Is it time for Rudd to exterminate the Dalek?
As cynical as it might sound you can’t help but think that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy would have been relieved last week’s media scrutiny was mainly soaked up by Peter Garrett’s problems with roof insulation.
But following the Sunday Herald-Sun revelation that he went skiing with Channel Seven chief Kerry Stokes shortly before handing out $250 million to the TV stations it means he’ll at least be continuing in his role as best supporting stuff-up.
Political cliché that it is, Conroy’s decision to hang out with Stokes on the slopes goes to the Minister’s judgment and it’s that judgment Kevin Rudd must really be beginning to question.
If you’re not across Conroy’s problems here’s a beginner’s guide:
Handouts to free-to-air TV
Basically Conroy’s recent decision to significantly reduce the licensing fees free to air channels pay has the left the three big networks with a $250 million windfall. Now while the Government has said the decision was made to encourage more local content on free-to-air TV, there’s actually nothing in the deal that says the networks have to spend it on local content.
Pay TV operators like Foxtel (part owned by The Punch publisher News Ltd) are obviously annoyed with this decision. The fact that it has emerged he spent time racing Kerry Stokes down the hills not long before he made the decision doesn’t look very good.
If you only relied on the internet for your information you’d be under the impression this is the most important policy debate to ever take place in this country and Stephen Conroy is the devil. It’s not and he isn’t.
That being said Conroy’s been pretty at bad trying to sell the filter, which, regardless of whether you’re an internet freedom activist or not, a lot of Australians would probably have an inherent suspicion of. It’s also unclear when this thing is actually going to be introduced as new glitches seem to appear almost weekly.
Conroy previously laughed off the threat of attacks by hacker groups protesting the introduction of the filter, and last week they managed to bring down several Government websites including Parliament and the Department of Immigration, that could have real implications for things like visa applications
National Broadband Network problems
Last week former Labor MP and power-broker Mike Kaiser was announced as head of public relations for the Government’s new NBN, a job that was not advertised and pays $450,000 a year.
This was only a week after a report by the Audit Office found $30 million was spent on the failed tender process for the NBN, $17 million of which was spent by Conroy’s department. Conroy was unapologetic claiming it was “absolutely not” a waste of money.
Whether the above list is an indictment of Conroy or more a reflection of the pitfalls of the communications portfolio as whole, a job Kim Beazley once described as “time in hell”, is no doubt a discussion that Senator Conroy’s colleagues are having.
But there’s also no doubt that Conroy’s case would be helped if he wasn’t tied up in so much factional Labor malarkey that the Rudd Government has thus far been able to avoid - at least in public.
Conroy’s factional fiddling earned him the “factional Dalek” moniker from former Labor power broker and one-time mentor to Conroy Robert Ray (I’m not sure what that makes Robert Ray, Davros perhaps) and a labeled a “rooster” by Mark Latham for unsettling Simon Crean’s leadership.
Recently he has been involved in a series of Victorian Labor disputes that are too tedious to go into here, but it’s fair to ask how much a Minister in charge of supposedly the largest infrastructure project since the Snowy Hydro should be dealing in this rubbish.
Conroy has shrugged off this latest controversy but Kevin Rudd and his colleagues may not continue to be as dismissive.
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