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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8861


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (15:17): The first question I ask myself about the opposition and their issue in regard to the tender process being stopped while the Australian Federal Police look into the leaks is: why would those opposite want to continue when they know that the process has been compromised? I cannot find an answer to that within my own mind. We know the process has been compromised. Senator Conroy has been very up front about it and very clear about it. So the process has been stopped and the AFP has been called in to investigate.

To me that is pretty easy to understand. But in question time we heard the opposition saying, 'Why isn't it continuing?' One would think, bearing in mind that every question they asked today was about the Australia Network tender process, that they had some vested interest in making sure the ABC did not win the tender. We know that many on the other side—I do not know if I could honestly say everyone, but certainly many on the other side—absolutely loathe the ABC. They come in and speak for 10 or 15 minutes at a time in a complete diatribe about how bad the ABC is. So I think there is a bit more to what the opposition are up to than they are letting on.

We all know that there is an increasing need for an effective Australian presence, particularly in Asia and also in the Middle East and North Africa. We all know that the Australia Network is a core element of our overseas broadcasting network. The other thing we all know is that satellite television is now the way hundreds of millions of people get their viewing and it is in these areas that they access the television. It is commercially sensible for Australia to be in there.

Senator Bernardi: If you know all of this, why do you have to read it?

Senator BILYK: I am not reading it. I am referring to a couple of dot points, because your side was so atrocious through question time. When I was sitting in my office earlier I watched a number of people on your side who allegedly were passionate about something and knew something about it but were reading their speeches. So don't come in here and try to score stupid points.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Bernardi, please cease interjecting. Senator Bilyk, please direct your remarks through the chair.

Senator BILYK: My apologies to you, Mr Deputy President. I know that you are a very civil man, unlike quite a few others on the other side.

We know that satellite television is the way that many millions of people get to view their television these days, so it is very important that we get this process right. My colleague Senator Crossin was talking about the process before, and I will just reiterate it because those on the other side do not seem to be able to get it to sink in. In November 2010 the government announced the open tender process for the rights to conduct Australia's international TV operation for the next decade for a maximum of $223 million over the 10 years. I think I heard Senator Humphries say yesterday—if it is incorrect to attribute this to Senator Humphries, I apologise in advance—that he did not think that was that much money, or words to that effect. But $223 million of taxpayers' money is money that we are accountable for. So, in that accountability and responsibility process and in making sure that the taxpayers' money is spent appropriately, we have called in the AFP to investigate the leaks.

I do not know how much simpler it could be. I am happy to stand here for the next 50 seconds and keep saying it, but that is the simple issue around it. Tenders were submitted, as people know, and the process proceeded until quite recently, but there were significant leaks of confidential information to the media. So the tender process has been compromised, and compromised to such a degree that we obviously could not go forward. If we had gone forward once the process had been compromised, we would have had those on the other side all through question time today getting up asking questions about why we proceeded. We all know that all they want to do on that side of the chamber— (Time expired)