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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1807

Mr FitzPATRICK I rise to support a small country newspaper operating in Condobolin and called the 'Lachlander'. This paper is under a brutal and vicious attack by an Orange based company called Western Newspapers Ltd. The 'Lachlander' is about 80 years old and has been operated as a family business by Mr and Mrs Ryder-Wood for the past 21 years - in fact, since 1952 when they purchased it from Mr M. J. Condon who had been its proprietor for 42 years. It is an exceptionally good local newspaper and, in common with most country newspapers, does the job printing required by the town as well as present local news in pictures and editorials.

A blatant attempt on the part of Western Newspapers Ltd, a company which operates a chain of newspapers based in Orange, is being made to take over this local Condobolin biweekly newspaper from the present proprietors by methods which I consider highly unethical to say the very least. Taking advantage of a temporary disagreement by the local newspaper with a local organisation, Western Newspapers Ltd has been following its usual tactics which have proved successful in other instances - a threat to move in and to start another newspaper unless the 'Lachlander' immediately sells out to it. Telephone calls and several visits have been made to Condobolin by high officials of the Orange company and Mr and Mrs Ryder-Wood have been told that Western Newspapers Ltd is prepared to lose many thousands of dollars to break the 'Lachlander' unless it is sold to them. In other words, sell out or cop it!

The time chosen for the pressure tactics was when Mr Ryder-Wood was sick in Sydney hospital and Mrs Ryder-Wood was handling the business on her own. In that time, she received a telephone call from Orange, and a representative of the firm went throughthe town asking business people whether they would advertise in a rival newspaper if it started up in Condobolin. He received a mostly negative reception and, I believe, was advised against the idea. Nevertheless, 2 officials of the company called on Mrs Ryder-Wood within a week and threatened to start in opposition if the 'Lachlander' would not sell out to them. A week later another official visited the 'Lachlander' and used the same tactics. Another week later 2 members of the company saw Mr Ryder-Wood and adopted the same theme. I have not time to finish remarks. Part of the story is told in the 'Lachlander'. I ask for leave to incorporate that extract from the Lachlander' in Hansard.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -


The Lachlander received a visit - by appointment this time - from two representatives of the newspaper chain which has been making a nuisance of itself to the Lachlander proprietors during the past couple of months or so. The appointment with the Editor was for one person only- but the appointee brought along another to bolster himself up, and although it was not in accordance with our arrangement, both were courteously received.

We might say as a preliminary that it was not an easy meeting for the reason that it is difficult for two parties to discuss anything when it is obvious that one's ethics - at least, business ethics - are not the same.

It is rather like trying to get two parallel lines to meet together.

We do not doubt for one moment that, according to their lights, these two gentlemen felt that they were being perfectly ethical, and perhaps even generous, in the proposal they made.

This was demonstrated by the shock expressed when the Editor referred to the tactics used so far as "industrial blackmail".

They were apparently genuinely shocked, which is rather odd when one considers the short history of this unpleasant business to date.

The proposal made to the proprietors of the Lachlander was put with the alternative previously stated by these same people that if not accepted they would start a rival paper to the Lachlander.

In other words, the olive branch in one hand and the big stick in the other.

No negotiations under threat can be termed free and equal, and that is why, without doubting their own sincerity, we say that our standards are not the same.

We have simply been brought up in a totally different school, and we do not walk the same path.

To dispel any rumors we inform our readers of the following: ° No offer as such was made at the interview, but a rather comprehensive proposal was made, which we undertook to consider. ° Having done so, we find it quite unacceptable and are so informing the people concerned. ° The basic consideration is still that the Lachlander is not for sale.

Mr FitzPATRICK - I thank the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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