Mining magnate Gina Rinehart would pass a public interest test for media ownership unless she moved to take over both Network Ten and Fairfax Media, Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy told Meet the Press yesterday.
Conroy said the public interest test under consideration by the Gillard Government is “about stopping a concentration” of media ownership rather than instating the 'fit and proper person' test, which the Finkelstein inquiry noted was lacking in the newspaper industry.
“A fit and proper person test is what we used to have, and Alan Bond passed it, so I'm not sure if a fit and proper person test is worth the legislation it would be written on,” said Conroy.
But Conroy said he thought a public interest test “vital” to the “diversity of voices” in the media.
The Senator said Rinehart would pass such a test as “she’s got only a relatively small holding in only one company [sic] at the moment”, although that would change if she moved to control both Fairfax Media and Network Ten.
“My view is she would pass, unless she moved to take control of Channel Ten and she wanted a control of Fairfax, because Channel Ten also has the radio stations,” Conroy said. “She would probably be in breach of almost all the existing laws if she tried to go that far.”
Rinehart owns approximately 10% of Network Ten, of which she is a director, and 14.99% of Fairfax, where she is the largest shareholder and currently seeking board representation.