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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 3042


Mr MACPHEE(10.49) —I will be very brief because the Leader of the House (Mr Young) has warned me that I must be brief. I refer to two clauses-clauses 19 and 27. Clause 19 inserts, amongst other things, a new section 91AAE which creates a newspaper register for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to administer. For the purpose of elucidation here and in the Senate, I ask: Why has the Broadcasting Tribunal of all organisations been given this task? How can it possibly do it? It seems that it is a matter of getting factual information. Where will the Tribunal get it from? We are trying to avoid the Tribunal getting bogged down in further inquiries, and this chamber and the Minister have helped to streamline its procedures. I also think of section 17 of the Act which we passed only recently in this Parliament in which we used the term `substantive power'. I ask the Minister to consider, if not tonight at least in time for an answer in the Senate, whether this sort of provision becomes a substantive power. It seems to me that what is being inserted here is largely an administrative function which should be done by the Minister or his Department. It is purely factual. If the Minister makes a decision which the industry dislikes, it may appeal to the AAT. This is something that we could do without especially if the Government takes the view that I expressed earlier on clause 18, about editorial control and style being omitted from the question of ownership.

Clause 27 inserts in page 14 of the Bill a proposed new section 92FAB, and this leads me to make the obvious point about cross-media rules: There is differential treatment between radio and television licences and those for print. It is very important that we recognise that in some areas radio can be more influential than print or even, perhaps, television. It is important that we look at radio and print as well as the combination of television and print. I suggest that we should look at the question of influence, not just the case where there appears to be some offence stemming from monopoly. The mere fact of there being more than one radio station in a given place does not, in my opinion, justify the removal of the cross-media ownership rules. If there is more than one radio station there can still be influence. The Leader of the House, who has just given me the wind-up signal, comes from Adelaide which has five commercial stations. Even then, if the station running the main talkback program or the most popular high rating television station which most influences opinion is owned by the newspaper it can further influence opinion. The mere fact of there being more than one radio station is irrelevant in a regional area and I believe that metropolitan radio stations should be considered along with regional stations.