Opening statement to the Independent Inquiry into Media and Media Regulation

I have serious concerns about the political circumstances under which this Inquiry was formed. The relationship between the government, the Greens and News Limited is unrelentingly hostile, as we all know, and the Inquiry is clearly and explicitly the result of that hostility.

Nevertheless, obviously questioning the political purpose of the Inquiry is within the terms of reference and I would like to speak to those, but I think that the circumstances under which the Inquiry was formed do actually provide an implicit guide for the Inquiry itself. The Inquiry needs to avoid any suggestion that the result of those circumstances is an increased regulatory burden on the opponents of the government.

I am also concerned because the Inquiry, in my view, seems to be asking some of the wrong questions and travelling down some of the wrong paths. Never before have consumers had more access to more media. Never before have citizens had such an opportunity to create their own media, and never before have the business models that sustain the press been under such intense and escalating strain. The walls that separate journalists from consumer, blogger from publisher, commenter and broadcaster online are completely breaking down. It is my strong view the implication of these trends implies that regulation of the press should be, if anything, reduced. Certainly I will go further and suggest that many of the concepts which have been raised and may be raised in the future by this Inquiry might be seen as anachronistic within the next decade.

I don’t speak from a journalism perspective, but from a political economy and political philosophy perspective. Many of the suggestions that have been raised so far by some submissions and some commentators in the press I find extremely objectionable when we consider the high importance that the liberal democracies place on freedom of speech.

It is my view that journalists, commentators, bloggers, people yelling on street corners and even media moguls should have their freedom of speech protected equally. Thank you.