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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 49

Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (12:37 PM) —I think that what has taken place in the chamber over the last 10 minutes or so shows just how poorly thought out these amendments really are and how easy it is to have unintended consequences that have implications well beyond those that might be thought of by senators who move amendments. They might look good on the surface but when you actually consider them a little more closely they are either unnecessary or really make the whole regime much more difficult to comply with. I make that comment because I decided it was appropriate to point out that the two amendments we have been considering would have been farcical if we had not drawn to the chamber’s attention the fact that they could hardly work in their current form.

With respect to the substance of amendment (9), the proposed amendment to section 4 of the act is clearly unnecessary. Regulation of broadcasting already includes strong complaints based processes. Part 11 of the BSA provides that persons can make a complaint to the ABA that a service provider has committed an offence through the breach of a licence condition or code of practice. The ABA must investigate the complaint and must notify the complainant of the results of its investigation. In dealing with consumer complaints under the Broadcasting Services Act, the ACMA would be required to act fairly, including complying with requirements of procedural fairness, otherwise the outcome of its investigations may be subject to legal challenge. It is important that an appropriate level of balance between consumer and other interests is adopted. Section 4 of the BSA already provides this. The ABA is required to regulate broadcasting services in a way which enables public interest considerations to be addressed without imposing unnecessary financial and administrative burdens on service providers. For those reasons, the government rejects the amendment.