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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2191

Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (21:44): Labor understands the sentiments behind these amendments, but believes they create inconsistencies that undermine the coherence of the current framework, limit flexibility around rule making and may even be counterproductive when it comes to consumer protection. Firstly, in relation to the amendments to the ministerial direction to ACMA to determine a gambling promotion program standard for the broadcast industry, in general Labor does not wish to fetter the discretion of the minister in relation to the program standard in this way. We do not wish to limit any future standard to the parameters as set out in the amendments. While removing gambling promotional content from sports programs and programs classified as G between the hours of 5 am and 8.30 pm might be an option to consider in the future, we would not want to constrain any future standard making in this way. As drafted, the amendments could limit rather than create a minimum floor in any future standard. Also, mandating the extension of a prohibition to all sporting events, whether or not the broadcast is live, in a future broadcast standard may see broadcast regulation fall out of step with online regulation that applies to live coverage of sporting events, and we are concerned that that could lead to regulatory bypass.

Secondly, in relation to the amendments to the online content service provider rules, mandating a higher standard for online services by applying the prohibition to all sporting events, whether live or not, puts online services at a relative disadvantage to broadcast platforms. Doing so may not be consistent with the regulatory policy of the Broadcasting Services Act, which provides that parliament intends that different levels of regulatory control apply across the range of services according to the degree of influence that different types of services are able to exert in shaping community views in Australia and that services be regulated in a manner that enables public interest considerations to be assessed in a way that does not impose unnecessary financial or administrative burden on the providers of broadcast services, among other things.

The online environment is regulated differently to the broadcast environment, and applying the concept of G-classified content in the online environment is not straightforward either for the regulator or the industry to administer. Given the global nature of the Internet, the application of the time frame of between 5.00 pm and 8.30 pm may involve the imposition of unnecessary financial or administrative burden on the provider of services at this point in time. The ACMA will bring its expertise in media and communications regulation to bear in developing the online content service provider rules, and we are satisfied that this process will enhance consumer protection in this area.

Labor understands the sentiment behind these amendments but is not inclined to support them this evening, for the very specific reasons stated in my response.