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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 3532

Mr BRIGGS (1:47 PM) —For that sales job I think the member for Braddon has an alternative career on the Digital Switchover Taskforce as the salesperson for digital switchover around Tasmania, in particular. He certainly has a passion for digital TV. I agree with part of what the member for Braddon said. It is a wonderful service and it will benefit many people. Many people now get the benefit of the additional stations and the additional content that we are seeing. As a young family we have a great use for ABC3, the kids channel, which in a previous life I was very passionate about ensuring. I was very pleased when it went ahead and I again congratulate Mark Scott on his initiative with that.

However, unfortunately, as with so many Rudd government programs, the problem here is not the idea but the implementation of the program itself. That is why I very strongly support the member for Casey, the shadow minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy, in his second reading amendment to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010 which condemns the government for its lack of understanding and its inability to implement what is a very important digital switchover. In my electorate, the electorate of Mayo, which has similar issues to those of the electorate of Braddon with topography and the like, there is no greater example of the failure of the Rudd government to implement this digital switchover in a coherent and well thought through and planned fashion. Unfortunately, that means that yet again more taxpayers’ money will be wasted by a government that simply cannot implement a program.

In my electorate two areas in particular have a challenge with digital television. The first is Yankalilla where, pleasingly, thanks to the good work of Senator Mary Jo Fisher, as was revealed recently in a Senate committee, five retransmission towers will be upgraded. That is good news. We are now seeking meetings with the broadcasters to ensure that that happens quickly—not in 2013 but quickly. I congratulate Mayor Peter Whitford, his deputy and the Yankalilla Council for the work they have done in ensuring that Yankalilla will be picked up in this process, as it seems it will be. Yankalilla, not far from Adelaide but in a very hilly part of South Australia—a beautiful part of South Australia—has many valleys and peaks and has traditionally had problems with television. In fact, it only got analog television not that many years ago, thanks to black spot funding for the self-help towers there. It is a relief for those people who will be able to get digital TV.

Some people in Yankalilla, particularly in the Inman Valley, will require the satellite service. I think the satellite service does have some value, and in that respect I support some of the actions of the government. There is of course a concern about the cost for people installing the satellite service. Some clarity of how much it will cost them will be important in the next little while so that people can start to plan around whether they will be able to get those services or not. Some people will get far better television coverage than they have ever had before, which is a good thing and will give them more opportunities.

So, with Yankalilla, it does appear that the broadcasters have done the right thing and have come on board. I congratulate them for that, because unfortunately the Rudd government has completely ignored the concerns of that area. The Yankalilla Council last year had a public meeting, which I attended with my state colleague Michael Pengelly. An invitation was sent to Senator Conroy; he did not attend. An invitation was sent to all the South Australian Labor senators and none of those people attended. There was a representative from the Digital Switchover Taskforce and she did a sterling job representing the political masters of the government. That is not actually her role, but she did a tremendous job in fulfilling it that night and answering what questions she could. However, the government’s approach shows a complete lack of understanding of regional and rural Australia and its needs when it comes to issues like digital television and the services that people expect in metropolitan areas which should be delivered in regional areas, particularly in areas like Yankalilla, which are not that far away from metropolitan Adelaide.

The second area where we have an ongoing concern is in the Adelaide Hills Council district. It is the Forreston repeater station, which covers Forreston obviously, Cudlee Creek and, more importantly, Gumeracha—in the sense that there are more people in Gumeracha, not that they are more important. That issue is not yet resolved. These places were on the B list which was tabled at the Senate committee I mentioned earlier. It is claimed they will be covered by upgrades to current towers, or gap fillers. However, there is no clarity about this at this point in time.

We are seeking to meet with Free TV and the broadcasters to see whether we can get some clarity about how they think the people in these areas are going to be covered. We are hoping to ensure that they will be covered. The people at Gumeracha are very conscious that they cannot get digital TV right now. They are 20 kilometres away from the Mount Lofty television tower which services the whole of Adelaide but they cannot actually get digital TV from that tower. It just shows the problem with the topography, which is an ongoing issue. However, it makes sense that, if these areas are going to be picked up, they should be picked up now so that communities can be relieved of these concerns and we do not have ongoing uncertainty.

I disagree with the member for Braddon: I think people do have an expectation when they buy these products that the government is telling them to buy—with ads on television, in newspapers and so forth—that they will be able to use them, particularly in a place not that far from a major broadcast tower. So there is a need for that issue to be resolved more quickly.

The member for Casey, the shadow minister, who is doing a very good job on this issue, visited my electorate only two weeks ago. We sat down with the Adelaide Hills Council and local concerned residents and we talked about an action plan to ensure that the government is aware of these problems and an action plan to ensure that we know that the implementation of digital TV for these people will go ahead. We are planning to talk to Free TV with the Adelaide Hills Council and ensure that they are picked up and that these people will be able, sooner rather than later, to get the great benefits that digital TV offers.

Digital TV does offer excellent benefits for consumers. It offers more content and it offers a genuine future for TV going into this century. It was initially the idea of the former government, and it was a good idea. It is a good thing that the Rudd government is implementing it. Unfortunately the implementation is the problem, as it is with so many other programs—the insulation program, the solar panels program, the Deputy Prime Minister’s memorial hall program. The fact that these programs have been implemented so badly that they are costing much more money than initially thought is reflected by the dip in the opinion polls for those on the other side in recent times. Unfortunately we have seen that with the digital TV implementation also.

Again, people in regional and rural Australia are the ones who first miss out, because there is just no understanding of their issues on that side. There are so few on that side who live outside the city confines.

Mr Champion —What about me?

Mr BRIGGS —Except, of course, the member for Wakefield. I know he also has several digital TV issues in his electorate. I heard his contribution earlier on. He is trying, with a forced smile, to endure what is happening with this issue. I know he is very concerned privately about not getting digital TV in certain parts of his electorate, which is a very beautiful part of South Australia—not quite as nice as the Adelaide Hills, but a nice part of South Australia.

Mr Champion —I’ve got better wines!

Mr BRIGGS —He does have some areas which have some very high-quality wine. I will agree about that with the member for Wakefield, although in my electorate of course we do have Langhorne Creek and Adelaide Hills wineries.

Government members interjecting—

Mr BRIGGS —We are in bipartisan agreement that we have very high-quality red wine in South Australia.

The second reading amendment moved by the member for Casey, the shadow minister, is a very good one and it highlights the issues that are not being addressed by this government. The amendment reads:

… the House:

(1)   condemns the Government for its lack of understanding of television broadcasting issues across regional Australia;

(2)   further condemns the Government for its inadequate planning and preparation for the switch-over to digital television across regional Australia, beginning in the Mildura region on 1 July 2010;

(3)   warns the Government that its failures to date risks leaving some Australians without television reception; and

(4)   calls on the Government to guarantee that Australians will not lose television reception on each digital switch-over day as a result of inadequate planning and preparation.

I think that is ultimately the point here—that this government just cannot implement a program. The Australian people are seeing that day in, day out. That is our greatest concern, and it is a concern that I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will rightly point out in the very highly anticipated address he will make tonight to the Australian people. This government cannot implement a program. It is spending far too much money because it cannot implement programs. It is costing the future generations of our country massively with its debt. This issue highlights that particularly. The digital TV implementation is as bad as the implementation of the insulation program, the Green Loans Program and the solar panels program. It is going to be another one of these issues which unfortunately cost the Australian people too much money, too much in higher taxes. We have seen a great big new tax this week to pay for all these failures.

I commend the second reading amendment moved by the member for Casey. With those few remarks, I will conclude.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—You’d love to keep going for another minute. You really would!

Mr BRIGGS —If you insist, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will keep going. The failure of program implementation by this government is so vast that I could keep going for longer—long enough surely for Mr Speaker to be ready to hand over to question time. Mr Speaker?

The SPEAKER —Order! It being approximately 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking—if he is so inclined, but I think he is happy—when the debate is resumed.