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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5662

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (5:11 PM) —I note that the member for Mallee says that his constituents will benefit from this—as they will. The new government funded satellite service is transmitting right now, well in time for the small number of households in the area that will need it to replace the analog terrestrial services. The VAST service commenced testing on 7 June and is available to all households in the Mildura-Sunraysia area that require satellite access to digital TV in time for the switch-over on 30 June. VAST set-top box receivers arrived in Mildura today, with retail and supplier orders also filled today. In fact, the first installation was completed today. Arrangements for the installation of a satellite dish can be made at any time. However, the majority of households that are likely to need the satellite service in Sunraysia are already using the existing Aurora satellite service. The new digital transmitter for residents of Robinvale was expected to commence services on 15 June 2010. Unexpected fumigation carried out at the site of the new Robinvale transmitter, which is a grain silo, has meant that this service is now scheduled to commence on 25 June 2010.

The member for Mallee should stop his relentless campaign of fear about the digital switch-over in Mildura-Sunraysia. I know it is difficult for the member to accept that a Labor government has succeeded in bringing to regional and rural Australia television services equivalent to those that I get to enjoy living in Sydney. It is something that the Nationals failed to deliver for over a decade. But, for the sake of his constituents, he should get on board and stop fearmongering. He should welcome the initiative and leadership shown by Minister Conroy and the government. Minister Conroy has already assured the member for Mallee that the people of his electorate are very well prepared for 30 June.

Almost 100 per cent of households in Mildura-Sunraysia have converted to digital. The last of the new towers will be up and running next week. The small number of households who will move from terrestrial reception to the new satellite system is being connected as we speak. The member for Mallee’s claims that hundreds of people will lose their television are just plain wrong. The member for Mallee says he is worried about people moving from the old analog satellite to the new digital satellite, but he knows that we are not turning off the analog satellite for another three years or more. The government is providing all necessary assistance to ensure that people are ready for the switch-off of the terrestrial analog signal. We have staff from the Digital Switchover Taskforce working around the clock in Mildura, installing set-top boxes, assisting people with information and connecting some homes to the new satellite service. The member for Mallee is causing confusion in his local community by calling for a delay in the switch-over, which is ready to go.

The government intends to keep its time frame for the switch-off of analog TV in Mildura. It is important that people know what the deadline is and that it will not be changed. We are turning off the analog television signal in Mildura-Sunraysia at 9 am on 30 June. I congratulate the people of Mildura for their enthusiasm for this project and embracement of this fantastic new technology, bringing this regional community the same quality of services as that enjoyed in our major capital cities, and I look forward to a successful switchover on 30 June.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. AR Bevis)—I will call the member for Maranoa. I am tempted to give the member for Mallee an opportunity, but I think the general principle that has been applied in the past in these matters—

Mr Forrest interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Mallee will resume his seat.

Honourable members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The cross-chamber discussion will now cease. I would explain to the member for Mallee that the custom that I think has been generally followed is to enable those who have not previously entered the debate and are seeking the call to have that opportunity. I have no doubt the member for Mallee wishes to have the opportunity to receive the call to make some comments following the minister’s comments, and I will endeavour to give him that opportunity. But his colleagues might also like to consider that.