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Tuesday, 8 October 1996
Page: 3642


Senator BOURNE(3.21 p.m.) —I also wish to refer to the answer given by Senator Hill to Senator Schacht's question on the supposed media inquiry, which, of course, no longer is a cross-media ownership inquiry. Senator Schacht has mentioned almost all the dates that I was going to mention. It is a very long list and it is a very interesting list of how this has changed. There are a couple of things which bear repeating though.

Firstly, at the time when this whole thing was being mooted during the election campaign, Senator Alston was on a Media Report radio program with me and the then minister, Michael Lee. I would just like to quote Senator Alston from that radio report. When we were talking about the policies of both major parties for a cross-media inquiry, Senator Alston said:

Both of the major parties are advocating an inquiry into the future of the cross-media rules. The difference, of course, is that ours will be a public inquiry and the government's—

That is, the Labor Party at the time—

as usual will be a private one.

Of course, that has not happened, has it? On the same day Senator Alston said that they were not going to devise policies on the basis of whether any one individual would suffer a benefit or a detriment.

I am very pleased to hear that but, of course, if this inquiry goes ahead as we have now been told that it will then we will not be able to tell whether that is the case because the submissions that are made will not necessarily be made public. It would be very interesting to see what submissions are made by the major media proprietors in Australia, but I would be very surprised if those submissions were made public. Senator Alston went on to say:

The purpose of having a public inquiry is to take into account submissions from all the interested parties, and I imagine there will not be any shortage of those.

I know they are asking for submissions, but with a very short time frame. I must say that the very short time frame was one of the problems with submissions to Mr Mansfield's inquiry into the ABC. That is something that has happened again with this mooted inquiry.

I am not really quite sure why I am calling it an inquiry now—it is really a green paper. It is not a full inquiry and it is not a public inquiry; it is only a green paper. This means, of course, that the drafting of legislation on media ownership will be completely and utterly up to the government without necessarily any public input at all. They do not have to make anything public that comes in. Of course, those of us who are putting in submissions may well make our own submissions public—that would be very interesting—but I would be particularly interested to see the submissions from the major media proprietors in Australia.

It is also interesting to note the way these sorts of announcements are made to the media. They do seem to be made so that they will get as little response as possible. The Telstra board announcement is a classic case. They announced the new Telstra board late on the Friday before a grand final football weekend. We can all imagine the massive coverage that had! I think that this one has been made as late as possible. As we heard from Senator Schacht, a lot of comments went on beforehand. A mysterious person was asked if they would chair the inquiry. They were still waiting to see who it was and whether they would do it or not when suddenly the mysterious person disappeared. There were a lot of questions about who it could have been and what happened. Suddenly, whammo! It is all gone: we have got a government green paper; we can put in submissions if we like; and they may or may not be made public—I would be amazed if they were. We will end up with the government deciding on the drafting of legislation, maybe or maybe not having read all the submissions and maybe or maybe not having made any of them public. The rest of us may or may not know what the input was into the drafting of this legislation.

This is not what was promised by the government. This is not what was promised by the now minister when he was speaking about this during the election campaign. I think it is very sad that this seems to be happening across the board in this portfolio. What seems to be happening in this portfolio is that promises were made and promises have been broken. Yes, of course, that is across the board everywhere.(Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.