Australia is a nation where freedom of speech has appeared as solidly established as anywhere in the world.Read the rest here.
Today, however, it is under a massive threat. This is all the more shocking because it is as head-on assault on Australia's entire political culture of liberty and democracy.
In the latest development, the governing alliance of the leftist Australian Labor Party and the extreme leftist Greens have received an official report into media regulation recommending draconian controls.
The 470-page report, commissioned as part of the government's vendetta against the Murdoch press, demands that the media be made more "accountable," and that the government have the power to impose "professional standards." The chairman of the inquiry that made the report, retired Federal Court Judge Roy Finkelstein, recommends a News Media Council be set up to license the press and to censor news reporting and political commentary.
Licensing the media has always been abhorrent in the English-speaking world. It was not contemplated even in Australia's first days as a penal colony.
It is recommended that the council -- presumably to be called the Ministry of Truth -- should have a judge or lawyer as its chairman, appointed by the government, and 20 members, a large portion of whom would be nominated by the Labor-affiliated journalists' union.
The council would have power to alter or permanently ban articles. Disobedience would result in a fine or imprisonment for contempt of court, and there would be no appeal. As well as having the power to ban articles, the council would have the power to compel media to publish responses to stories.
Now get this: its jurisdiction would extend not merely to newspapers -- which would be outrageous enough -- but also to any website. Perhaps even if it was visited by only one or two people a day. Finkelstein says its jurisdiction should cover websites which get more than 15,000 hits a year, or an average of 41 a day, that is, practically every website that could be described as publishing "news, information and opinion of current value."
HT: Bill (aka The Godfather).