Malcolm Turnbull is always a trailblazer – and in Parliament on 5 September he gave us a wonderful example of what life may be like if Helen Coonan’s new media laws are passed. He devoted an entire Adjournment Debate speech – time when MPs can get up and get something off their chests – to singing the praises of his local rag:

This week the Courier Newspaper Group is being relaunched as the Federal Publishing Company Community Media Group. The newly named group is relaunching three of its stable of community newspapers—the Southern Courier, the Inner West Courier and my local newspaper, the Wentworth Courier. The group was the first community newspaper group to go to colour and gloss printing, and do so within newspaper deadlines. The new-look newspapers produced this week will continue that great tradition of innovation.

The Federal Publishing Company Community Group constitutes an extraordinary newspaper business, in large measure due to its proprietors, the Hannan family. The Hannan family started business in the eastern suburbs, in Randwick, as butchers in 1887, and they moved into newspapers in 1934. From this point they built a stable of newspaper and other publishing titles which now constitute Australia’s largest privately owned media business. Their flagship title, the Wentworth Courier, is an outstanding publication both in editorial and financial terms. The “Wenty”, as we call it in the eastern suburbs, breaks news and is often a source of news and stories for major metropolitan dailies such as the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph

Today the proud family tradition of the Hannans continues with the fifth generation of family members employed in the business. The family members in the business include their chairman, John Hannan, from the third generation, Michael Hannan from the fourth generation is the executive chairman, Kim O’Connor from the fourth generation is the chief journalist, Lindsay Hannan and Stephen Hannan work in the printing business and David Hannan works in the property business. From the fifth generation there are James Hannan in the interactive business, Cassie Hannan in the consumer magazines, Adrian O’Connor in the consumer magazines and Richard O’Connor in their marketing department. That is a phenomenal contribution; I would think unprecedented in any family business in Australia.

I want to commend the Hannans not just for their commitment to family and business but also for their commitment, beyond reporting, to the community which I have the honour of serving in this place. I would like to make special mention here of Kim O’Connor, a fourth generation Hannan and the chief reporter for the Wentworth Courier …

The Hannans sponsor local rugby, local small business awards, community events, such as the famous People and Pets Day in Lyne Park at Rose Bay, and many charities. They are a proud local family with a strong sense of community. In this important week for them, with the relaunch of three of their community newspapers and the Federal Publishing Company Community Media Group, I offer them my sincere congratulations and best wishes for their continued success in nurturing the ideals that we all share of family, community and enterprise…

You get the drift.

Malcolm’s a savvy bloke. He’s a former journo, too. He knows all about communications and media and convergence and the issues at stake here with the new media laws.

He’s got three weeks until Parliament sits again. Here’s hoping that he can put that time to good use and study the Institute of Public Affairs’ list of Australia’s 13 biggest mistakes. Media law figures prominently there:

The Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1905 inaugurated the century-long comedy of errors that is Australian media and telecommunications policy. The sector of the economy that has been characterised by some of the most rapid technological innovation has, at the same time, been cursed by governments concerned more with their own power than with the demands of consumers …

Initially, Prime Minister Barton was reluctant to do anything to encourage the expansion of wireless technology, worrying that it would harm the commercial viability of existing telegraphy companies—a theme that still characterises Australian communications policy …

As it became clear that the wireless spectrum was a highly valuable commercial commodity, successive Commonwealth governments tightened their control over it. In the 1920s, at the behest of industry lobbyists, the government legislated to ensure that radio sets were ‘sealed’ so that they could only receive broadcasts from one station—not surprisingly this regime collapsed within twelve months …

If an ambitious parliamentarian wanted to be noticed, there’s plenty to begin with there.

Peter Fray

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