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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2414


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (19:50): I commend the member for Throsby for his contribution. I rise to speak on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Dividend) Bill 2013. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992. It is not exactly the most exciting piece of legislation ever to come through the 43rd parliament, perhaps, but it is significant for some. I always like to make these speeches on legislation understandable for the man on the Clapham omnibus, or the common people. When we look at what we are proposing tonight, it is not particularly controversial. But it does need to be unpacked.

Looking at our cars is a good starting point. Cars have changed. Not that long ago, they had AM radios. Then they had FM radios. Now many new cars have digital radios. Digital radios offer greater information. You can have the name of the song, a little bit of information about it and a bit of news flashing through as well. That is a pretty good progression: from AM to FM to digital. There is now more information, better choice and more understanding. That is indicative of this digital revolution and the digital age that we live in. Obviously, the legislation before us is a result of that production. Basically, these amendments are to facilitate possible commencement of telecommunication services in the spectrum. By switching from the old analogue network to the digital age there will be opportunities in that spectrum—that bit of the wavelength—to benefit other companies, particularly telecommunications companies.

I was drawn to this picture—I apologise for using a prop—which came up on my Facebook. It is a picture of the two photographs taken in St Peter's Square at the announcement of a new pope. I am sorry that people cannot see it but it is easy enough to find on Facebook. It is a photograph from the same viewpoint in 2007, when Cardinal Ratzinger became pope and another taken this year of Pope Francis. Whilst you cannot see it clearly in this photograph, anyone who searches would see—I have shared this photograph on my Facebook page—the photograph in 2013 of the same event. Between 2007 and 2013 not a lot has happened for many people, but the 2013 photograph is just a sea of iPads and digital phones taking photos of Pope Francis coming out to address the crowd.

That photograph encapsulates what we are about tonight: the change from AM to FM to the digital age. That then creates spectrum that is available to telecommunications companies. Why is spectrum valuable? It is valuable because the progression from 3G to the next generation—4G—means that people are hungry for information. And that is what is happening here. That spectrum is able to be sold by the government to the highest bidders—we are calling it the 'digital dividend'—which is a good thing to do, because people are hungry for information.

Obviously, because of the time lines we have set out, this spectrum is still part of the broadcasting services bands. So the legislation before the House is about dealing with this. It makes changes to the datacasting regulations under schedule 6 to the Broadcasting Services Act by introducing the concept of designated datacasting services.

A designated datacasting service will be defined under the legislation as one provided by (1) a commercial television broadcasting service; (2) a commercial radio broadcasting service; or (3) a national broadcaster such as the ABC or SBS. That is the background to the legislation that is before the chamber tonight. There is increasing demand and the digital age is increasingly complicated. There was not a lot of Facebook two popes ago; now we have the second pope to be on twitter. And things will change.

My children—one four-year-old and one seven-year-old—are much more adept at iPads than I am. They can use my wife's iPhone. They are skilled at using and accessing information—more skilled than me, and I still have more degrees than them put together! They are obviously going to be children of the digital age. As I said, it is amazing to see, in that picture, the progression in that short time—from one pope to the next—and to see how the world has embraced the digital age.

That is a problem for some media providers because, as we move from newspapers to iPads and iPhones and the like, people are less likely to buy paper newspapers. They still want trusted, valuable information so there will always be a role for the press gallery. There will always be a role for reliable information, but unfortunately for some of the media proprietors there has been a collapse in income streams. The rivers of gold that they talked about in terms of classified advertising in the seventies and eighties have dried up, because the transfer from paper to digital means a collapse in income streams. I think the rule of thumb used by media proprietors is that for every dollar that they received from an ad in the weekend newspaper they are now receiving 10c for an ad on-line. That is a 90 per cent cut in income.

You can see the effect of that up on level 2 of the Senate wing—if I can mention that place—where the fourth estate reside. You can now send a bowling ball down the aisles and not hit a reporter or a journalist. The reality is that there has been downsizing and downsizing and downsizing—not just in Canberra but across Australia—as media organisations have rationalised as they have fragmented in the digital age. I always say that no-one under 25 has bought a newspaper for five years. They still read information provided by journalists and the like but they are not tracking it down in paper form.

The digital age does have some challenges. Obviously, it has some fantastic opportunities, which is why the Gillard Labor government has been so enthusiastic about the roll-out of the NBN: it sits perfectly with our agenda of providing opportunity via education and facilitating those economic advantages via the NBN. They sit perfectly together. And throw into that the fact that we have a policy of engaging with Asia, because that is where the opportunities will be.

We cannot compete with Asia on labour costs unless we have a prime minister who is committed to policies like Work Choices. That is a possibility on 14 September, but hopefully Australia will realise that you do not make the nation smarter by cutting wages. That is not the way forward. I know there are a couple of Work Choices warriors opposite, but hopefully their voices will be drowned out by that commonsense approach which is: do it the smarter way; do it the more intelligent way; do it the cleverer way; embrace the digital age; embrace the NBN; and look at the higher skills, higher services approach.

This legislation is obviously to facilitate the possible initiation of telecommunications services which, as I said, we have identified as the 'digital dividend' within the broadcasting services band. Let us look at some of the opportunities that are there in terms of the digital economy and what the Gillard Labor government has done.

As part of the 2011-12 budget, the government provided the community broadcasting sector with an additional $12.5 million over four years, an increase of 25 per cent. For digital community radio, the government provided $13.5 million over four years, from 2009-10 to 2012-13, to establish and provide digital radio services. The government has also committed to providing $2.2 million in annual ongoing funding to the sector.

The National Digital Economy Strategy sets out a vision for Australia to realise the benefits of the National Broadband Network and position Australia as a leading digital economy by 2020—a smarter approach to engaging with our region. There is the Digital Hubs program to help communities gain the skills needed to maximise the benefits provided by the National Broadband Network— (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 34. The debate is adjourned, and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.