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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 31

Senator McLUCAS (11:27 AM) —I am pleased to be able to join the discussion about why we need to join together the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority. I have over many years had an interest in the role of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and their monitoring of regional television licences. As the Acting Deputy President would be aware, on behalf of the people of North Queensland I have, with others, advocated that there be a change to the licences provided to television broadcasters in regional Australia.

Through the advocacy of many of us in North Queensland we did get change to the licence provisions of regional television licensees. I think the jury is still out as to whether or not they have been successful in delivering greater local content in their news bulletins. Certainly from my perspective there have been some licensees who have gone along not only with the intent of the changed licence provisions but also with the spirit of those provisions. I commend those licensees for that action.

In estimates recently I spoke with ABA officials and asked them if they thought there was compliance with the new licence provisions. As I said, I think the jury is still out on that matter. I can assure you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I will continue to monitor these changed licence provisions to ensure that the ABA—whether or not it is amalgamated with the ACA or in whatever form it may be—continues to do the job to make sure that regional Australians do get to see themselves on television and that they know what the weather is like in Cairns or western Queensland. I recall a constituent telling me that they were pretty well tired of knowing what the tide times were in Sydney Harbour when they lived in Hughenden. Let us hope that the work that we have done for the coastal communities can extend to those people in western Queensland. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to make those brief comments.