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Ex-judge caught in political wrangle

Former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein has been unwittingly drawn into a political slanging match after he was called upon to head a major government inquiry.The Federal Government announced…

Former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein has been unwittingly drawn into a political slanging match after he was called upon to head a major government inquiry.

The Federal Government announced yesterday (14 September) that Finkelstein will head an independent inquiry into Australia's print and online media.

"A healthy and robust media is essential to the democratic process," said Senator Conroy, the minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy. "The Australian Government believes it is incumbent upon government to ensure regulatory processes and industry structures are sufficiently strong to support the continuation of a healthy and independent media that is able to fulfill its essential democratic purpose and to operate in the public interest."

Conroy announced the inquiry after pressure from Greens leader Bob Brown, who has previously questioned the standard of reporting and perceived bias in News Limited publications, such as The Australian.

The announcement of an inquiry was met with howls of protest from the Federal Opposition, with Malcolm Turnbull, the shadow telecommunications spokesperson, labelling the inquiry as a "media stunt".

Liberal Party Senator Ian Macdonald also compared Conroy to the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in a fiery debate on the issue in the Senate. Macdonald later withdrew the remark.

A particular area of focus for the inquiry will be to look at ways to give more powers to the Australian Press Council.

Finkelstein, from Melbourne, has had a distinguished 40-year career in the law. After being called to the Bar in 1975, he was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1986. He was appointed a judge of the Federal Court in 1997 and in 2008 was appointed as the head of the Australian Competition Tribunal.

Finkelstein is being assisted by Canberra academic Matthew Rickets on the inquiry.

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