Kerry Stokes, Australia’s number one perjurer, is set to become Australia’s number one bribe taker if new media laws are passed next week in federal parliament. It will hand the free to air television networks a billion dollar plus election year bribe via a permanent reduction in annual licence fees.
It makes no sense to do this at all, let alone in a time of multi-billion dollar budget deficits.
This is important because the public are reliant on the media for information which helps us decide who to vote for. Even if media organisations skew their election coverage only a few percentage points in favour of one political party in can help that party greatly.
The reason I refer to Kerry Stokes as Australia’s number one perjurer is outlined in a previous post I did on him in 2011. (Click here to read the post) Mr Stokes took offence and sent me a threatening letter from his lawyer which was baseless. I responded with another post on the threat and basically said get lost and never heard from him again. (Click here to read the post) He tried to stop my legitimate reporting, so I think he is hardly the type of person that we should be giving a government handout for his media assets.
Firstly though we should look at where this first started with the 2010 “election year bribe” as Tony Abbott then put it.
2010 Election Year Media Bribe
In February 2010 the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy announced a temporary reduction in “licence fees networks pay by 33 per cent this year and 50 per cent in 2011″.
“The issue has begun to gain traction in the electorate, as Senator Conroy has declined to discuss how his department came up with the formula that will generate at least $250m for the networks at the expense of taxpayers, and amid ongoing revelations about his private meetings with Seven Network executive chairman Kerry Stokes.” (Click here to read more)
Only a month before this was announced in 2010 Stephen Conroy met Kerry Stokes at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Colorado USA for a meeting and a few ski runs, as you do when on holidays. Also “Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a previous recipient of Mr Stokes’s hospitality, staying in Mr Stokes’s mansion in Broome, WA, last year“. (Click here to read more)
Tony Abbott at the time called it the $250 Million election year bribe. He said “It looks like at this stage, unless the government can justify much better than it has so far . . . an election year bribe,” he said. “Maybe there is more to this, which the government hasn’t told us about, but . . . it looks like they’re buying favourable coverage.” (Click here to read more)
And “Asked if the government was ”bribing the media so they’ll be nice to the Labor Party”, Mr Abbott said: ”Absolutely right, that’s what it looks like.” (Click here to read more)
2013 Election Year Media Bribe
While the new media laws are expected to be rejected by parliament, it is a very close call and there will only be one or maybe two votes in it. This is the case with most of the legislation since the minority government was formed after the 2010 election.
There are so many unanswered questions with the new media laws and it all seems rather suspicious. It would have to be one of the fastest rush jobs parliament has seen. Yes, there has been numerous inquiries and media laws have been in the spotlight for quite some time, but the legislation has not. The government announced the new media laws this week and are trying to pass the laws next week with as little scrutiny and debate as possible.
Why the government would want to drop the television licence fees on a permanent basis when there is no logical reason to do so, can in my mind only be explained as an attempt to gain more favourable election coverage.
It is not just Kerry Stokes who benefits from the reduction in licence fees, Channel 10 and Channel 9 do as well. But the reduction seems to have been driven by Mr Stokes in 2010 at least and most likely again now. If the government are trying to buy better election coverage, Mr Stokes and Channel 7 would be the target as they are unlikely to get better election coverage from Channel 10 with Gina Rinehart on the board. Ms Rinehart is well-known to dislike the Labor Government and apparently helped Andrew Bolt get his own show on Channel 10 which seems to spend most of its time attacking the Labor Government. Channel Nine did the infamous Mark Latham report on Sixty Minutes before the 2010 election which embarrassed the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, so one can hardly say they took a bribe then, although they now have new owners who might be swayed.
Why Tony Abbott and the opposition have not picked up on the current bribe attempt is unknown.
This post might seem off topic but it is an extension of the posts that I have done on Kerry Stokes as well as the two posts that I did on the Finkelstein media inquiry.
Update Tuesday 19/3/13
“The first – and only non-controversial – part of the government’s new media laws has passed the House of Representatives.”
“The Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013 halves the annual license fee for commercial TV networks, making it a maximum of 4.5 per cent of gross earnings.”
“It passed the lower house unanimously.” (Click here to read more)
I suppose this post was too little too late. The rich get richer and the poor get the picture.
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