Senator Stephen Conroy has admitted meeting Mr Stokes at a ski resort in the US state of Colorado in January, acknowledging it was pre-arranged but maintaining it was perfectly normal business.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has suggested the government’s decision to slash more than $250 million from commercial TV licence fees, announced one month after the meeting with Mr Stokes, amounted to a bribe to court media favour in a federal election year.
Mr Rudd said he and other ministers met television network and media bosses formally and informally many times over the past two years concerning a whole raft of issues.
He said that was entirely normal, but Mr Abbott had effectively accused the government of corruption and TV networks of being party to that corruption.
“Representations are constantly made about the interest of particular commercial operations. That is what being in government is all about, listening to what people have to say,” he told
‘Not a skerrick of evidence’
“Senator Conroy has conducted himself in an entirely proper manner in dealing with representatives of the commercial television stations, representatives of News Ltd, representatives of Foxtel, representatives of a whole range of other media interests including the commercial radios.”
Mr Rudd said Mr Abbott was making a serious allegation against the government and commercial TV networks and followed his allegations of manslaughter over the home insulation program last week.
He said Mr Abbott was suggesting that prominent TV journalists and commentators could be bought in some sort of grubby cash-for-comment deal.
“Given that he has made this allegation, Mr Abbott has a responsibility now to produce his evidence,” he said.
“That is a responsibility which he has today. He has made these allegations without a skerrick of evidence.”
Mr Rudd said the reduction in licence fees was in response to the challenge of commercial television switching over to digital transmission.
“The previous government made a policy decision on digital switchover. Nothing was done to make that work in practice,” he said.
“It takes practical and frankly expensive measures to make that work.”