PM open to barter and happy to banter
UNDER THE FLAG
No horse-trading: Julia Gillard. Photo: Andrew Meares
The Prime Minister wanted it made clear. There would be no ''horse-trading'' over the media law reforms - the ones which are either perfectly reasonable measures safeguarding media diversity, or the greatest threat to free speech since the future Mr and Mrs Stalin locked eyes across the dance floor at the Gori village disco.
No, no horses would change hands. But other barnyard animals may be on offer. Certainly the exchange of ponies, possibly a donkey, would be considered, despite the steely non-negotiable stance struck by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last week.
When Conroy said he was ''not prepared to barter this bill'', well, that didn't necessarily mean that a Prime Minister who really, really needs to take a trick right now might not engage in a little light negotiation with a Rob Oakeshott or a Tony Windsor, in order to avoid total parliamentary humiliation.
The Prime Minister declared her strong anti-horse-trading position at a joint press conference with the President of Myanmar, held on Monday in her private courtyard.
Talking media regulation while standing next to the head of state of a nation that until recently was controlled by a military junta was what the kids would call ''a little awks'', but Julia Gillard retained her composure.
If there were ''sensible suggestions consistent with our reform intentions'', they would be listened to, she said.
The problem seems to be that no one understands what those reform intentions are, or why they need to be shoved through Parliament so hurriedly.
Meanwhile, sundry media barons appeared before a Senate committee inquiry into the proposed bills. It was chaired by Labor Left Senator Doug Cameron, whose brogue-ish pronunciation of the word ''legislation'' was worth the price of admission alone.
Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said the process was ''unseemingly rushed''. News Ltd boss Kim Williams said the proposal for a public interest media advocate to oversee the Press Council was ''a modern day star chamber, no more, no less''.
But it was Seven Network boss Kerry Stokes who expressed his bewilderment most plaintively.
''I'm trying for the life of me to understand what we could have possibly done to warrant such intrusive laws that are now being proposed,'' he told the committee.
''The simple question I ask is in our instance, what have we done?''
What have we done?
Finally, a media baron cri de coeur the Labor caucus can relate to.