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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 3032

Mr CAMPBELL(9.41) —In the five minutes allotted to me, it is very hard to address the legislation in detail, as I had intended. I take this opportunity to say that, from my observations tonight, there is no shortage of Australian talent. The honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee) did a very good mouth-frothing impression of the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Nehl). It is a pity that his talent is overlooked by journalists. Very few people in the Press gallery recognise his talent. Therefore, it will probably go unrecognised, which is a pity. I commend the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) for introducing the Broadcasting (Ownership and Control) Bill and the Communications Legislation Amendment Bill. It is an indication of the enormous ability of the Minister. I want him to know that he has the entire support of my faction if he ever decides to run for the office of Prime Minister.

However, I wish to take issue with a few comments that have been made tonight. Honourable members on both sides of the House have pontificated about how important the legislation is, that it is the most important piece of legislation to come before this Parliament, et cetera. That is arrant, sheer nonsense. The Broadcasting (Ownership and Control) Bill will not create one single new job; it will do nothing to reduce the deficit; it will not redistribute income; and it will not really temper the power of the rich and powerful. However, it makes an attempt to do that. It makes an attempt that has never been made before; that is, to stop the cross-ownership of the media. However, the self-interest and greed of the rich and powerful are such common interests among them that I have no doubt they will find a way around that. While I commend the Minister for the cross-media ownership rules, I think that in the long run they will have little effect.

It is not just the ownership of the media that causes problems. Every day, talk back artists on the radio utter superficial, simplistic, pseudo-compassionate, right wing, ignorant-based claptrap. That has enormous influence on members of the community, most of whom are not in a position to determine the validity of what is said. They take those gushing gentlemen at face value and they tend to believe them. Those people do an enormous amount of damage in the community. They probably have more influence on the community than the mere owners of the stations. After all, if we were serious about getting some integrity into programming, we would be looking at funding. We would fund courses to teach journalists their profession so that we may be able to get some competence and integrity into journalism. That would be the way to go about it. The ownership of the media will be quite insignificant in this regard.

A lot has been said about networking. I have networking in my electorate and it works very well. Since the advent of GWN and the changes made by this Government, the whole of my electorate can get commercial television for the first time. The station GWN takes programs from all around Australia. It picks and chooses and shows the best programs. I am probably the only member of parliament who has gone into battle with his own home town station and appeared before the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to try to get the station wiped out. The station was dreadful. I still have sleepless nights when I think about VEW8. Fortunately, that station was taken over by the Golden West Network which gives us a much higher standard of programming. I pay tribute to the Western Australian Government which has shown some concern for people in remote areas and contributed about $2m a year for several years to that station to make sure that the programs are of a high quality and are distributed throughout my vast electorate. I thank the Western Australian Government for that.

People talk about the dangers of networking as though it is a nightmare; that Sydney or Melbourne will steal it all. That is simply not true. I can tell honourable members that the march of technology, which no one can stop, will ensure that more and more options are made available to people. A company in Western Australia has the ability, at a very cheap cost, probably less than $1,000, to take material off the satellites and rebroadcast it in sizable towns. There could be three additional radio programs or whatever television programs are available. This technology would be done on a two giga-hertz band. That band is presently used by the telephone scramblers, I believe, in the capital cities. Legislation is required for that. As the demand rises for this service, legislation will be brought in to allow it to take place, because there is an irresistible demand for the advance of technology. I know that honourable members will be sorry to hear that my time is up. However, all good things must come to an end. I think that the legislation is a step in the right direction. It will not have the dire consequences for democracy prophesied by the imitation honourable member for Cowper-the honourable member for Goldstein-nor will it do the good as other people are saying. However, it is a workmanlike and businesslike effort to make things better in industry and it is a long needed reform.