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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2170


Mr SIMMONS —I direct my question to the Minister for Communications. How does the Government intend to carry out its policy of providing additional television services to regional Australia in the light of the Opposition's rejection of the Government's equalisation legislation?


Mr DUFFY —I thank the honourable member for Calare for his question. He is one of the long list of Labor members from rural electorates who have shown a long and continuing interest in the provision of extra television services to their constituents. The Government's position on this matter is quite clear. We have made a commitment that in southern New South Wales as one approved market, northern New South Wales as another approved market, Queensland and rural Victoria there will be the same services in television in the sense of diversity of choice as people receive in the capital cities. In those areas where the markets are of the order of a million people which will sustain those competing services, we as a government intend to correct the inequity that has existed for people in rural Australia for far too long. The fact that the legislation was rejected yesterday in the other place is an interesting reflection on the attitude particularly of the National Party. It has purported to represent the people of rural Australia and in fact has not been representing them. It may well be that, having thrown off the shackles of an economically dry, urban-dominated Liberal Party, it will now be able to go back to representing the people of rural Australia, at least to the extent of supporting this Government in its efforts to bring about services in country areas with populations which will stand it equal to those in the cities.


Mr Beale —Issue new licences.


Mr DUFFY —That was the opening kick from the new shadow Minister for Communications. He is the fourth in 4 1/2 years.


Mr Hawke —Bring back Macphee.


Mr DUFFY —Bring back Macphee, as the Prime Minister says. I think that the chances of that are not highly likely, because he did have some well thought out views in this area. It is our intention to take back to the Senate the equalisation Bill in the form in which it is now-that is, in a form which will provide competitive television services to rural Australia. We will then see where some people in this place really stand. I was looking for the Leader of the National Party, but he has moved from centre half forward to the back pocket. I think that the Leader of the National Party and those who at least temporarily sit behind him had better have a good look at the position when this legislation goes back to the Senate. I assure the House that between now and the next election and right through that election campaign the reason why people in rural Australia, if it happens, will not be receiving those services will be the Opposition's ineptitude in supporting the people it purports to represent. That will be spelt out absolutely clearly for them.