SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, everyone. Stephen Conroy, some 12 months after receiving the million dollar-plus Convergence Review and Finkelstein report, has finally announced a grab bag of media reforms. He is giving this Parliament, apparently, just days to consider these reforms, yet he hasn’t even revealed the legislation yet. This is a process that is completely contemptuous of the public, the media and the Parliament. What we’ve got in these reforms is simply more vengeance than vision rather than seriously dealing with the issues of an evolving media landscape, of the fact that we have convergence across media platforms, of the fact that we have many more voices now available because of the rise of the internet. Instead, we have a Government that actually wants to restrict and regulate the media more, that is more interested in regulating media content than it is in dealing with the changing nature of media platforms. This Public Interest Media Advocate – the Orwellian sounding Public Interest Media Advocate – is just one step on the path to a Government-sanctioned thought police. It is one step for the Government moving towards trying to say what the media can write, what is appropriate as to how it is written, how it is said, how it is reported. This is completely unacceptable and the Coalition will stand up for free speech and a free media at every single step of the way.
If I can also just touch on one other matter and this morning I heard Senator Doug Cameron talking about new taxes. This is a Government that is addicted to spending, a Government that is addicted to new taxes, a Government that is addicted to debt and what Doug Cameron is demonstrating this morning by flying a flag up the flagpole on new taxes is that, if Labor is re-elected later this year, we’ll simply see yet more spending, yet more waste, yet more taxes and yet more debt.
JOURNALIST: Are there any media reforms that you would support that were announced yesterday?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, the Coalition will look forward to seeing the actual legislation and of course we would like to see that detail before we make a comprehensive assessment but we will not support anything that restricts free speech or a free media in any way.
JOURNALIST: Isn’t that a view that sort of stands well right up to the moment Tony Abbott’s on the front of the Tele wearing a silly hat?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We believe media criticism is a fair part of what happens in Australian democracy and I think Tony Abbott over his years has copped on the chin more than his fair share of media criticism but he does it knowing that is what comes with living in a robust democracy with a free media. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more criticism of Tony, of all of us, over the years to come but that’s what we expect from a country that has a great free speech, a great free press and it’s something that should be defended to the hilt. The important thing about freedom of speech is that you should be there defending it right at that time when you are facing most criticism from it. Right at that time when you most disagree with what somebody is saying. Stephen Conroy, as Australia’s Communications Minister, should be the number one advocate for free speech and a free media in Australia and it is amazing that, instead, he is the number one advocate for greater regulation and restriction.
Thanks, guys.