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Wednesday, 31 March 1999
Page: 3633


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (4:23 PM) —It is, I guess, fantastic in one respect to have for the history books of Australia a record at the end of March 1999 that shows where the Australian Labor Party in the federal parliament stood on the great national issues.


Senator Robert Ray —This is a motion you moved four years ago, you goose.


Senator IAN CAMPBELL —It will show the record of this very noisy but discredited opposition at the end of March 1999, only a few months before the turn of the millennium, when Australia was situated in a region with economic instability, where we had to move Australia to a new era in terms of our economy to get rid of the dead hand of the failed Labor policies.


Senator Murphy —Is the minister coming in or not?


Senator IAN CAMPBELL —Of course the minister is coming here, but he will come here when it suits him, not when it suits Senator Ray or Senator Murphy. I must apologise on behalf of the minister to all honourable senators that he is not able to leave consideration of telecommunications and broadcasting issues to race down to the chamber today to debate with Senator Ray, a distinguished former minister, on whether or not we can get a free-to-air telecast of the cricket.

The fundamental proposition put by this motion is in fact that we should have the broadcasting decisions of the four, as it is, major free-to-air networks in Australia determined from the ministerial office in this building. That is what we have determined. After 15 minutes of his typical sledging, diatribe and name calling which he gets away with day in and day out here, the one thing that Senator Faulkner said that was accurate—and I do not know whether he said this, but he implied it—was that the antisiphoning laws that govern this country were put in place by the former government. That is the law that determines whether or not free-to-air television receives cricket. When you have a test such as the one played early this morning Australian time, the antisiphoning laws require the network that has the rights to those broadcasts to offer them to all four of the free-to-air networks—to offer them, firstly, the full coverage and, secondly, I understand, a highlights package. Not one of our free-to-air networks picked it up. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation—


Senator Bourne —They have no money.


Senator IAN CAMPBELL —That great institution that is so solidly supported by Senator Bourne and particularly by members opposite, who take a great interest in all of the board appointments, of course, did not take up the offer, nor did the Ten, Seven or Nine networks. That process took place under Labor's legislation. The problem with the proposition Senator Faulkner puts, which is that we should follow former Minister Lee's proposal and run programming policy out of the minister's office, is that we have to ensure that the minister should decide what goes on free-to-air. In fact, this is the proposal for nationalisation of broadcasting. I think it is important because Minister Lee did it as soon pay TV came in.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I think I should go back through the Labor Party's policy problems with pay TV—they were the root cause of this. The antisiphoning laws and the introduction of pay TV into Australia were of course one of Labor's major policy disasters. In the minutes left to me in this debate I will look at a couple of those matters. The reason that Minister Lee had to come in and put pressure on the free-to-air networks was the disastrous communications policy of the previous government. At the time it was introduced I think former Senator Bob Collins was in charge of it. We had the infamous cascading bids fiasco, you will remember, and then the antisiphoning fiasco. I do not think anyone could possibly have presumed that, for the foreseeable future in Australian broadcasting, the minister would be telling the national broadcasters and the other free-to-air broadcasters what they should be showing on TV every night. If Labor wanted to propose that as a policy then, of course, the minister would intervene and ensure that the free-to-air networks showed a whole range of different programs. But I do not think they honestly believe this. I think this is a cheap publicity stunt and it shows the policy agenda of Labor. That leads us to the disastrous broadcasting policy that was overseen particularly by Minister Collins.

But what do we see as the third way from Labor? We are not sure what the first or second ways from Labor are, they have not worked that out, but they have certainly indicated a third way. I think that over recent weeks in communications policy and native title policy, and even in constitutional reform policy, Labor have shown their credentials. I think they have discovered a third way. It is not a particularly clear-cut vision. It is not a clear-cut philosophy or even a strategy, but certainly in communications policy we see that the new half of the glimmer twins, Mr Stephen Smith, the member for Perth, who is their shadow spokesman in this area, has said that, on communications, their policy is, `We will have a review.' So, in relation to telecommunications policy, his policy is, `Let's have a review.'

In relation to native title, a crucial national issue that affects your state and my state in particular, Mr Acting Deputy President Chapman, during a heated debate Labor could not come up with any alternative policy on native title. The Western Australian Labor Party are still having enormous internal ructions trying to decide what their policy is. But what is Mr Beazley's policy? It is a bit like Mr Smith's. It is, `Let's have a round table, let's have a discussion, let's have a talk.' So on two crucial areas of national policy the Labor Party's policy is, `Let us just have a committee or a discussion.' Just last week, when the preamble was presented to the Australian people by the Australian Prime Minister, what was Mr Kim Beazley's solution to that? What is the Labor policy on the preamble? It is, `Let's go and refer it to a committee.'

That is Labor's new third way: it is not to have a decision, not to have a policy, let's all go and have a powwow and a cup of tea and sit around a table. This takes me back to where I began. Here on the last day of March in 1999, and as we enter the new millennium, what do Labor talk about? Not any major national issues. They do not have any policies. Their only policy is to have a committee, a review or a round table. And they want to talk about cricket. (Time expired)