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Wednesday, 9 February 2005
Page: 64


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (1:53 PM) —It is not often that you will hear politicians praising the media, particularly the ABC. But I have to say that the ABC do a fabulous job in two areas that I have been involved in. One is their rural and regional radio service. It is a service that is almost part of life in country Australia. People who live in country Australia get a lot of information and interaction through the ABC. They get farm prices, commodity prices and information on what is happening in smaller communities from the local ABC, and I think the ABC does a great job there.

Today I want to highlight and concentrate on another initiative of the ABC which I think is just fabulous, and that is the Heywire program. For those of you who do not quite understand what Heywire is, it is a nationwide radio competition where young people in country Australia have the opportunity to submit to the ABC a short account of their life or an account of something they are very passionate about. Over the summer period, the ABC runs these stories on the ABC local radio—and I think even city radio and Triple J as well. The 40 people who submit their stories are, as a reward, brought to Canberra for a week, and they are with us at the present time. They will be attending question time in the House of Representatives in a couple of minutes time.

I think that this program is tremendous and I am so delighted that the Howard government has been a contributor and a supporter with grants to the ABC for the program over the last several years. Originally the Department of Transport and Regional Services provided financial support and, more recently, my own department, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, has provided support. This year the department is giving some $50,000 to the program. The Howard government has a number of programs and initiatives which encourage young people, including young people from country Australia, to achieve and develop their leadership skills. But this program run by the ABC is quite different. It involves a different type of applicant, and it involves people from all parts of country Australia.

In this week the 40 young people will see a lot of Canberra. Many of them have never been to Canberra before, many of them have never been outside their own state and a couple of them have never been outside their own communities. This program gives them that opportunity, allows them to make lifelong friendships—and I know that has happened—and gives them some encouragement to go on to bigger and better things.

Some of the stories that these young people tell are fascinating, and I think all of us in this chamber could well benefit from listening to them. One of the stories this year was about the devastation caused by the locust plague. That was by Tim Martin, a young guy from Willow Tree in New South Wales. Rebecca Barnett from Rosedale in Queensland submitted a story about the dreams of a grazier’s daughter. Jacqueline Magee from my own home area of Townsville submitted a story entitled A positive view on regional life. That story encapsulates a lot of the good things I see about people living in regional Australia and how you make the best of where you come from. Lester Shadforth gave an interesting account about the Lower Gulf Indigenous beef cattle drive. Lester comes from Mount Isa and he has never been outside Queensland before, but he is enjoying Canberra and he had a very interesting story which gave us a lot to think about.

Lily Nomoa comes from Badu Island up in the Torres Strait. Her talk was about responsibilities of family and school life. That was very interesting to me; I was up in the Torres Strait with the Protected Zone Joint Authority just last week doing some work with people from Badu Island. It is interesting to hear a young person’s view on what life is like there. Joanna Koeyers is from Kununurra in Western Australia, and she gave an account of station life in the north Kimberley. Again, it was an interesting account that those of us in this chamber would not be aware of in our daily lives.

When we listen to these stories of young people we can see life—particularly life in country Australia—from a different perspective. It helps the government, and it helps all of us. It will give politicians who attended the function this morning and those who will attend the dinner on Thursday night, some insight and will help in the way we interact and do our jobs as legislators. I am delighted that the Howard government has been involved, and I congratulate the ABC again on this magnificent initiative.