Victoria: Muslim Council whines about free speech and “double standards”

Inciting genocide of Jews and calling them ‘sons of apes & pigs’ is the same as allowing  Dutch MP Geert Wilders to speak.  Anything less would be “double standards”, says Muslim Board Member Mohamad Tabbaa

In other news:

“Diversity” undesirable:

Diversity of opinion is the lifeblood of democracy – at least that’s what ‘media regulator in chief’ and Gillard Government minister Stephen Conroy claims. And then he does the exact opposite:

Get their hands off our throats  (Andrew Bolt)


News Ltd boss Kim Williams sounds the alarm while it’s still legal:

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.

The Daily Telegraph fights back while it’s still free:


A GOVERNMENT-appointed enforcer would oversee press standards and have the power to apply sanctions, which critics said would stifle news reporting, under proposed draconian media changes.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday announced a new proposed statutory position of Public Interest Media Advocate, among a raft of changes the government will attempt to ram through parliament by the end of next week.

The advocate would oversee the Press Council, the main vehicle for complaints about the print media, and could take back exemptions from privacy laws afforded to journalists to report valid news stories if the advocate deemed a breach of standards.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy does double speak on Lateline last night:

STEPHEN CONROY: What’s a sad day for democracy is the continued erosion of diversity of opinion. And nobody wants to see a further concentration of opinion and ownership is a vital factor in the diversity of opinion.

Don’t be fooled. What Conroy wants is not more diversity of opinion but less.

Where on earth is the evidence of a lack of diversity of opinion? For opinions of the Left, there is the gigantic ABC, The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Courier Mail, various columnists in News Ltd (Phillip Adams, David Penberthy, Malcolm Farr, Susie O’Brien etc), Crikey, Arena, The Green Left Weekly, The Conversation, Sky News, the Global Mail, The Project, and so many other radio and Internet outlets, from Mamamia to GetUp.

For conservatives and Right-wingers there are various News Ltd columnists, The Australian, 2GB, Chris Kenny on Sky News, Quadrant, The Bolt Report on Channel 10, Michael Smith News, my blog and some other outlets on radio and the Internet.

Where is this “erosion”?

Here are hints of the real problem, several drawn from Conroy’s unwittingly revealing interview last night on Lateline.

First, Conroy has already called an inquiry into what the Greens insisted was the “hate media” – an inquiry that focused on News Ltd and journalists reporting on climate change from a sceptical position.  (Conroy really does believe there’s a News Ltd plot against the Gillard Government.)

Second, Conroy intervened to block News Ltd’s winning tender of the Australia Network, giving it back to the more friendly ABC.

Third, Conroy in this election year handed the ABC $10 million for news coverage.

Fourth, Conroy on Lateline cited as a benefit of the $37 billion NBN he’s building the ability to help Crikey, a hard-Left website:

I’m a huge supporter in trying to bring the National Broadband Network, which will allow all of those digital voices to come into people’s homes, but we’re not yet at the stage where Crikey, probably the most well-known blog/subscription model, actually only has about 15,000 customers.

Fifth, Conroy in citing the need for tougher rules against journalists just two examples of alleged error and bias that – surprise! – involve reports critical of the Gillard Government:

I think my colleague Anthony Albanese recently had an experience where a news report went to air on the nightly 6 o’clock news, he put in a complaint to the ACMA. He was upheld completely. All of the points made in the program were wrong….

I myself had an experience where someone complained about the Daily Telegraph’s reporting of the National Broadband Network. And they made three complaints. All of them were upheld by the Press Council. And they were ordered to – by the Press Council, the Daily Telegraph, to correct it prior to Christmas a couple of Christmases ago, and not only didn’t they comply with that, they waited until 27th December and they put it on I think about page 42 in tiny print.

Sixth, in saying on Lateline laws were needed for more diversity of opinion, he in the next breath mentioned News Ltd as an opponent:

So it will be a sad day for democracy if there was a further reduction in the diversity of opinion. So, News Limited have at times been quite hysterical about this.

And, seventh, I know Conroy has threatened a media organisation about giving me a platform, and also know how another media organisation has seen his threats of controls as threats meant to make their coverage more government friendly.

No one, but no one, should doubt that however Conroy dresses up these changes, they are an assault against the freedom of journalists to say what they think, and against the freedom of the public to hear whom they want.

It is astonishing – revolting – that such attacks on free speech should be launched in Australia today.

The Left-wing Crikey site is excused: and the plethora of blogs that aggregate content created elsewhere would not be regarded as significant media organisations under proposed new media laws unveiled yesterday by the federal government.


The IPA’s Chris Berg explains Conroy’s changes – giving government and its “independent” bureaucrats more control over what you are allowed to read and hear:


Opposition communication spokesman Malcolm Turnbull nails it:


Mr Turnbull said appointing a government official to check on the press was a way to “bully the media” and a public interest test on ownership would also lead to political influence over the sector.

“I have no doubt that we would seek to repeal any sort of public interest test on media takeovers,” he said.

The statutory press oversight would also be repealed.

“I do not see why there should be a government official, a public official, a bureaucrat no doubt, overseeing the Australian media,” Mr Turnbull said.

“The press, now writ large courtesy of the internet, has always been free subject to the laws of defamation and contempt of court and so forth. And it should remain free. We should be enjoying more freedom, not less.”

James Paterson calls it for what it is:

ALL politicians are self-interested. But few are as shameless as Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

His proposed “media reforms” may be a thinly veiled response to a technologically driven changing media landscape, but we all know their real purpose: to punish and rein in the federal government’s critics in the media…

Conroy has been egged on by Labor backbenchers and the Greens for months about the evils of media companies such as News Limited, publisher of The Australian. Former Greens leader Bob Brown famously dubbed News as part of the “hate media” and called for licensing for newspaper proprietors. Current Greens leader Christine Milne called for a “fit and proper test” so the government could control who invested in the media.

In November 2011 Labor senator Doug Cameron said reporting in News Limited paper The Daily Telegraph that Kevin Rudd might challenge for leadership of the ALP amounted to a “threat to democracy”. Of course, when Rudd did challenge less than six months later, Cameron was among his number-crunchers.

Steve Gibbons, another Labor backbencher, even called for individual journalists to receive fines to improve the “fairness of our media”.

Conroy has finally delivered in spades for the most deranged critics of the media.


I like Rinehart and do not understand the legal argument here, but this is not a good look for someone on the board of the company employing the journalist:


FAIRFAX MEDIA shareholder Gina Rinehart has taken aim at one of the news group’s most senior journalists over sources used in a biography of the mining billionaire.

Mrs Rinehart, the chairman of Hancock Prospecting, has served a subpoena demanding Adele Ferguson hand over notes of conversations she had with Mrs Rinehart’s son, John Hancock.

Ms Ferguson, author of an unauthorised biography of Mrs Rinehart, has until March 29 to provide “emails, text messages, notebooks and any recordings of interviews that may have been made” in relation to conversations the journalist had with Mr Hancock dating back to September 2011, Fairfax reports.


Rinehart’s lawyers says the report is sensationalist and inaccurate:

Ms Ferguson is, like many people are every day, the recipient of a subpoena as a third party with information relevant to legal proceedings on foot.  The subpoena process is an integral part of the civil justice system, permitting litigants to seek information from third parties that is relevant to existing proceedings.  The media is not excused from this integral part of the justice system.

In Ms Ferguson’s case she has had extensive conversations with Mr John Hancock in her capacity as an author commissioned, we understand, by Fairfax and more recently as a Fairfax journalist.  No one is seeking to force her to reveal her source.  That source is acknowledged by Ms Ferguson as being Mr Hancock, who has been extensively quoted by her. Ms Ferguson sought and published information from Mr Hancock despite acknowledging in her book (at page 379) Mr Hancock’s “agreement not to speak to the media.”

The contents of Mr Hancock’s communications to Ms Ferguson are relevant to the conduct of an arbitration the details of which are confidential.  Any documents produced by Ms Ferguson under the subpoena to the arbitrator will also remain confidential.


(Thanks to readers Susan and Peter. Image via Catallaxy.)


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