Times takeover and the controversy surrounding foreign ownership of Australian television licences provided there was some ``written proof'' that News Corp could be presented as ``the friend of Labor''.

Is that accusation correct?

Mr DUFFY —I have not read the article referred to; I gave up reading fairy stories some time ago. If those opposite interested in these areas are still reading those sorts of articles, that is a matter for them. In relation to the matters raised, I think it is indeed unfortunate that a member of this House of the honourable member's standing would ask such a ridiculous question.

Mr Burr —There it is; it is printed, Michael.

Mr DUFFY —From looking at the facts of the matter, one would totally reject the allegations made, which could be described as nothing better than scurrilous. In relation to a few factors, let us have a look at a couple of points for a start. After what I must say were years of inactivity in the broadcasting area, when we came to government all people in the broadcasting areas were saying: `Will you please do something? It does not matter really what; just get on with it'. They had to sit through years of inactivity from the people sitting opposite.

Mr Sinclair —Now we are hearing a fairy tale.

Mr DUFFY —One of the worst is interjecting. The record of the Leader of the National Party as Minister for Communications was pathetic. I refer to the reforms that we introduced in November last year. This reflects a bit on the question that was asked by the honourable member for Riverina-Darling. Our attempts to bring more choice in television and radio to country areas have been currently frustrated in the Senate by one of the most incredible reports one has ever seen. The four Labor members involved managed to get on the same track; that is not difficult for us. They came down with a report. There are three different reports. The Opposition put in a report and the Democrats put in another one. In relation to the matters the honourable member referred to, when we announced the changes in media policy in November 1986 the response of the Fairfax Press, for example, was that the first victim of this Government's media policy would be Mr Rupert Murdoch because he would be in the position of ultimately being required to divest himself of television stations, which in fact has now taken place. So the person mentioned in that magazine, the Journalist, who is supposed to have done some extraordinary deal with the Prime Minister became the first victim. While the question was being asked there was an interjection about when the editorials are going to start. Not only is the article ridiculous, if there was anything in it, two people should be suing for breach of contract-Mr Murdoch and the Prime Minister.