Redistribution of wealth is a concept traditionally associated with the political Left. But over the past month or so Australia’s conservative government has brought new meaning to the idea through a reform policy that has resulted in the redistribution of billions of dollars from well-heeled investors into the pockets of needy families. For a snapshot of how the government’s policy has worked, here are some case studies of how deserving families have benefited:

The Packer family: The family-controlled company PBL received $4.5 billion last month for half of its TV, magazine and internet interests on the day the government’s media welfare legislation, protecting free-to-air television owners from competition, passed through the Senate. The family’s suitability for government financial support is validated by its place on the BRW Rich List: #1.

The Stokes family: The family-controlled Seven Network yesterday received $3.2 billion for half of its TV, magazine and internet interests, also as a result of the government’s media welfare legislation. The family’s suitability for government financial support is validated by its place on the BRW Rich List: #10
The O’Reilly, Gordon and Asper families: the respective controlling shareholders of the APN, WIN and TEN media groups have all announced they also intend to apply for the government’s new media welfare redistribution grants.

The Howard government’s media wealth redistribution laws – officially known as the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Act 2006 and the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Act 2006 – have succeeded faster and more effectively than even their political architects could have imagined. By the time the handouts are completed, the amount distributed to needy media families may reach $10 billion. Has any government ever made a better investment in its future?

Peter Fray

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