Australia's top newspaper and television bosses have made an unprecedented united call on the Gillard Government to dump its planned overhaul of media laws.
Descending on Federal Parliament for a series of committee hearings and private lobbying, senior executives from every major metropolitan media outlet condemned the laws as draconian and a threat to freedom of speech.
Key independent Rob Oakeshott told _The West Australian _last night that he would not support the six Bills - a declaration that effectively kills off any hope of the laws passing the Lower House.
Fellow independent MP Tony Windsor said last night he was also unlikely to vote for the reforms.
News Ltd chief executive Kim Williams, whose organisation is presumed to be the prime target of the laws, said the proposed media watchdog was in effect a "modern day star chamber".
He warned that if the laws passed Parliament, News Ltd would immediately go to the High Court to strike them down on the grounds they were at odds with the implied freedom of political speech contained within the Constitution.
Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said the powers being proposed by the Government were beyond anything he had seen previously.
"I would like to understand more why we're doing it," Mr Stokes said.
"The power contemplated is beyond anything I have seen."
Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said the Government's proposed media regulator would allow governments to target media coverage they did not like.
"The practical application of this legislation is that it sets up a model where a minister of the government can pick up the phone to his own appointee and say, 'Fix it'," Mr Hywood said.
"Fix it being, 'Get the media off our backs'."
Their concerns about the laws are likely to be enough to see them fail if they make Parliament.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard's forced retreat from the legislation would raise more questions about her judgment, aiding Labor MPs pushing for the return of Kevin Rudd. Many Labor MPs, including those loyal to Ms Gillard, have been concerned by the haste with which the media reforms were introduced and the lack of scrutiny.
Ms Gillard was scheduled to convene a Cabinet meeting today to gauge whether the Government had enough support to proceed with the Bills.
But Mr Oakeshott informed the Prime Minister late yesterday - in person and in writing - that the Government would not have his support for reasons of "weak policy and poor process".
"I was left with the choice between something or nothing," Mr Oakeshott said.
"The question was whether that something would enhance or detract from the current media landscape and in my view, after listening to content providers, regulators and proprietors, we would be taking a step backwards in modernising Australian media laws."To get legislation through Parliament by the end of this week, as the Government has intended, the six Bills would have to be put to a vote in the House of Representatives today or first thing tomorrow to allow a Senate vote on Thursday.
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