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Thursday, 17 March 2005
Page: 157

Ms LIVERMORE (12:49 PM) —I wish to support the Aussie Rules players and supporters in Central Queensland who were unable to watch a live broadcast of the Wizard Cup final on free-to-air television on Saturday night. The AFL executive has a responsibility to grow the game, and it has a real opportunity to do that in a non-traditional state like Queensland thanks to the Lions recent successes, but how can that happen if the main games are not shown live and free to air in places like Central Queensland?

I am aware that Imparja Television in the Northern Territory broadcast the game at 6.30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Saturday. In fact, I am aware of one fan who drove 200 kilometres to be able to watch the game live on Imparja. For those who do not know, Imparja Television is Australia’s only truly independent television station and is broadcast from Alice Springs. My understanding is that Imparja Television provides a much better sporting service to outback residents than channels 7, 9, and 10 combined do to the rest of Australia.

This is the second occasion in a matter of weeks that I have made the point in this House that the people of Central Queensland are being underserved by the national commercial channels. I suspect this has something to do with the main commercial channels having a vested interest in pay television and, as such, wanting to keep major events off the free-to-air channels.

It seems that the main commercial networks are ignoring the substantial AFL viewing audience in Central Queensland, just as they were uninterested in the very large cricket viewing audience in Central Queensland. It was just weeks ago that I raised in the House the failure of the free-to-air commercial networks to bid for rights to broadcast the forthcoming Ashes tour from England.

I have today written to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts asking that the area Imparja Television is allowed to cover be extended to cover all of Central Queensland, thereby enabling better coverage of major sporting events to all Central Queenslanders.

I have previously raised in this House the problems associated with the access to the Shoalwater Bay military training facility. Prior to the last federal election the Australian Labor Party committed $15 million to upgrade the roads leading into this training area to accommodate the extra demands being put on the region’s infrastructure due to the joint training agreement with the United States military. I have written to the minister involved lobbying for this work to be done and explaining the needs of the military and local residents, but regrettably the government has not yet accepted its responsibility in this area.

The Mayor of Livingstone Shire, which covers the Shoalwater Bay training area, had what he described to me as a positive meeting with the Minister for Defence, Senator Hill, just last week. Following that meeting, I urged the Minister for Defence to look favourably on this proposal to upgrade the roads servicing this major defence facility at Shoalwater Bay.

Having spoken about the Shoalwater Bay road, it is important for me to also point out that it is not just the roads servicing this major defence training facility that have been ignored by this government. It has just become apparent that the Curragh mine at Blackwater intends to move 10,000 tonnes of coal a day 180 kilometres along the Capricorn Highway to the Stanwell power station just west of Rockhampton. This will mean a triple-B truck running along that section of the Capricorn Highway every 30 minutes carrying coal. The road simply will not stand up to this type of use. It was never designed to carry this volume or weight of traffic. These huge trucks will be a serious hazard to the people of central-western Queensland who use the Capricorn Highway to travel to and from Rockhampton for business, medical or family reasons.

In addition, the Capricorn Tourist Organisation has put a lot of time and effort into promoting the central highlands as a tourist destination for caravan travellers. We love to host the southern visitors who come to our region in their caravans every winter, but you have to wonder just how the drivers will cope with B-triples bearing down on them and trying to pass them on the highway. This is another example of the Howard government’s failure to invest strategically and adequately in the infrastructure needs of regional Australia and Central Queensland in particular.