Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons. Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

LABOR backbenchers are beginning to press for a wide-ranging inquiry in the wake of the UK phone hacking scandal, joining the Greens and lower house independents in arguing the case for an Australian probe.

Victoria's Steve Gibbons told The Age yesterday a new Australian media inquiry was necessary - declaring some publications were pursuing ''vendettas of hate''. ''People will tolerate right-wing bias in newspapers … but when right-wing bias turns to vendettas of hate, that's when we need to have a look at it,'' Mr Gibbons said.

New South Wales Labor backbencher John Murphy told The Age that dominance by News Limited was an issue. ''Seventy per cent holding in our major daily newspapers is too much for one media company, particularly with the other electronic media interests which Murdoch holds and which only serves to reinforce the messages in his papers,'' Mr Murphy said.

''Our democracy is at stake if we allow further concentration of media ownership,'' he said.
The Gillard government is yet to resolve its position on when or how any inquiry should proceed. Discussions will proceed internally and with key parliamentary players in the House and Senate.

Indications thus far suggest the government believes an Australian media inquiry in the wake of the UK phone hacking scandal is all but inevitable given the strength of parliamentary support.

The Greens have championed the probe, and lower house kingmakers Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott have argued it is time to look at the Australian industry given recent events, increasing concentration of newspaper ownership and the combative culture of talkback radio and newspapers.

But one Labor source cautioned last night that an inquiry with government backing was ''not a done deal''. The Prime Minister said on Monday the issue might not be resolved until Parliament resumed.

Greens senator Christine Milne told the ABC's Q&A program that there would be an inquiry and it would go to vexed questions such as ''bias'', and the dominance of newspaper publishing by News Limited owned by Rupert Murdoch.

But at least one of the kingmakers of the House of Representatives, Andrew Wilkie, is less convinced about the need for an inquiry. ''I'm open minded about the need for a parliamentary inquiry into the media and would need to see the terms of reference before I could decide one way or the other,'' he said.

Author | Source |  Katharine Murphy | National Affairs Correspondent |The Age, July 27th