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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23391


Mr WILLIAMS (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (8:39 PM) —In response to the invitation from the member for Lowe, I would simply draw to his attent-ion my closing remarks on the second reading debate where I made express reference to the Harradine amendment.

The government will not be supporting the amendment moved by the member for Calare. We are well aware that the amendment has arisen out of concerns about the proposed sharing arrangement between 2UE and 2GB—2GB having an association with 2CH. This issue is currently being examined by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. The ABA is yet to determine whether the proposed arrangements would be contrary to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. In the circumstances it is just not appropriate to be doing anything while the ABA is considering the matter.

This amendment is not related to the cross-media rules. It applies to all commercial television and radio broadcasters and may have unintended consequences on existing resource-sharing arrangements. Although the three proposed conditions are taken from the criteria for the grant of a cross-media exemption certificate in the current bill, here they would operate independently of any ABA approval process. In the bill, an applicant for a cross-media exemption certificate puts forward a specific proposal which is considered by the ABA in accordance with the criteria set out in proposed section 61F. So long as the broadcaster complies with the arrangement approved by the ABA, it can be certain that it will comply with the act in this regard.

Under this amendment, the proposed licence conditions would apply to licensees with no common ownership. Any arrangement between licensees would run the risk of being a licence breach. In a number of areas, smaller operators have traditionally drawn on the news services of larger media groups. These conditions would create uncertainty for some operators. It is to be noted that there is also a technical problem with the proposed amendment in that it would assume that radio and television have the same licence areas. In fact this is rarely, if ever, the case and therefore, if enacted, this amendment would not achieve the intended effect in any event. If I have not properly represented what the member for Calare intends then there is a problem of a different sort: the intention is just not clear. The government will not support the amendment.

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Andren's) be agreed to.