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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 61

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (4:33 PM) —I will just make some very brief concluding remarks in response to Senators Conroy and Cherry. The government acknowledges the opposition’s intention in relation to its amendments to this bill. It has sought to add the 2010 FIFA World Cup to the antisiphoning list and to address a purported loophole in the antisiphoning scheme which has been the subject of much debate. However, in both cases, the amendments are unnecessary and have significant additional impacts on the operation of the scheme, as has been outlined in the course of the debate. Accordingly, the government has—I think quite properly—rejected the amendments. The government has consistently stated that it is monitoring the operation of the antisiphoning scheme to make sure that it operates effectively, not just for free-to-air and pay television licensees but also for rights holders and audiences, and it will continue to do so. It will also continue to balance the competing interests inherent in such a scheme.

In adding the 2010 World Cup to the list, the government have responded to calls from audiences and broadcasters. This is the very way that the list is meant to operate. It was always intended to operate as a living document that can respond to changing circumstances. As I indicated in my remarks in the debate last week, the opposition would have changed this approach, with, I think, unacceptable—even absurd—consequences. The issue of the purported loophole has been widely debated, including in the ECITA committee considering the bill. Once again, the government will continue to monitor this issue. At this time, however, we can see no evidence that the antisiphoning scheme or its intent are being undermined—in fact, we have recently seen a very successful operation of the scheme—but, should that evidence be forthcoming, the government will consider the issue afresh.

I also outlined a number of concerns arising from the impact of the opposition’s attempt to address the purported loophole. These concerns demonstrate the significant problems of altering the operation of a scheme that is working effectively—and which is so finely balanced—in order to achieve what we believe would have been uncertain outcomes on an issue where no problem, at least at this point, has been demonstrated. The amendments would have serious consequences—not merely for pay television licensees but also for the entire television sector. On this basis, I have thought very carefully about these amendments, and I do not believe there is any reason to further delay the passage of the bill. I commend to the chamber the government’s recommendation that the bill be passed without amendment.

Question agreed to.

Resolution reported; report adopted.