Here’s a quick test of Peter
Costello’s integrity, of whether he’s the sort of person you’d ever
want as prime minister, or whether he’s just another hypercritical
politician willing to bend over for anyone rich and powerful who might
help him get ahead: Pete, now that your department’s ridiculous
contortions and dissembling to help Rupert Murdoch have been exposed,
just scrap the newspaper foreign ownership rules.

You
can do it, Pete, you can do it today. They are just guidelines really,
totally at your personal discretion – unlike the more complicated
broadcast and cross-media shenanigans Senator Coonan is fiddling with
for the greater glory of the media mates.

The newspaper rules,
as interpreted by News Ltd’s lawyers and your department (are they the
same thing?) are, at best, a joke. It’s not hard to form the opinion
that these rules have been administered to help Murdoch entrench and
expand his domination of Australian newspapers at the expense of
consumers. The outrageous News Ltd/Treasury interpretation allows News
Corp – a 100% foreign entity – to start new newspapers while preventing
a would-be competitor from doing the same thing in Adelaide and
Brisbane. (See Media Watch transcript here).

You
know it stinks to high heaven, Pete, and you’re the responsible
minister. How can you possibly quote Adam Smith while running a racket
like this one? The words didn’t stick in your throat?

And it’s a
no-brainer from the public good angle – you’d be creating jobs,
lowering newspaper advertising rates, putting more money in the pockets
of businesses, encouraging foreign investment, providing greater
diversity of opinion, etc. The only loser would be News Corp recording
a slightly lower profit if it loses its monopolies.

So go on,
Pete, just do it. At least announce that anyone can start a new
newspaper. It would show a little leadership. It would indicate you’re
not just a media baron’s lap dog – because that’s sure the way it looks
now.

Peter Fray

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