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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 343

Senator BARNETT (6:51 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

This report of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on digital television transmission and reception is quite extensive and comprehensive and it highlights the litany of failure with respect to digital television access in rural and regional parts of this country. I specifically will address my remarks to Tasmania. There is a litany of complaint for rural and regional parts of Tasmania and it has continued. For example, last year we were the only state in Australia that missed out One HD 24-hour sports TV channel. It has now been rolled out. Initially it was to be rolled out to the capital cities but not Hobart—not Tasmania. Then I started a campaign in June or July last year. We had a Facebook campaign, we had community support and Tasmanians, particularly in the south, said: ‘We want it. We deserve it. We are part of Australia. Hobart is the capital of the sovereign state of Tasmania and one of the capitals in this country of Australia.’ We said it is not fair. That campaign continued for some time because we felt we were being treated as second-class citizens and it was not good enough. We are just as keen on sport—AFL football and also rugby league, but mostly AFL football, I must say. Many of us down there support the Richmond Tigers. They have not had a great year—

Senator Feeney —Go the Pies!

Senator BARNETT —Go the Pies, says Senator Feeney, for this Saturday. So we are saying that we are like every other member of the Australian community. So it was disappointing at the time that Southern Cross Ten Network launched One HD to regional viewers in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT from 2 July and of course there was a huge delay in Tasmania. In the end we got it to Hobart. We made that campaign successful. Community support and community pressure made it happen. And guess what? It then went to other parts of Australia. So we started a campaign for all the other parts of Tasmania. It took time and we were ultimately successful, but we had to fight to make it happen. I am proud to be a member of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team and, with others, we fought very hard. There was a group of sports fans not just in Hobart but also in Launceston. We urged quick action and we ended up getting it.

But since then it seems that the networks, this government and Senator Conroy have not learnt their lesson. Why have they not learnt that lesson? Just a month or two ago, I think it was the week of August 30, Channel 7 and Channel 10 announced that they would launch new digital channels, 7Mate and Channel 11, across Australia except Tasmania. So they have not learnt their lesson. There was a Facebook page created and a campaign started. I commend Rebecca White from Tasmania, a local member of parliament down there, for making an effort to say that we should be treated like all other parts of Australia. Well, guess what? In due course they did listen and they did learn and now those new digital channels are coming to Tasmania.

I am very disappointed that the federal Labor government has not acted more directly with respect to access to digital television on the east coast of Tasmania. I am advised, based on this report of September 2010 and other advice I have received, that that is not going to be due until 2013. That is a long way away. We want to be treated like other parts of Australia and 2013 is a long way away—obviously more than two years away. That is a decision that I know Senator Conroy can influence. He can make a decision and he can stand up for the people of Tasmania. I am asking him tonight to do so and putting him on notice. I am saying to him: ‘Please intervene. Please step forward. We know that your government has pledged some money to be spent on broadcasting digital services to regional areas across Australia and we want Tasmania included—the east coast of Tasmania and other parts of Tasmania, whether it be the west coast, the far north-east or the islands, King and Flinders.’ We need that support from the Federal government. I ask this government to come forward and say, ‘We acknowledge there is a problem here.’ The way the program and the system is running at the moment is discriminatory. This report that I am referring to tonight, dated September 2010, is very clear. The fact is that it is simply not good enough. I am asking the government to step forward, take on board the concerns and fix the problem. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.