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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3422


Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN(9.10) —I rise to speak briefly on the legislation that is before the Senate, and which will be discussed by a committee, I feel quite sure, because Senator Lewis has moved that it be sent to a committee and the Australian Democrats have said that they will support that motion. In speaking to the Broadcasting Amendment Bill 1986 and the Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1986, I do so as a senator representing the vast State of Queensland. I have a deal of sympathy with the Government's proposal to bring about a situation whereby virtually all of Australia will in effect have equality of choice with regard to television programming. I believe there will be many benefits for the people of rural Australia. Of course, I am thinking in particular of rural Queensland. Outback Australia will be helped in this way, although Senator Lewis could not explain to us a little earlier what would happen to Mount Isa.

So many people who live in the outback can only pick up one television station at present. Senators who represent Queensland know just how true that is. In the major capital cities for quite some time there has been a great diversity of choice. Most of the major capital cities have had three commercial television channels, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation channel as well. Of course, as I have said, out at Richmond, one would be very lucky to pick up the ABC. Some places do not pick up any commercial channels. I believe that the people who live in the country-I do not refer only to outback Queensland, but to the Northern Territory and Western Australia-will think it is terrific if they can have the same range of choices as people who live in the cities. I did make a statement on this subject some time ago. Further inquiries from various sources have shown that 17 regional television operators out of a total of 22 throughout Australia look favourably on the Government's proposal.

The Opposition has decided to refer these Bills to a committee. It believes that there are some problems to be solved. Senator Lewis outlined quite a number of them earlier. This, of course, means that there will be a delay of a few months more. I am not too sure whether the people of the outback will be very happy about that. But it is a subject that the Government has been considering for quite some time. Personally, I do not know why the Parliament does not make up its own mind. I am not too sure about that. I did read somewhere that a parliamentary committee is a pragmatic and political term for the too-hard basket. However, the Opposition's decision to refer the legislation to a committee is based on the opinion that the legislation needs a little more analysis. That is why it has decided that it should be referred to a committee, as Senator Lewis moved earlier. As a member of the coalition, I support that decision.