A member of the independent body overseeing press standards at _The West Australian _has defended its operation, arguing it gives speedy justice to people who feel they have been wronged.
Former WA attorney-general Jim McGinty, one of three members of Seven West Media's Independent Media Council, has warned the body might be unable to operate under the Government's proposed media controls.
Giving evidence yesterday to a Senate hearing into the plan for a government-appointed advocate to "declare" standards bodies such as the Australian Press Council and the IMC as being fit to operate, Mr McGinty warned the IMC would likely fall short of the governance standards demanded under draft legislation.
"It would mean our organisation as currently structured - the Independent Media Council - would no longer exist," he said.
Under rules for the Government's new media tsar - the Public Interest Media Advocate - independent media bodies would need to be incorporated, would need the power to expel members and should have the power to order that newspapers print retractions.
Mr McGinty said the IMC had none of these powers and was not incorporated. He argued the IMC did a better job than the APC of delivering redress to people who felt they had been badly treated by Seven West Media publications, noting the APC sometimes took months to make decisions.
"Complaints to the IMC are resolved within days, not months," Mr McGinty said. "It is my view an inaccurate or an unfair report left to hang around for several months, it compounds the distress and damage that has been caused by the publication initially."
Seven West Media - owner of _The West Australian - _ established the IMC last year after cutting ties with the APC.
Pushed as to whether he believed it could be a problem if the perceived success of the IMC led to other news companies leaving the APC, Mr McGinty argued it might not be a bad thing.
"The way in which complaints are now dealt with in Western Australia against _The West Australian _ or Seven West Media is better than what it was," he said.
"Now if your end result is better in terms of timeliness, quality and things of that nature, I don't see a problem with proliferation."
He said if the IMC were not accredited by the public advocate, reporters at _The West Australian _ would lose crucial exemptions from privacy laws, potentially compromising its ability to publish legally complicated stories.Mr McGinty said in his time as a member of the IMC he had come under no influence from Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes and had not spoken to him in 12 months.
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