KIERAN GILBERT: The other big story today, of course, is the media laws. The media executives will be in town for the Senate committee hearing into these six bills*, controversial bills, proposed by Stephen Conroy, the Communications Minister. With me for his preview and response to these… the Senate committee and what we can expect is the Liberal frontbencher who handles Communications in the Senate, Senator Simon Birmingham. Senator, thanks for your time.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Morning, Kieran.
KIERAN GILBERT: Is the Coalition willing to support some of the elements of the bills if the Minister does break them away?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, we’ll look at some of the things that are not an attack on free speech or an attack on the media, so things that relate to television licence fees, content for Australian quota… those sorts of matters will obviously go through our party processes – Shadow Cabinet today and the party room tomorrow – and we’ll give them proper consideration but, of course, we have grave, grave concerns and will not support any measures that attack the operation of a free and independent media in Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Coalition’s been critical of the timeframe given, that… Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says that it’s treating the Parliament and people with contempt. Given that timeframe, is it enough to even back any of the elements in the bills?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we do have real concerns about that, Kieran. We have a situation where legislation – more than 130 pages of legislation – was handed down last week, media executives were told on Friday that they could be in Canberra on Monday… no time for written submissions, no time for proper analysis or scrutiny. We’re going to do our best to give proper scrutiny to this package but our real concern is to protect Australia and protect the media in Australia from the type of government intervention that has never been seen before in peacetime operation in Australia.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, appreciate your time…
KIERAN GILBERT: … thank you.
*Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee inquiry into Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Convergence Review and Other Measures) Bill 2013, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (News Media Diversity) Bill 2013, News Media (Self-regulation) Bill 2013, News Media (Self-regulation) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2013, Public Interest Media Advocate Bill 2013, Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013.