The Nationals will want to
preserve the AWB for their constituency. That helps John Howard. But
the PM mightn’t be so happy with something else they may try to hang on
to.

The SMHreports today that proposed new media ownership laws – expected within days – may be rejected by the country cousins.

Nationals
leader Mark Vaile told his party room last night that a stronger
differentiation of policy from the Liberals and an enhanced policy role
for its backbenchers would help their party survive.

And media ownership is already a subject where National backbenchers have held independent views.

Paul Neville, De-Anne Kelly and Ron Boswell blocked media ownership reforms in the government party room back in 2002 .
A curious coalition of Liberals objected to the proposed measures back
then too – Bruce Baird, Bronwyn Bishop and Marise Payne. Bruce
Billson, Petro Georgiou and Sophie Panopoulos asked for more
information.

Neville – a thorn in the government’s side over Telstra – has taken an equally strong position over media ownership.

More crucially, Barnaby Joyce has raised concerns, threatening the passage of legislation in the Senate.

Family
First’s Steve Fielding, who gave the Government its VSU win, has so far
used the excuse of any obvious “family impact” to duck debate on media
law.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan plans to replace
existing laws with a system that will allow media mergers so long as
mainland state capital cities retain at least five distinct commercial
media operators and regional markets four.

The risk of less diversity must surely be a concern to a proselytising Christian like Fielding.

And
then there’s the Nationals’ own Senate leader, Boz. He’s only been
granted a temporary reprieve with the delaying of the Queensland
Nationals Senate preselection until after the state poll.

If the
Nats regret their Telstra vote, if they want some product
differentiation, media could be it. A number of Liberals would probably
quietly cheer them on.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW