Minister for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

A/g Minister for Regional Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Wallace Brown Award presentation

30 November 2016

E & OE

FIFIELD:

Well thank you very much Denis, and can I at the outset acknowledge some of those who support this award and make it possible. Firstly, Andrew Meares, President of the Gallery. And Andrew, congratulations again on your stunning victory to bring photographic freedom to the Senate Gallery. Also great  to be with Maurice Reilly of the National Press Club. But most particularly the Brown family. Val and Bina, it’s wonderful to be here with you today. And could I acknowledge the Courier Mail through Denis Atkins.

It's a privilege to be a part of these awards on behalf of the Prime Minister. As you know, there are many moving parts in this building, and the Prime Minister's attention is required by one of those at the moment. If the PM was here he would regale you with war stories and tales of his time as a member  of the New South Wales Press Gallery, reporting for Channel Nine, or his time at The Bulletin magazine.

I don't have a journalistic pedigree, but I should let you know that I did seriously flirt with radio journalism at one point in time. In the 80s, towards the end of my uni studies I took myself along to 2UE. Then in North Sydney. Owned by the Lamb family. Run by John Conde and Rod Spargo. And I was  enthralled by the tales of what it takes to keep the on-air talent happy. And, hanging out in the newsroom and watching the journalists play indoor cricket and indoor basketball just moments before filing or reading a bulletin. And I thought 'wow' I want to be part of this. So, with great expectation  at the end of the day I sat down with John Conde. And he looked at me and he said, 'Mitch, you seem like a thoughtful young man. Forget journalism, forget radio. Go and do something useful with your life'.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you. Journalism is worthwhile. That it is a noble pursuit. At its best it can have a profound impact. And journalism, along with the arts, is one of the pillars that underpins freedom of speech, which in turn does give our democracy a robustness, and an accountability,  and a quality that it wouldn't otherwise have. And, Wallace Brown remains the benchmark for even-handed reporting.

I didn't know Wallace Brown, I met him a couple of times briefly shortly after he retired. But Wallace did have a profound impact on those who were privileged to know him.

In the eulogy delivered at his funeral, Niki Savva, who says she still misses him and regarded him as one of her great friends and mentors, wrote this: 'Wallace built a stellar career, while retaining the trust of the politicians, the love of his family, and the admiration of his colleagues and friends  without back stabbing, big noting himself or gossiping and, most infuriatingly, while making it all look so easy'.

So, to receive an award that bears the name of Wallace Brown is a privilege, but it also bring with it a responsibility, as it has done since 2008 when Patricia Karvelas was the inaugural award winner.

It's my great privilege to announce an individual journalist who has been commended; who wrote about an overseas trip, to China, by one of my former ministerial colleagues, and who also wrote about some land purchases next to one of our intelligence agencies. From the Australian Financial Review:  Primrose Riordan.

And, the winner of the Wallace Brown award is someone who wrote about the former Speaker Bishop and her aerial transportation. She also wrote about fraud involving a former Victorian State Director of the Liberal Party.

And this particular journalist reminded us of some golden truths. First and foremost, that something might seem like a good idea at the time. It might be legal. It might be within the rules. But we always have to apply the test of 'how would this look on the front page of the Herald Sun'. And, the other  thing that this journalist has done is remind us of an oldie, but a goodie. And that is: don't put your hand in the till.

Ladies and gentlemen, to receive the Wallace Brown award will you please welcome: Annika Smethurst.

[ends]

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