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Tuesday, 4 November 2003
Page: 22007

Ms PANOPOULOS (9:24 PM) —Before I speak on the substantive matter of concern I would like to congratulate the member for Grayndler for finally admitting what many of us on this side of the House have been saying about the Greens—that is, that they are really watermelons: green on the outside and a particular shade of red on the inside. I look forward to further comments from him on this matter.

Tonight I rise to speak against a statement recently released by the member for Corio. In what appears to be another feeble and untenable attempt to lay a blow on the Howard government, the shadow minister for regional services has cast a slur on every radio station in my electorate of Indi. The member for Corio said in a statement on 11 September 2003:

If local radio stations still cannot be relied upon to keep the public informed during emergency situations such as terrorist attacks, bushfires or other natural disasters then it is entirely the fault of John Howard and his government.

That is quite extraordinary. In what would appear to be a moment of idiocy, perhaps because he was suffering from spotlight deprivation syndrome, the member for Corio then fax-streamed this insulting release directly to these radio stations. It is insulting, and it is ignorant for the member for Corio to think of country radio stations as ineffective and impotent when it comes to alerting Australians to natural disasters.

You would think, given his electorate's experience of the tragedy of bushfires first-hand during the Linton fires, that the member for Corio would understand the important role that local radio stations play in keeping their local communities informed. My local radio stations, for one, performed an exceptional job, and I congratulate the staff at the Albury based 2AY, River Radio and Star FM stations, Wodonga and Shepparton ABC and, particularly, the Wangaratta based 3NE and Edge FM. The presenters and their staff performed faultlessly under extreme pressure and met at times difficult deadlines throughout the 60-odd days the bushfires threatened the lives and livelihoods of the people of Indi.

The radio stations in Indi tirelessly broadcast day and night throughout the fires to not only keep my constituents informed of the progress of the fires but to offer their advice and comfort. At no time did the radio station staff think of overtime, and at least one presenter cancelled a week's holiday so as to continue to provide a vital link to communities in outlying areas, where radio was their only guaranteed link to the reality of the surrounding calamity.

I call on the member for Corio to apologise for his foolish comments that local radio stations in my electorate cannot be relied upon to keep the public informed during emergency situations. But this is the man who, in his infinite wisdom, labelled our great Navy as McHale's Navy. He now calls the local radio stations in my electorate useless in times of emergency, oblivious of and indifferent to the important role they played during the bushfires last summer.

I call on him to apologise unreservedly to the local radio stations in my electorate, and I can only reiterate comments I have made previously that perhaps it is rather prophetic that the member for Corio was, in his previous life, a singer and guitarist with the Fabulous Rock Bottoms. With his latest disgraceful and unfounded comments, he has reached a very unfabulous and embarrassing political rock bottom. He has caused great offence, but at least he has an opportunity now to partially redeem himself by being gracious and apologising for the offence he has caused.