AL Jazeera's English-language news network had its first Australian triumph yesterday when it made its debut on local television screens, and it hopes to make a second breakthrough by convincing Australian government leaders to appear before its cameras.
Hamish Macdonald, an Australian reporter and news presenter for Al Jazeera English (AJE), said yesterday he hoped the launch of the news service to 739,000 homes through Austar pay-TV would help change the Rudd government's attitude towards appearing on the Doha-based network.
"As an Australian it has been really disappointing that our government has not embraced AJE and its really strong audience in Southeast Asia and other regions to try to have its voice heard outside Australia," he said at AJE's London studio.
"We keep hearing that the government wants its messages to reach people and opinion makers in the region and in the Muslim world, but for some reason they don't take advantage of the platform that we keep offering them.
"It's bizarre - we can get Hillary Clinton but not Stephen Smith."
Max Uechtritz, the former ABC news chief who is now AJE's programming director, said he was mystified by the attitude of the Australian government, which made a great play of its "soft diplomacy" ambitions in the region.
"We have huge influence in the region, so I can't understand why Rudd wouldn't use the platform." Uechtritz said.
"The good thing is that in every country where our service has been launched, people quickly realise that we are a tremendous news service - and hopefully now that people can actually see us in Australia the penny will drop for whoever is working out the government's media strategies."
Similarly, Uechtritz hopes access to Austar's regional audience through yesterday's inclusion in its starter package of 40-plus channels will get enough public interest to convince the much larger Foxtel network to also offer the service to its subscribers.
One Al Jazeera broadcaster who says he would like to get Mr Rudd on air is Sir David Frost, the veteran who has interviewed the seven previous Australian prime ministers except Paul Keating.
Read more at The Australian