Australian Government trying to take away media freedom

Newspaper sea blue by Jon S

Newspaper sea blue by Jon S
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For those in Australia, you’ll be aware of our federal Labor government’s current media reform proposals.  While I try not to be too partisan in my public comments, this is concerning enough to write about.  I did enjoy watching Malcolm Turnbull berate the government on their proposal here.  It is, as Mr Turnbull said, very significant that the government is proposing to introduce regulation into our print media in peace time for the first time in our history.

Also significant, and not discussed anywhere I can see, is that this is an example of the federal government seeking to take more powers from the states.  The states, after all, were established before federation, so that there is no obvious reason that media regulation should be a federal matter.  The federal government regulate corporations through the corporations act, but the press and other media are not necessarily owned by companies.

[Note in what follows that the proposed government regulation will cover press and internet media with (paid) circulation about 15000 people]

Imagine for example that the state police wanted to put out a publication for which they charge a fee, and they gain more than 15000 subscribers.  Or one of the state councils do the same.  Or the state government itself establishes a state government newspaper.  In all of these cases, presumably the federal government is seeking to regulate such media output – which is clearly a trespass on state rights.

Or take non-profts like Christian newspapers.  One of my favourite Christian periodicals is The Briefing.  It’s quite possible they could have 15000 paid subscribers, so what about them?   I’m dead against the idea that they should be regulated by the government in what they say, or subjected to a ‘public interest test’.  I want them to proclaim the news about Jesus exactly as they see fit.

But imagine they are regulated, and further, that Matthias Media, their publisher, were not incorporated  (I think they are, but they could easily, theoretically, be simply an arm of a church, unincorporated) In that case, why is it a federal government regulator who should be overseeing their publication?  Why not a state regulator?  The same question could be asked regarding an individual who publishes a subscription blog with more than 15000 paid subscribers.  Why should they be regulated be the federal government, rather than the state government?

The creeping power of our federal government is a phenomenon I understand – it’s part of the sinful world that people try to arrogate power to themselves – but it is a phenomenon I lament all the same.

2 Comments to “Australian Government trying to take away media freedom”

  1. Ian Kelly says:

    Can you imagine what would have happend if this got up coupled with the proposed (defeated) internet filter.

    Scratching my head from what is ‘supposed’ to be the more liberal side of politics in Labour, or perhaps they are just sick of everyone finding out about the constant Union corruption (HSU) and State Govt corruption, (ICAC/Ian McDonald) etc

    • Hi Ian, thanks for dropping by and commenting! I’m for trying to see things from all sides, and for trying to see the good as well as the bad. I admit it is difficult with an issue like press regulation. I can easily understand the desire to stop kids being exposed to porn on the internet (hence the internet filter), and to have accurate reporting in media. To a much lesser degree, I can see the desire to have a ‘balance’ of views in the media.
      It seems the internet filter was impractical, which makes sense.
      On the issue of accuracy, the status quo level of accuracy in reporting seems okay to me, especially when weighed against the concerns of having a government regulator of the press. I definitely prefer the status quo accuracy level to having a government regulator.
      As for the idea of ‘balance’, one man’s “left wing” is another man’s “right wing”. For that reason, I don’t think it works to have a regulator deciding which views are ‘left wing’ and which are ‘right wing’, so that ‘balance’ is achieved. I don’t think we want a regulator deciding which views are so wrong that they just shouldn’t get air play at all.
      But I’m interested, Ian, in your comment about the ‘liberal’ side of politics being the Labour party – it got me thinking. One definition of ‘left wing’ would be ‘bigger government’, so ‘bigger government’ could be taken to mean more regulation and thus less freedom of the media. So the far left regulates the media entirely to the tune of communist suppression. In Australia, of course, the right wing is called the ‘Liberal party’ – opposite to the way they think in America. And perhaps this is an example of where the Australian nomenclature rings true. The Liberal Party – the right wing, small government party, are in Australia genuinely the party of greater freedom, including greater press freedom.

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