Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her stint as Phillip Adams’ ‘Canberra Babylon’ contributor and her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and #Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston
Photo Alex Ellinghausen @ellinghausen  #thepulselive

Photo Alex Ellinghausen @ellinghausen #thepulselive

Question Time House of Representatives March 13, 2013

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (14:29): My question is to the Prime Minister. Can she provide the House examples of published content in breach of the standards her government wishes to enforce through the Public Interest Media Advocate? Is the front page of today’s Telegraph such an example? If she cannot provide any examples, what exactly is the mischief, the problem, that her new media controls are intended to address?

Ms GILLARD (Lalor—Prime Minister) (14:30): I thank the member for Wentworth for his question and I understand its motivations. I understand that the opposition have decided to seek some political advantage by bandwagoning with media interests and media organisations, transparent—and bordering on the laughable—as that is. Yes, it is.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD: I am glad the opposition have the good grace to laugh when their motivations on this matter are transparently exposed. To the member for Wentworth I would say this: before we get into any sanctimonious nonsense about freedom of speech, it was under the Howard government that two journalists—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! There seems to be sanctimonious disrespect for the standing orders. I am not going to preside over, yet again, another day when not a word can be heard in this chamber. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: Yes—this is the kind of hypocrisy that we see from the opposition. It was under the Howard government that two News Limited journalists faced jail for contempt of court. The reaction of the Howard government: do nothing. The reaction of this government: provide journalist shield laws. It was under the Howard government that churches would have their grants taken away—their services smashed—if they spoke out against government policy.

Mr Turnbull: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is not relevant. I am more than happy to debate freedom of the press. I have asked the Prime Minister—

The SPEAKER: The member for Wentworth will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: I beg to differ. I think churches and charities being able to speak out freely is important to freedom of speech—and we have ensured it can happen. We have taken away the gag clauses that the Howard government had to stop churches and charities ever questioning an aspect of government policy. So maybe the member for Wentworth, who has been out today talking about freedom of speech, should take a look in the mirror and at the record of those opposite on these questions. The government’s reform agenda has been misrepresented by the member for Wentworth in his question—completely misrepresented.

Mr Turnbull: What about Spycatcher?

The SPEAKER: The member for Wentworth is warned.

Ms GILLARD: Spycatcher was a long time ago. And those gag clauses are far more recent, as well as that threat to jail journalists. Coming back to the member for Wentworth’s question, the member for Wentworth has completely misrepresented the nature of the government’s reforms. What is being discussed here—and proposed to the parliament—is better self-regulation through an independent public interest media advocate. I would ask the member for Wentworth: why does he think that an appropriate self regulation for our media should not occur? Why doesn’t he think that? I am not going to be drawn on examples because it is inappropriate for me to do so—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order!

Ms GILLARD: because this is not about my view; this is not about the view of politicians. This is about a system of better self-regulation which would mean, of course, that we see a functioning press council, or press councils, self-regulating the media. I think that is appropriate and certainly in line with the best of freedom of speech. (Time expired)

Daily Terror Fron tpage as corrected by Twitter

Daily Telegraph Front page as corrected by Twitter

Question Time The Senate March 13, 2013

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania—Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, and I refer to his proposed draconian media laws outlined yesterday. Has it ever occurred to the minister that the bad media that his government sometimes receives may not be due to unfair media coverage but rather due to the fact that the government is neither competent nor trustworthy? Does the minister really believe that a government that says one thing before an election and does another thing afterwards, that increases the cost of living, that cannot control its spending, that racks up record debt, that wrecks border security and that every day reveals its festering internal hatreds and bitterness deserves to receive good press? Is this not just one last desperate throw of the dice by a government that knows its only hope of survival is to intimidate and stifle the media?

Senator CONROY (Victoria—Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity): Could I thank Senator Abetz for his question and reject the entire premise of his question. The responses that we have seen in yesterday’s and today’s media could only be described, even with prediction, as hysterical. If we had announced nationalising the media, it could not have been more hysterical. All the package that we have put forward is about is promoting principles of privacy, fairness—

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence we will proceed.

Senator CONROY: The package that we are putting forward is about promoting the principles of privacy, fairness, accuracy and diversity. In 2007 in this chamber, those opposite voted to undermine and overturn parts of the cross-media laws. They have allowed a situation where a further concentration of diversity could happen, in a market that is one of the most concentrated in the world. We have argued for five-plus years that we support a public interest test on media mergers. Those opposite have always rejected that. Those opposite believe: ‘Just leave it to the competition policy. Let’s pretend that the lifeblood of democracy, diversity of opinion, is just another widget in the marketplace.’ That is what those opposite want you to believe. That is what those opposite want you to accept as a position. At no time have this government threatened the media or intimidated the media. We reject that. (Time expired)

Senator ABETZ Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Was this media decision, just like the NBN decision, worked out on the back of an envelope and done on the run, without a proper cabinet submission or input? Does the minister really believe that this kind of decision making is a proper way to run the Australian government? Why does his unsighted legislation need to be bullied and guillotined through the parliament in less than two weeks?

Senator CONROY The analogy that Senator Abetz claims is false. So the premise of the question is false. The NBN went through months of careful consideration and cabinet subcommittee meetings, and ultimately went to cabinet. This has been worked through—

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind honourable senators that if they wish to debate the issue, the time for the debate is after three o’clock.

Senator CONROY: The process that the NBN went through was extensive, just like we have seen over the last two years. We have had the Finkelstein inquiry, the convergence reports and inquiry, extensive public hearings, extensive public commentary, public reports and comments on the public reports. Many, many pages of newspapers and many TV shows have debated these issues over two years.
(Time expired)

Senator ABETZ Clearly no cabinet submission was put. Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister tell the Senate if the Prime Minister is an enthusiastic supporter of his media proposals? Does every Labor parliamentarian, including the member for Griffith, Mr Rudd, support these proposals? Were these changes discussed with their on again, off again alliance partners, the Australian Greens?

Senator CONROY This went through the cabinet and it went through the caucus, and it is the position supported by all of the caucus of the party. Everybody had their opportunity, as they do in your party room. Everybody had the opportunity—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, resume your seat. When there is silence we will proceed.

Senator CONROY: The caucus considered this and endorsed it overwhelmingly.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator CONROY: You can read in the newspapers everything you need to read about the caucus. We will continue to argue to protect diversity in this country. The lap-dogs over there are happy to allow for voices to be lost. The lifeblood of democracy is at stake here. This is all about diversity, all about protecting diversity. (Time expired)

Read MoreMedia despots, tsars and henchmen bury media reform