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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1253

Mr SLIPPER ( Fisher ) ( 19:05 ): I rise in the House tonight to mourn the loss of media diversity in Australia. More and more, we seem to have a concentration of ownership of media outlets—and that presents a real danger for Australia's democracy. The smaller the number of newspaper and other media owners there are the less opportunity the Australian people will get to hear a range of points of view and so they will be less able to form opinion on the basis of facts that are put before them.

I would like to encourage people to use independent media as much as possible. Independent Australia is a website that many people observe. I quote from an article by David Donovan:

Australian mass media is concentrated into the hands of a very small number of proprietors. For example, 11 of the 12 major newspapers in Australia are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation—

Otherwise known as limited news—

or John Fairfax Holdings. In fact, Murdoch bestrides the Australian media landscape like a colossus—NewsCorp owns 8 of that 12, and also dominate the regional and suburban newspaper publishing industry, as well as owning a major slice of Foxtel.

When we have such a concentration of media ownership in Australia, that presents a very real threat to the democracy of which everyone in this House is so particularly proud.

Media diversity in Australia is much less than in the United States of America. Yet even in the United States of America there is a concern that concentration of media ownership is stifling democracy and depriving people of the opportunity to receive the information that they need to make informed opinions.

There is an advantage with independent media and technology: it is giving chances to many people to use new forms of media such as:

… the rise of weblogs supplanting the public's attentions to traditional news media, and the slow death of newspapers due to erosion of mindshare by online influences such as news web sites, chat rooms, message boards and online gaming.

I quote from someone else:

There is an element of democratisation and accessibility that did not exist before as the communications revolution has opened up new opportunities for more voices to be heard, the voices of the people. The cost of internet-based and other digital media has become relatively cheap. The speed and reach of communications has opened up new horizons for trade unions, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists, peace and many other activists and groups. It is being used very effectively to not only disseminate information but as an organising and campaigning tool with some great victories.

For example—and I am quoting from Independent Australia:

Independent Australia—through managing editor David Donovan, investigative supersleuth Vince O’Grady and many others—has spent hundreds of hours of investigating and researching the James Ashby/Peter Slipper scandal—a covert political conspiracy by the Coalition to bring down the Parliamentary Speaker, Peter Slipper, and through him the Federal Government of Australia.

Margo Kingston has also made some very useful contributions with respect to public discussion, encouraging people in the community to look at issues which are of importance.

I do understand that there are arguments in favour of and against the NBN, but I think that it is critical for the independent media to have the NBN go ahead throughout Australia. This will give many Australians the opportunity to get information from a large number of sources. It is alarming, and a wake-up call for all Australians, when you look at the monopoly of print media that I mentioned previously. For example, the Daily Telegraph,ownedby News Limited, spent many pages mutilating photographs of me as Speaker, only to report the scathing judgement by Justice Rares dismissing the sexual harassment cases and abuse of process on page 17. So this is a matter which we must consider seriously.