Family First Senator Steve Fielding, speaking in the Senate on 11 October, 2006 in the debate on the government’s bill to change the laws on media ownership, recalled something many in the media would prefer to forget. This was the way most in the media openly campaigned for a republic in 1999, even in news columns and newscasts.
“Consider the republic debate in 1999. With very few exceptions, every paper and journalist across the country actively campaigned for a yes vote. What effect did they have? Overwhelmingly Australians voted no.”
He said the “… real concern ought not be so much the concentration of ownership but the concentration of ideology: the concentration of ideas. Where is the evidence that the key factor that determines ideas is ownership? In other words, that owners dictate ideas? Out there in the real world it’s nothing like that.”
Senator Fielding indicated he would vote for the government’s bill. ACM has no views on that, but it is salutary that the Senator reminded the nation of the role which many in the media took upon themselves. This was to use their power, in breach of media ethics, to campaign for constitutional change.
The reaction of the voters may well have been to follow Christopher Pearson’s advice: “Annoy the media: vote No!”