Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Government wants to promote discussion With peak bodies – not silence them

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to a vibrant and unencumbered community sector where free speech and discussion took place.

“There are no plans to silence the community sector; there are no plans to veto or edit what they say,” Senator Vanstone said.

“Since coming to Government, we’ve listened to the sector, talked with them and sometimes even disagreed with them but at all times we’ve valued what they’ve said.

“This Government believes in frank, informed and open discussion.

“During the Welfare Reform process, the Government worked closely with community groups and we intend to continue to do so.

“Existing peak body agreements currently have an ‘early warning’ clause regarding reports and releases which they produce – all groups have signed this contract and it has been in place some time.

“There is now a draft document being circulated which will be finalised after consultation with peak bodies has taken place.

“The draft document only specifies a time period, ie 24 hours, in regard to press releases that are initiated by the organisation. It does not apply to responses made by the organisation to approaches by the media.

“This draft clause is simply clarifying an existing contractual arrangement.

“Any claims that the Government is trying to silence community groups are ill-informed and ludicrous,” Senator Vanstone said.