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Tuesday, 7 December 1976

Mr JULL (Bowman) - I will keep my comments on this clause brief. We are dealing with the establishment of the Broadcasting Tribunal in this clause. I think this is one of the better parts of the legislation. Apart from the fact that the Tribunal will be issuing licences, it also has responsibility to determine such matters as Australian content. If we are perfectly frank and perfectly honest with ourselves, our history in regard to legislating about Australian television program content is an absolute disaster. If we have only 37 per cent Australian content on the air at the moment we have nobody to blame but ourselves and the bureaucrats who meddle with the system.

We did have a percentage system. It was very easy for commercial television stations to fiddle that system. It was easy for a station to increase its percentage as it could put on cheap programs. There were many ways and means of getting around that system. We saw another attempt to increase Australian content in programs when the Department of the Media was established. It introduced the points system which, quite frankly, was absolutely catastrophic. If Australian content has dropped to that 37 per cent we can refer to that points system and blame the low percentage on it. That system was completely and utterly unworkable.

I agree with some of the comments of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). I thought that some of the points he made were very good. Who are we to arbitrate on the tastes and the requirements of the Australian population? We have tried it. We tried it with the points system. We tried it in the area of children's programs which I mentioned in a speech earlier when the guidelines for commercial television stations were set down. Some expensive children's programs were made but nobody watched them. What is the point in making such programs if they are not accepted by the community. It is time that we brought together those involved in the industry including the general public, members of Actors Equity and others in the area to sort out the whole problem. The Broadcasting Tribunal could take such steps. I believe that this is what is meant by selfregulation. It is an opportunity for the whole community to come together, to examine the problems that exist in Australia and to make some constructive suggestions. The industry could then investigate ways of improving the system.

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