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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1262

Senator SHORT —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. Is the Minister aware that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has required that, with limited exceptions, all broadcasting and television advertisements be 100 per cent locally made? Does this requirement contravene the spirit of international trading arrangements to which Australia is a party, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? Is the Minister also aware that general opinion amongst advertisers in Australia is that the local product is competitive in terms of cost and quality and is, in fact, the subject of a flourishing export trade? Does this indicate that the need for the requirement no longer exists? For this reason, and in view of its applications for Australia's international trading relationships, will the Minister therefore undertake to discuss the matter with his relevant ministerial colleagues with a view to terminating the requirement?

Senator BUTTON —I am aware of the rulings of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal in relation to this matter. It is perhaps worth while my explaining, as I understand it, the basis of those rulings over a substantial period. Currently there is a program standard 39 which requires all television advertisements to be produced in Australia or New Zealand, subject to limited exceptions. This standard was introduced by the Fraser Government. It is instructive to note that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, in its report into self-regulation several years ago, in paragraph 8.40, stated:

Any consideration of the Australian character of commercial television would be incomplete without a reference to the existence since 1960 of a Ministerial order which has prohibited the use of imported advertisements on Australian television.

So there has been both a ministerial order straddling a number of governments since 1960 and program standard 39 which was introduced in the last few years. Of course, the fact that that standard has existed for some period and the fact that it is seen as integral to support of the local industry and retaining the indigenous character of Australian television, do not mean that that is right.

I am also asked whether the need for the requirement any longer exists because of the alleged competitiveness of the Australian advertising industry both in Australia and internationally. I am not in a position to answer that question precisely. I think the standard is very much dictated by a sort of value judgment. All I can say is that there is no reliable information available to the Government on exports of advertising material. I am quite unable to say what the extent of that is. I am not sure that there is much valuable information which can help us in relation to answering that question.

Senator Short also asked whether the regulation and the effects of the regulation were in breach of the spirit of international trading arrangements such as the GATT. All I am able to say in relation to that is that there has been a long-standing international debate as to whether the GATT covers services of this kind as well as products. That debate is still alive and well, as I understand it, both in the GATT and in a number of countries. Indeed, Senator Short, who I have no doubt will be aware of these things, will know that a number of countries have asked, in respect of a future round of multinational trade negotiations, that the question of services be specifically placed high on the agenda because they consider that those issues have not been resolved. It is services of this kind, amongst others, that countries have sought to have on the agenda for the next multilateral trade negotiations round and also for consideration by GATT.

The honourable senator asked whether I am prepared to discuss the matter with other ministerial colleagues with a view to terminating the requirement. I will certainly raise the issue with my colleague the Minister for Communications, but on the basis of material currently available I will not be advocating to him that the current arrangements be terminated.