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Friday, 19 November 1993
Page: 3299

Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Science and Small Business and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Science) (3.38 p.m.) —I am supposed to be leaving to catch a plane to Adelaide for the weekend, but I have to respond to a couple of Senator Alston's points.

  First of all, the Liberal Party feigns indignation about the so-called bias of the Fairfax press when, for 100 years, it was run by the Fairfax family and was basically a broadsheet for the Liberal Party in Australia. At the state level, the Fairfax press in Sydney for 100 years never supported the Labor Party. Apparently, in 1943, 1961 and sometimes in the 1980s, it supported the federal Labor Party editorially, but for 100-plus years in the history of the Labor Party, the Fairfax press was unswerving in its support for the Liberal Party. Of course, in those days it only took a quiet chat from a Liberal Prime Minister or leader to Sir Warwick or one of the other Fairfaxes to fix everything up; nothing was ever debated, but that was the way things were then.

  As to the actual accusations of bias, Senator Alston, in my view, has to point out where the bias was during the coverage of the election campaign: which journalists were compromised; which journalists did not write factually; which journalists bent stories to favour the Labor Party during the four-week campaign in February and March of this year. He has to put the case up, name the journalists, point the finger at them and say, `Your coverage in this election campaign was biased'. The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Black and said what everybody in Australia would say was quite a reasonable comment: `We would like to see unbiased coverage in the election campaign so everybody gets a fair go'.

  All we ask from the Liberal Party is that it name the journalists in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Review and the Melbourne Age who are biased in favour of the Labor Party. It cannot. If those opposite cannot name them, they should shut up about the issue because what they will do is say that some journalists, unnamed, were influenced by the conversation.

Senator Kemp —That is what Keating is saying.

Senator SCHACHT —The Prime Minister said something which everybody in Australia would say is reasonable—that we should have balanced coverage in any newspaper.

Senator Kemp —Where is it unbalanced?

Senator SCHACHT —If Senator Kemp wants to interject, he should stand up here and name the journalist—

Senator Kemp —That is exactly what you are refusing to do.

Senator SCHACHT —We are not naming journalists. We are not complaining about the journalists. The opposition is saying that the Prime Minister's remarks led to biased coverage. That means that it has to name the articles and, accordingly, the journalists, that were biased. The opposition cannot do it, and it is not willing to do it, because there is no evidence of it.

  This is another case of the Liberal Party venting its spleen about losing the so-called unlosable election. Five times in a row the opposition thought it would win and five times in a row it lost. This is what the opposition cannot stomach. Senator Kemp cannot stomach the fact that the opposition actually lost. As Senator Kemp was one of the senior advisers on strategy, I know that it is even more difficult for him to stomach the loss.

  The feigned indignation on this issue from the other side, in view of 100 years of history in which the print media in this country always overwhelmingly supported the Liberal Party without shame and without any concern at all for balance, is really a bit rich. It is a bit rich for honourable senators opposite to start complaining now when there was no complaint at the time about the bias of journalists.