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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 3044

Mr IAN CAMERON(11.01) —Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like to continue my contribution to the debate on this legislation. In particular I will concentrate on the second part of the Communications Legislation Amendment Bill 1987. In doing so I would like to refer the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) to the history of this debate. In 1980, when I first became a member of this House, we looked at satellite television and at giving remote areas of Australia a television signal for the first time. What do we see? The whole thing has done a full circle. Here we are tonight debating Bills which will give the moguls of the television industry in Australia more television channels. People in western Queensland and inland Australia still receive no commercial television services. The Minister understands that. He does not support this legislation. I wish he had the guts to say so in this House. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) supports this legislation, but the Minister does not. He has said so. He does not support the 75 per cent concept; he supports the 43 per cent concept.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member might address himself to the amendment.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Mr Deputy Speaker, the history of this debate goes back to those years when the satellite was launched to give all Australians one television signal-that is, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation signal. The 30 watt transponders were to allow a footprint to be available to give each State a commercial channel. That is not being allowed.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The honourable member is required to address the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gilmore. I require him to do that, otherwise I will ask him to resume his seat.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Mr Deputy Speaker, I am coming to the second paragraph of the amendment. I think the situation is absolutely disgraceful. I know that the Minister takes an interest in people in inland Australia. The Australian Labor Party is meant to support the underdog. It is nonsense, because Government members are supporting the multi-millionaires of the country. It is an absolute disgrace that the Minister is not prepared to allow a commercial television signal to isolated Australians. He has the gall to propose a Bill--

Mr Duffy —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. This contribution may have been of some interest while the matter was being debated when the honourable member was at the National Farmers Federation dinner--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Minister has a point of order. I ask him to come quickly to it.

Mr Duffy —The point of order is that he is speaking to a Bill which has already been passed by this House. There has been no reference by him, despite your request for him to do so, to the amendment. We are now debating the Communications Legislation Amendment Bill, not the Bill which was before the House earlier-the Broadcasting (Ownership and Control) Bill.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Mr Deputy Speaker, I am speaking to the second part of the Bill-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Maranoa has not yet received the call. In response to the Minister, the honourable member is at liberty to address the second reading of this Bill. As he had seconded the amendment, it seemed prudent for him primarily to address that, but he is free to address the second reading of the particular Bill that is before the House.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Mr Deputy Speaker, I am speaking to the second paragraph of the amendment which I have seconded on behalf of the National Party of Australia. It has to do with the moratorium on pay television which applies to satellite as well as cable television in this nation. Again, I say it is a disgrace that either this Government or a future government will affect rural Australians in isolated areas in this way. If the Labor Government is not prepared to give the isolated people of Australia one commercial television channel through the existing commercial set-up, at least it ought to allow somebody who is prepared to run a pay television business to do so. Not only are people prepared to put up commercial television on the satellite and sent it down to isolated homesteads and communities in this country but also the Isolated Children's and Parents Association has also been to see the present Minister for Communications and other Ministers who have been responsible for the portfolio over the years that I have been a member of parliament to get pay education, pay university. Members of the Australian Labor Party are not prepared to allow inland Australians to have pay education. We pay our taxes the same as everybody else. It is a damned disgrace that the Government is not prepared to allow that.

I do not believe that any honourable member should support an amendment which totally excludes people in isolated areas of this country. It does not apply just to those in inland Australia; it applies to people in isolated areas who do not get commercial television. There would be people around Canberra who do not get commercial television. The only way in which they can pick up a signal is via the satellite because it is a direct signal. I pay tribute to people in my electorate, such as Jim Warner of the ICPA and Mr Hartley, who has been to Canberra on many occasions seeking to get pay television up.

The Special Broadcasting Service signal, for which the taxpayers also pay, is sent across Australia to Darwin in an encrypted form which cannot be picked up. The existing commercial networks and channels in regional Australia are to be offered one or two extra channels. Those in isolated areas still will not get any commercial television. If you the Minister force them into that position it will be five to six years before they will be in a position to get a signal. You have already issued a licence to regional operators in Queensland. They have a licence in their hand to operate through the satellite system. Yet here we see Bills being put through the House tonight which will completely negate those negotiations. You tell me, Minister, that they will not be in a position--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order-The honourable member will address the Chair.

Mr IAN CAMERON —They will not be able to take up the footprint that we have in place with the 30-watt transponders. I ask the Minister what he intends to do with those 30-watt transponders and what he intends to do with the licences that he has already issued to the commercial conglomerate in Queensland which was prepared to put up a channel and to give inland Queenslanders at least the opportunity to look at one commercial channel.

Mr Duffy —Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: On the question of the moratorium on pay television, the honourable member was addressing himself to the Communications Legislation Amendment Bill. I repeat that if he wanted to speak on matters relating to broadcasting ownership and control he should have been here rather than being out of the House.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Mr Deputy Speaker, I point out to the Minister that I was on the speakers list. The Minister cut off the debate before I was able to speak.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Chair had not satisfied itself that the honourable member's remarks were not in some way related to pay television and was prepared to hear him further. I invite the honourable member for Maranoa to be relevant to the question before the House.

Mr IAN CAMERON —On behalf of the people I represent and others in inland Australia, I would suggest that the regionals can be given an extra channel through the multi-channel and supplementary licence arrangements and that a third channel can be used by a conglomerate, under the existing licence that has been issued, to send a signal via the satellite to those people who no longer get commercial television. That is the system which we in the National Party advocate. It is disgraceful the members of the Labor Party propose to represent those in rural Australia, yet those in rural Australia are not getting commercial television. I can assure the House that when the Bills reach the Senate they will be lost.