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Kim Williams, News Limited CEO in Australia on Conroy's attempts to control Australia's media

I print here the text, in full, a statement made by Kim Williams, the CEO of News Limited in Australia on Conroy's disgraceful attempts to control - and define - the media.

If Conroy gets his way, some communications Tsar will determine what you can hear and see - the Daily Telegraph pictures just that day


THIS government will go down in history as the first Australian government outside of wartime to attack freedom of speech by seeking to introduce a regime which effectively institutes government sanctioned journalism.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is threatening to take away privacy law exemptions - often described as shield provisions - which are fundamental to the operation of journalism in our democracy. He clearly said today that these protections for journalism would be removed if the proposed Public Interest Media Advocate was unhappy with the oversight of a media company's reporting by the Australian Press Council.

This removes the capacity of journalists to do their job - it is a not too sophisticated endeavour to gag the media.

The government also risks standing as the one that turned the clock back to last century, with its highly interventionist, vague and unnecessary public interest test on media ownership - which is nothing more than a political interest test which governments will use to punish outlets they don't like.

It will only serve to add layers of uncertainty, huge cost and inefficiency, adding yet another cost on business and Australian taxpayers.

The stated rationale of the public interest test is that it is to preserve media diversity. Yet there is more media diversity today than in all of human history. Moreover, both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Communications and Media Authority already have extensive powers to enforce media diversity today.

The minister has made no case as to the inadequacy of these existing powers. This proposal cannot be about diversity - that false need in the face of plenty is a sad disguise for the government's desire to control the media. The irony that the reference to a desire to preserve diversity is contained in a statement which advocates the abolition of the 75 per cent television broadcast reach rule is not lost on journalists.

The Public Interest "Tsar" will be beholden to government and will act as its gatekeeper. It is a sad day for Australian democracy.

It also represents a profound debasing of public policy process to sit on two reports for a year and then to put a gun to the head of parliament and business demanding passage of a series of bills in less than a week - all without any consultation with the print and digital media industry. Bills which have a huge impact on major employers, thousands of employees, investors and taxpayers in the Australian economy are being proposed in an old fashioned "stick 'em up" style hardly reflecting reasonable behaviour in a dynamic modern digital economy.

The whole approach today constitutes a travesty of public policy and parliamentary process.

Mr Williams gave a speech today to the Australian-Israel Chamber of Commerce, it's worth reading in full.

Kim at the Aus israel lunch

Download Kim williams aus-israel chamber of commerce