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Wednesday, 29 November 2006
Page: 168

Ms LEY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (10:33 AM) —I thank the members for Oxley and Hinkler for their contributions on the Datacasting Transmitter Licence Fees Bill 2006 and the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Collection of Datacasting Transmitter Licence Fees) Bill 2006. I do, however, note that the member for Oxley made various disparaging comments during this debate about the government’s media reforms generally. This is the same rhetoric that we have been hearing from the opposition on these issues for some time now. It is very difficult to take them seriously when all we are hearing is opposition for opposition’s sake and no policies to offer in return.

It is the government that has done the hard work to achieve media reform that will deliver benefits to consumers and allow Australia’s media industry to adapt to and make the full switch to digital and continue to deliver quality services to consumers into the future, including the new digital services that are the subject of this legislation. By contrast, the member for Hinkler outlined, I believe very well, the benefits and the flexibility, particularly the flexibility of the new digital age in a country that, as he said, is diverse both in rural and regional areas and in culture and ethnicity. I thank him for that.

If I can use my own electorate of Farrer as an example, digital multichannelling will, I hope, allow the citizens of Albury, which is in New South Wales, to receive a New South Wales news service. At the moment the only one that we are able to receive on television is a Victorian news service. If they had a vote, most people would actually prefer the Victorian service. I do not know why. Nevertheless, digital multichannelling will give the people who want to see a New South Wales news service an opportunity to do just that, so that is one single advantage for my own area.

These bills are part of the implementation of the government’s media reform policies in relation to the allocation of datacasting transmitter licences for the two unallocated television channels. The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2006, passed by parliament on 18 October 2006, provides for the allocation of one set of licences: channel A datacasting transmitter licences for fixed, in-home, free-to-air digital services and the other, channel B datacasting transmitter licences, for a potentially wider range of digital services. These bills will require the channel A licence holder to be subject to a revenue based annual licence fee in addition to the up-front payment resulting from a price based allocation system. The Datacasting Transmitter Licence Fees Bill 2006 provides for the annual licence fee to be determined according to formulae based on the formula used to calculate commercial television broadcasting licence fees.

The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Collection of Datacasting Transmitter Licence Fees) Bill 2006 amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to provide payment machinery and record-keeping obligations to support the administration of datacasting transmitter licence fees. This will ensure that channel A services are subject to licence fees consistent with the fees levied on commercial television broadcasting services and that the compliance obligations in relation to datacasting transmitter licence fees will be similar to those currently imposed on commercial television broadcasting licences under part 14A of the Broadcasting Services Act.

Passage of these bills will enable the Australian Communications and Media Authority to set licence conditions for the channel A allocation process, which the government expects to be completed for both unassigned channels as soon as practicable in 2007. Once again, I commend the bills to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.