Labor media reforms in doubt

By a staff reporter, with AAP

The federal government's proposed media sector reforms are in doubt as Labor scrambles to secure the support of independent MPs whose votes are needed to pass the legislation.

Former Labor MP Craig Thomson, who now sits as an independent, has withdrawn his support for the legislation, while the support of other independents remains unknown.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy wants the package of six bills passed by both houses by the end of next week, insisting there is no room for negotiation on them and that failing to meet that deadline will result in them not being passed at all.

However, the Senate voted not to meet the government's proposed final reporting date for a committee inquiry into the bills of March 20 and instead pushed the date out to June 17 – well beyond Mr Conroy's deadline.

The move by the coalition and the Greens to set the June 17 date comes as a direct challenge to Mr Conroy's deadline.

Liberal senator Simon Birmingham insisted that the bills, and the deadline imposed by Mr Conroy, had been “scuttled”, while fellow Liberal senator Mitch Fifield said that that Labor is “not interested at all in having serious, careful examination of the legislation”.

Also in doubt is Labor's ability to strike a committee that would be tasked with examining rules to reshape the television landscape, according to The Australian Financial Review.

Overnight, crossbenchers said they did not know who was on the committee or when it would meet, with Labor reportedly struggling to find the necessary 10 members to sit on the committee, which is supposed to hear evidence on Monday from TV chiefs about the reach rule.

Independent Rob Oakeshott denied reports he is seeking to trade his support for the reforms for unrelated legislation, adding that the media reforms are “flawed”, the AFR added.

Under the proposed reforms, a Public Interest Media Advocate would have broad powers to punish publishers if it decided that they no longer complied with undefined “community standards”, with no court appeal provision for media owners.

Media executives have widely criticised the proposed reforms. Ten Network Ltd called the process a “complete shambles”, while Seven West Media Ltd called the process a “farce”, The Australian reported.