At 4:15pm this afternoon, go to the Federal Court website and check out the judgment in the case between The Australian and the federal government over the operation of our FOI laws.

It’s
a $1 million case that the Murdoch empire has admirably funded to try
to prise open the door into the functioning of the Howard Government
across a range of areas that The Australian’s FOI editor, Michael McKinnon, has been exploring for a couple of years.

For
News Ltd to win, the full bench of the Federal Court will need to write
some new law, so all the media should take note of what they say as
Australia’s most powerful newspaper group tackles Federal treasurer
Peter Costello head on. Radio National’s Media Report produced this nice summary of the case last week.

Meanwhile,
the Melbourne media has also been before the Victorian Supreme Court
trying to overturn what looks like a ridiculous suppression order
relating to Carl Williams, his father George Williams and his wife
Roberta Williams.

You can Google them to find out why they are
newsworthy, but as it stands today I would be in contempt of court to
mention anything adverse about them. This applies for the next few
months, although the court of appeal has indicated it will reformulate
this order by Justice King which reads as follows:

The court
orders that the publication of any reference to the antecedents,
current charges or pending charges, or any reference which reflects
adversely on the character of Carl Williams, George Williams or Roberta
Williams in any media outlet, newspaper, radio or television outlet is
prohibited until further notice.

Channel Nine’s Adam Shand has
no chance of getting his book published if this sort of sweeping,
indefinite ban remains in place but we are now waiting for the two
appeal court judges to reveal how much they are watering down Justice
King’s original order. Let’s hope the change is substantial.

Peter Fray

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