Newspapers could have critical protections from privacy laws ripped away by a Government-appointed official under new media laws mooted by the Federal Government. The proposed changes met with widespread criticism.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy unveiled his long-awaited package of media reforms, demanding the creation of a public interest test for major media mergers and the appointment of a bureaucrat to certify independent press regulatory
bodies. Conroy gave little information on how the public interest test would work and said the measures must pass Parliament inside two weeks or be junked.
Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull vowed that the Opposition would oppose the public interest test and the creation of the regulator:
Any attempt to regulate or further circumscribe the media has got to be viewed with the greatest of suspicion. Particularly from a Government that seems determined to cowl the media, to bully the media into not criticising it.
Under Senator Conroy's plan, an office called the Public Interest Media Advocate would be created that would apply the public interest test to mergers and give the tick to independent regulators such as the Australian Press Council or the
Independent Media Council.
The Media Advocate would have the power to revoke certification for either body should it judge it was not living up to its promised standards. Without certification, newspapers would lose protection from privacy laws and their ability to publish
controversial and legally risky stories would be compromised.