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Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Page: 6208

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (21:38): I am somewhat confused following that speech by the member for Wide Bay on the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2012 as to whether or not the Nationals are in favour of this proposal, whether they are pro analog or pro digital or whether they are happy or unhappy with the process. It was a bit hard to tell. With speeches like that, I do not rate the Leader of the National's chances of holding off that barking mad senator from St George from the Nationals' leadership. I think we will be entirely in the chair's hands.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): The member will withdraw.

Mr CHAMPION: Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, I was only complimenting you on your fighting spirit and our alliance, Chair.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield will withdraw.

Mr CHAMPION: I withdraw. Big changes like this are never easy but, in hearing what people say about the world of analog, you would think it was perfect. The experience in my electorate is that analog was far from perfect. There are people living in a couple of suburbs, Hillbank and Craigmore, with a population of some 15,000 people, in the metropolitan area of Adelaide, who for about 20-odd years had terrible reception. It was an ongoing problem. We had a situation where the TV broadcasters, the council and the federal government would all point the bone at each other and say it was someone else's responsibility to provide a retransmission tower. That situation went on forever, for 20 years. People could not get the cricket, could not get the football and could not get soccer—and this was in the metropolitan area.

When people talk to me about analog being a perfect era, I have to say frankly that the experience of many of my electors is that it simply was not. That goes for some of the country areas as well. In Craigmore it is a story with a happy ending, and that is because of Emma Dawson, who the Nationals graciously paid tribute to. Her hard work was also useful to my electors in the seat of Wakefield, particularly those in the two suburbs of Hillbank and Craigmore. Ms Dawson, with the minister's help and as part of an election commitment in 2007, provided a new digital tower which has fixed all of the problems that those two suburbs were having. They are growing suburbs, where people work hard and do the right thing. They expect to be able to get a good TV signal and watch the footy, the cricket and the soccer.

This retransmission tower has been a great success. It has been much welcomed. When we opened it about 50 to 100 people turned out on a Friday afternoon to watch the tower being erected. That is a pretty strong turnout. I suspect most of them came to make sure that it was getting constructed and that I was fulfilling my promises. That is an important thing for local residents, and it is important for local members to make sure that their election commitments are met. It was one of my proudest moments as a local MP.

This bill is particularly important. It must pass during the winter sittings in order to provide VAST services for viewers in digital television black-spot areas in major population centres in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Perth and Sydney. As I said before, these black spots are not unknown in metropolitan areas. They often cover vast areas and vast numbers of people. For too long we left the television stations to some degree off the hook. We left it to local communities to shoulder the burden of providing these towers. The advent of a digital signal has meant that the situation, certainly for my constituents, has changed.

This bill is very important because it is a $375 million initiative which will provide digital free-to-air services from the new satellite platform known as the VAST service. This will be particularly important for my rural constituents, who have often had indifferent analog services. As the member of the Nationals said, many of these people suffer from a digital signal that may be intermittent or affected by hills and valleys or the weather. That is the experience of some of the residents in areas around the Clare and Gilbert valleys. I have asked many of those residents, through the local paper, to provide us with feedback so we can point them to the services that they might need to provide. At Lyndoch and in parts of the Barossa Valley it is also an issue for some rural properties.

This is a good bill. It provides for a good service. As I said, I do not think we have much to fear from change. My constituents have benefited greatly from this government's program, and I think the minister and his office should be commended for their work.