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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2415

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (12:11): What an utter mockery of parliamentary democracy we have here. I rise to speak on the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio) Bill 2011 [2012]. I am the first speaker on this piece of legislation and I have fewer than 3½ minutes to make my contribution, which of course will leave absolutely no time for any other senator in this place to make any contribution whatsoever. I know full well that on this side many senators are interested and concerned about regional radio services. I know that Senator Fisher wanted to speak on this bill; I know that Senator Macdonald wanted to speak on this bill; I know that Senator Eggleston wanted to speak on this bill; I know that Senator McKenzie wanted to speak on this bill. We have a number of senators who care about regional radio who wanted to have their say.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Senator Conroy interjects that we are supporting this bill. We may well be supporting this bill, but that does not mean that it is unworthy of proper consideration in this chamber. That does not mean that it is unworthy of proper debate. It is an utter mockery to come into this place and be told: 'You've got three minutes to debate an entire piece of legislation.' It is a piece of legislation that has been on the Notice Paper since 2011 and the government has several amendments to it. The government itself is deleting several pages of its own bill. Again, we support that and we welcome the fact that the government has made that gesture and has done that in response to concerns that we raised, but it would have been nice to have had the opportunity in this place to examine the implications and the reasons for the changes to this legislation.

Senator Conroy: That's sad and tragic.

Senator BIRMINGHAM: What is tragic, Senator Conroy, is the way in which you and the Labor Party manage proceedings in this place. What is tragic, Senator Conroy, is that you cannot manage to run your own legislative agenda in a sensible way. What is tragic is that you cancelled sitting days last year, and then we come in here this year and we are told that we have three minutes to debate legislation. That is what is tragic, Senator Conroy. What is tragic is that you do not accept that people want to have sensible debates in this place and that people on this side want to talk about issues about regional radio. On this side we have many senators who know that regional radio services are a lifeblood to regional communities. Regional radio services are the way people get local news, the way they hear about local sports results, the way local communities get to stay together and the way local communities get all of the information they deserve to hear. We think it is important that regional radio functions in a viable and sensible way. We have approached this legislation in a constructive sense. We have engaged in negotiations with the government. We have done this in a way to make sure that we get a good outcome for regional radio—one that preserves local content and regional radio stations but helps with their commercial viability. I welcome that. I only wish that we had had the opportunity to examine just what this would really achieve and just what the impacts would be and to have a proper conversation about this legislation rather than the debacle that is taking place.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The time allotted for the consideration of this bill has expired. The question is that this bill be now read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

The PRESIDENT: The question now is that amendments (1) to (3) on revised sheet BL249, circulated by the government, be agreed to:

(1)   Schedule 1, page 3 (line 4), omit the heading.

(2)   Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (lines 5 to 17), omit the item.

(3)   Schedule 1, items 10 to 12, page 6 (line 30) to page 8 (line 9), omit the item.

Question agreed to.