Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport representing the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Will the minister outline for the House the role of the media in reporting the facts on an issue impartially, accurately and with integrity?
Opposition members interjecting—
I thank the member for Reid for his question and his ongoing interest in media issues. It is indeed vital that the media take seriously their responsibility to report the facts with honesty and integrity. The media's main role is to report the news, not to make the news. I know the vast majority of the press gallery here do their jobs with integrity each and every day right across the spectrum, but there are some examples that should serve as cautionary tales.
In 2009 the Godwin Grech affair, also known as Utegate, and broken by Steve Lewis of News Limited, showed that certain parts of the media were involved in the attempted sabotage of a democratically elected government. Time and the truth ultimately brought out the real story in that matter. Now we are seeing another example that should be taken extremely seriously. Members will recall the splash, again by Steve Lewis, on 20 April about allegations of sexual harassment against the Speaker—
Mr Danby interjecting—
Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order. I refer you to page 505 of House of Representatives Practice, which states:
The convention is that, subject to the right of the House to legislate on any matter, matters awaiting adjudication in a court of law should not be brought forward in debate, motions or questions.
As this matter is before the Federal Court it is not in order.
Madam Deputy Speaker, on the point of order, the sub judice rule applies as a result of the exercise of your own discretion. It is a case-by-case basis. The Leader of the House in his capacity as the Minister representing the minister for communications has not yet gone into any of those details. If he were to do that, my understanding is that these are matters which have been made public by the court itself, and as a consequence the balance of public interest would be to allow these matters to be considered by the House.
Mr Randall interjecting—
How about the member for Canning allowing me to get on with the business of the House? I will hear the Minister representing the minister for communications but I will state that I am mindful of the sub judice issues before the chair and that the issues are currently before the court. The minister has the call.
I am also very mindful of those issues, which is why I am referring to articles published online today as a result of a release of documents publicly by the court. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled '"We will get him!": journalist's alleged texts to Slipper accuser' went online today—
Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order. The Leader of the House is referring to an affidavit lodged in the Federal Court. That is clearly a matter before the Federal Court and cannot be canvassed in the House.
It is very clear that we need to draw a distinction and that people in the media need to recognise whether they are reporters or participants, observers or activists. There is an important distinction between the two that has to be upheld for the sake of the integrity of the media. The fact is that the first I knew about those allegations was when they were published in the Daily Telegraph. I am not surprised that, given the reports today outlining the active involvement prior to the publication of those allegations—
The member for McEwen will leave the chamber under 94(a).
Ms O'Dwyer interjecting—
The member for Higgins might be close behind. The member for McEwen will leave the chamber under 94(a). This is a very important matter. I know everyone is hot under the collar about it but I think we should listen to it carefully.
The member for McEwe n then left the chamber.
Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order. The Leader of the House is now canvassing the Commonwealth's case in the Federal Court action. He is clearly now taking the argument of the Commonwealth and putting it into the parliament. It is not in order—
I conclude by saying this is an issue which involves taxpayers directly, because we are talking about an issue that involves taxpayers' interests and whether when someone was on the taxpayers' payroll they were meeting in News Ltd—
Further to that, Madam Deputy Speaker, the Leader of the House attempted to table documents to include in the Hansard that are also sub judice, and I ask you to have them ruled from the record.
The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. There is no issue of sub judice in respect of an article that is already in existence. I will seek advice from the Clerk afterwards about the incorporation into Hansard, as I had asked the minister to resume his seat.
Madam Deputy Speaker, if it is not in order for the Leader of the House to make remarks in the chamber and place them on the Hansard when they are sub judice, it certainly is not within his power to table those same remarks.