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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 37

Senator ALLISON (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (11:45 AM) —The Democrats strongly support digital radio and look forward to its introduction. However, like other speakers in this place, I point to the shabby process that has occurred so far. There does not seem to be a reason to rush this legislation, because a whole raft of questions were raised during the inquiry process. There has been too little time to consider what are 137 pages of amendments. Questions raised cover the fact that technical trials were not done; issues concerning the DRM platform and its impact on rural and remote area access, and limited spectrum access and the operation of multiplexes; and where the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Radio) Bill 2007 and the Radio Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2007 leave community broadcasters in the event that they cease to hold a licence. I think it is not unreasonable to say that the government should have sorted out these problems before we had to deal with the bill itself.

The Democrats will consider the legislation and any amendments that are put up as the debate progresses. However, we recognise the difficulty in trying to fix this bill in the way in which many submitters to the inquiry on the legislation suggested it should be fixed. At the end of the day, this is really up to the government to fix rather than the Senate. I will be moving an amendment, which is not altogether related to the digital platform but is a very pressing issue for us at this point in time. I will come to it when the Senate moves into its committee stage.