Former Speaker Peter Slipper.
Former Speaker Peter Slipper. Warren Lynam

Media reform? Slipper's for it - but it should be tougher

PETER Slipper has revealed he is voting with the Government to support its controversial media reforms - and wishes they could be harsher.

The Member for Fisher and former speaker told the Daily he believed he would be the "pivotal vote" in the reforms, which were being debated late last night at the time of going to press.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily, Mr Slipper said the legislation was "a step in the right direction, but a small step".

He said while he firmly believed in freedom of the press, the media also needed to have respect for personal privacy.

He said his family was hounded in the days after the James Ashby scandal broke.

"I have a no-trespassing sign outside the gate on the long driveway down to my house. Channel 7 ignored this and came up to my garage and rubbed their hands, leaving their fingerprints, on my wife's car," he said.

"The morning after I resigned as speaker, at 6.30am they (reporters) were outside my house.

"In a democracy, freedom of the press is important, but there is such a thing as freedom of the citizen and one needs to strike a balance."

Mr Slipper said his elderly ex-mother-in-law had spent days crying after journalists visited her in a retirement village.

"I am a strong supporter of the rights of the media, but accompanying that right there has to be a modicum of responsibility."

Mr Slipper said that when he heard the public outcry, particularly in major newspapers, about the proposed reforms he expected them to be far harsher.

"I am disappointed the legislation addresses this with a feather," he said.

"I saw the rabid reactions from News Limited and Fairfax and thought the legislation might make a real difference. But when I read it, I wondered what all the concern was about."

Mr Slipper said he had spent the past few days "agonising" over his decision because although the legislation was an improvement, "it is only a minor improvement on the situation".

"The matters that should be addressed are those focusing on the privacy of an individual," Mr Slipper said.

"Is it reasonable for low-flying helicopters to follow people? Is it reasonable to have a sporting-ground of telephoto camera lenses outside your home?"

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy announced the planned changes on Tuesday last week, saying he wanted the legislation, which was not introduced until two days later, passed by tomorrow.

The six new media reforms include the appointment of a public interest media advocate to oversee self-regulatory bodies such as the Press Council.

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