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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 34

Senator IAN MACDONALD (11:30 AM) —When the debate on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Radio) Bill 2007 and the Radio Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2007 terminated last night I was making the point to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and her department that, in implementing these and other bills, we need to ensure that the interests of rural and regional Australia are to the fore. As I mentioned last night, as a result of the investigations and work that the committee did I am relatively satisfied that the arrangements being put in place are the right ones and do give flexibility for the future.

Before I conclude, there are two other brief points I would like to make. First, I wanted to congratulate the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Eggleston, who has just come into the chamber. Senator Eggleston is a very effective chairman of this committee. It is easy enough to deal with the Labor Party when they get argumentative on these committees; it is much more difficult when your own side becomes argumentative, and Senator Eggleston has a very good way of getting through difficulties, of liaising with the various members of the committee who have some problems with legislation and of liaising with the minister. He is usually able to resolve these matters very well. It is worth mentioning what an effective chairman Senator Eggleston is.

This legislation is about digital radio, and I want to draw the Senate’s attention to the government’s budget commitment of $10.1 million for community radio stations to begin the implementation of digital radio from January 2009. The funding that our government and the Treasurer provided a couple of nights ago will enable community radio broadcasters to extend their track record in innovation and provide fresh and vital services designed to complement the existing analog offerings. This is the first step in fulfilling the government’s promise to ensure access for community broadcasters to digital radio. For the 40 or so wide coverage community radio stations in the state capitals, it will provide the opportunity to add digital value to ongoing analog operations. I note the media release from the chairman of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia congratulating the government on its initiative in the budget. Community radio is particularly important in many parts of Australia. As a representative of country Australia, I know only too well what a great job community broadcasting does in making sure local communities are kept aware of events. They involve local communities and they provide a form of expression for local communities. It is good to see the government recognising this. Congratulations to the minister on the budget initiative to assist community radio.