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Subprogram 3.3-Broadcasting and Communications

SENATOR KEMP -Can officials inform the Committee of the role in the reconciliation process envisaged for Imparja TV? Are any figures available on the estimates of the cost?

DR SHERGOLD -We would not be able to answer that question at the moment. It is a question that would be more appropriately directed at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet which has responsibility for driving the reconciliation process. There are IDCs established to work with PM and C which were obviously represented, but I am not aware that this is something that has as yet been discussed.

SENATOR TAMBLING -I note on page 116 that the reduction in expenditure for this vote is of the order of 34 per cent-from $10.8m to $7.1m. As a general overview, is that largely as a result of major capital programs having been concluded and that there is a lesser call on funds for operational purposes?

MR GOGGIN -It is largely a direct reflection of the fact that last financial year an amount of $4.12m was passed through this program to Aussat as part of the transponder costs for Imparja and that amount is not reflected in this year's Estimates figure.

SENATOR TAMBLING -Do you anticipate that there will be any ongoing requirement by Imparja for additional assistance with regard to those transponder costs?

MR GOGGIN -Yes, I do.

SENATOR TAMBLING -Where will they then find any money, whether it is $4m or anything else, in this financial year?

MR GOGGIN -Quite simply, it is a matter for Government to determine.

SENATOR TAMBLING -Given that Imparja now provides a very important service, not only to Aboriginal communities but to all of remote Australia, surely the Government must have anticipated that it will have to meet these sorts of costs. If it is not financially provided for, surely we will end up with the possible collapse of a major television network servicing all of remote and rural Australia.

MR GOGGIN -That is a question that ought to be directed to the Minister, if he were here, rather than for us to try to speculate on that aspect of a Government decision that has yet to be made.

SENATOR TAMBLING -I will redirect that question to the Minister later.

CHAIRMAN -The Minister is now back if you wish to ask him.

SENATOR TAMBLING -Minister, in your absence I had a political question related to financial support for Imparja Television which serves most of remote and rural Australia. The Budget allocation against this vote has been reduced by some $4m this year because of an allocation last year for the transponder costs to Aussat by Imparja Television. I am concerned that, if a similar provision is not made in the coming financial year, we could see the collapse of a very major television facility for all of remote and rural Australia. The officer informed me that this was essentially a Government decision. I am keen to ascertain how and in what form in the Estimates the Government will underpin Imparja Television's costs to ensure we do not have a collapse in the current financial year.

SENATOR BOLKUS -I am a bit bemused. Are you a supporter of Imparja?

SENATOR TAMBLING -I always have been-very strongly.

SENATOR BOLKUS -Do you support its need for funding from government?

SENATOR TAMBLING -Yes, I always have.

SENATOR BOLKUS -The short answer to your question is that Government as yet has not made a decision on funding. A lot of that is also tied up with the decision on Aussat.

SENATOR TAMBLING -If it were to be underpinned, it would then require an advance through the Minister for Finance during the year?

SENATOR BOLKUS -I will take that question on notice and come back to you.

SENATOR TAMBLING -I have another question on a different issue. Have there been any complaints requiring special audit of any of the major broadcasting associations or any complaints lodged where there have been financial embezzlements of any nature?

MR GOGGIN -Not that I can immediately recall.


SENATOR BOLKUS -You are very suspicious.