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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6433

Ms SAFFIN (12:53 PM) —I would like to congratulate the minister for including additional funding in the budget for the ABC and SBS. For the ABC it is really important. It is the public broadcaster and it has a very important role to play in public life. I want to talk a little bit about how that came into play recently in my seat of Page. As everybody knows, we just had floods in my area. The ABC were able to provide that public service to the whole community during the floods, as we saw them do during the Victorian bushfires. They did a remarkable job at that time. So it was good that they got the money in the budget.

The ABC were broadcasting from Lismore, and that is where I live. I went down there and found that the staff were there 24/7. They actually slept there. They had to go out and buy some sleeping bags and pillows and bring in extra food so that they could be on call for the community 24/7. They brought extra staff in. They brought in people who had worked in Lismore before, Martin Corben and others, who are now in the city. They brought them back. They all worked and stayed online. They were able to report every 15 minutes to the community, so they were able to give out the formal reports about the floods. It was the stuff that goes through the filter of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, so they gave out the real reports. It was a wonderful, wonderful service.

The SES also got the local members—me as the federal member, and the state members—to come on the radio at various times and help them, when we were trying to evacuate the central business district and things like that. They brought us into service as well, and it was really good to see that. I have praised them before in this place, but it is important to talk about them in terms of the budget.

In the lead-up to the budget I had a meeting with the state director of the ABC, Mike McCluskey, who also lived in Lismore for a long time and reported from there. It seems like a lot of the ABC talent that have gone on to bigger and better things started their early working lives in Lismore. I talked to them about the things that they would do if they had extra funding, and some of it is particularly relevant to regional areas, such as all the digital stuff that is going to happen in regional Australia—and I know some of the funding covers that.

Equally, it is important to cover SBS. Again, going back to Lismore and local identities, Craig Foster, whom you might know—he was a Socceroo—

Mr Craig Thomson —Mr Soccer!

Ms SAFFIN —Mr Soccer—comes from Lismore as well. A lot of people come from Lismore! SBS is a really important service—

Mr Albanese interjecting

Ms SAFFIN —Who, Craig? He is a great man. It is a bit by the by, not on the budget, but I worked with Craig on a local football project. You would see him on SBS at night, when he does the sports reporting. And he emceed our FIFA World Cup bid here on Sunday; we were all there. So that was a good thing. I note that it has bipartisan support, and we will all be out there working towards that.

There was also money in the budget for the National Broadband Network. That is a significant reform for Australia—for our communities, for our regions, for the Australian economy. I have to say that the Leader of the Nationals, the honourable member for Wide Bay, got it wrong on this, as he so often gets it wrong.

Mr Albanese —Again!

Ms SAFFIN —Wrong again. He talked about how it would not cover towns of under 1,000 people; that is absolute nonsense. I put out the correct information when I said that 90 per cent would have speeds up to 100 megabytes and 10 per cent, 12 megabytes. It is a great plan and it will benefit regional Australia. My question, Minister Albanese, is: why is ABC funding important?