The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Australian: public interest test threat to freedom of speech

A great editorial in The Australian today:

IF a competent and popular government that had sought and received a mandate for media regulation proposed a government-funded News Media Council, we would oppose it.

But when it is pushed by a government that has never put its plans to the electorate, is so lacking in self-confidence that it has produced two leadership contests, and blames some media for its record lows in the polls, we are entitled to be especially alarmed. The Gillard government's media regulation proposals deserve to be opposed by voters, of all political leanings, who want to see our imperfect but robust democracy protected.

No matter how benign the intention, government regulation of news media content is an incursion on free speech because it opens up the potential for political pressure at the expense of the public's right to know. The news media must be fearless in its scrutiny of our political system, and other facets of society. The threat of sanction from a government-funded authority, on top of the constraints that already exist through defamation and vilification laws, can only stifle news reporting and impede the scrutiny of government...

Governments are not renowned for telling us all we need to know. We learn today that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's justification for a public interest test on media ownership is disingenuous. He cites Productivity Commission support for adding such a test. In fact, the commission only backed the test as an alternative restriction to current ownership rules. Only a free media can be relied upon to correct such unfortunate oversights in our political debate.