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The Internet and related technological developments have brought major benefits to the media landscape. The benefits include much faster and more affordable access to a broader range of sources of information and opinion, fewer constraints on the length and manner of presentation of articles, and more people being able to convey their knowledge and views in the public domain. They have also improved the ability to update material rapidly and to provide ready access to other material through hyperlinks.
The same developments, however, have increased pressures and opportunities to publish reports before adequately checking them for accuracy and fairness. Yet even if a report is later corrected, the initial version may already have been read and passed on by many people, and it may remain readily and permanently accessible through search engines. The new technologies have also facilitated wider publication of material that is deliberately misleading, highly abusive or from unknown and unreliable sources.
Declining strength and diversity within the mainstream print media in Australia has made it especially important that the benefits of digital media are maximised and the dangers minimised. Amongst other things, this requires principled and far-sighted leadership in the print and digital media, including support for the Press Council as it seeks to fulfil its responsibilities to promote good media standards, monitor the extent to which they are achieved, and facilitate genuine freedom of expression throughout the community.
Julian Disney has been Chair of the Australian Press Council since December 2009. He is a Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, founder and National Chair of Anti-Poverty Week, and Chair of the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW. He is on the Board of Governors of the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia and on the Asialink Advisory Council.
Professor Disney was Coordinator of the Sydney Welfare Rights Centre for six years, assisting people in hardship. He has also been President of the Australian Council of Social Service and of the International Council on Social Welfare which represents social welfare and development groups from more than 80 countries.
He was a NSW Law Reform Commissioner for seven years and on the Australian Government’s Economic Planning Advisory Council (EPAC) for a similar period. He has been chair or member of government advisory committees on education, employment, social security, public administration, literacy and housing.
Professor Disney has been Director of the ANU Centre for International and Public Law, and Chair of the National Affordable Housing Summit. He has been a policy consultant for social welfare and business groups, and principal author or editor of books and articles about aspects of the legal profession, taxation, housing, social welfare, governance, national development and international organisations.
He was the Rhodes Scholar for South Australia in 1970. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1995 for services to the development of economic and social welfare policy, and to the law. In 1999, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LL.D) by the University of New South Wales.