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ARIA criticises the Senate for passing legislation on CDs when one of the Senators opposed to the Bill was not able to attend the vote due to ill health.

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PETER CAVE:   The Australian music industry lost one of its biggest battles over the weekend when the Federal Government’s CD legislation passed through the Senate allowing for the importation of cheaper CDs.  Supporters say the changes will cut music costs to consumers by up to $7 a CD.  But the claims haven’t impressed the music industry which says it will be a disaster and says that the Bill’s passage was a travesty because it was debated while opponent Senator Colston was off sick.  Bronwyn Adcock began by asking the view of a long-time campaigner against the changes, Dobe Newton of the veteran Australian band, the ‘Bushwhackers’.


DOBE NEWTON:   At last we’ve lost.  So there’s a lot of very, very distraught people out there.  I think this will devastate the local industry and that’s very sad for Australia in general, I think.


BRONWYN ADCOCK:   It’s been a long and sometimes volatile debate.  The music industry says the changes will cost Australian jobs and open up the country to pirated CDs.  The Government, along with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, says the changes will break the stranglehold multinational record companies have on the market and ultimately reduce the price of CDs.


The fight now, however, is over the way the legislation was passed.  The record industry, the Democrats and the Greens claim the Bill was snuck through in the early hours of Sunday morning after Senator Colston had left the Chamber because he was ill.  Four weeks ago, Senator Colston told the Financial Review he would vote against the legislation, meaning it could not go through.  The record industry thought they had the battle won with the help of Senator Colston, so now they’re crying foul.


Emmanuel Kandi(?) is the Executive Director of ARIA - the Australian Record Industry Association.


EMMANUEL KANDI:   I just think it’s outrageous when you don’t have a complete Senate, you’re going ahead passing legislation.


BRONWYN ADCOCK:   Had you or anyone else from your Association spoken to Senator Colston within the last week and got that guarantee again that he would be voting against the legislation?


EMMANUEL KANDI:   We spoke to him on the night and what he made clear was that if it was late at night he may not be there because he’s not a well man.  In terms of guarantees, well, no politicians give guarantees, but the point is all the Senators that counted had declared their position some weeks before.


BRONWYN ADCOCK:   But when you spoke to Senator Colston last, which was Saturday night….




BRONWYN ADCOCK:   …had he declared his position again to you?


EMMANUEL KANDI:   They confirmed that they would be voting and things would be as is.  Now, as I said, he declared his position in the Fin Review on 12 June and that’s what his position was.


BRONWYN ADCOCK:   So, you assumed he would be voting against the legislation if he was there?


EMMANUEL KANDI:   Oh, absolutely.


BRONWYN ADCOCK:   The office of the Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, says they also spoke to Senator Colston on Saturday night.  He apparently told them he would be going home after the Telstra debate was over, but he was happy for the vote on CDs to go ahead, and if he was there he would have voted for the Bill.  Emmanuel Kandi from ARIA is sceptical.


EMMANUEL KANDI:   Yes, well, look, the only person who can clarify that is Mr Colston himself.  And if the Government does believe that, well, why don’t they send it back to vote when everyone is at work during a normal process hour and do things in the normal way.


PETER CAVE:   Emmanuel Kandi, from the Australian Record Industry Association.  That report was from Bronwyn Adcock.