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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5664

Mr BALDWIN (5:20 PM) —I wish to ask three ranges of questions. The first is in relation to digital terrestrial transmission. I wrote a question on notice to the minister, being No. 1178, to which Minister Albanese responded. In it one of the sites in my electorate that was pointed out was that of Mount Douglas, which services the area of Vacy. That has an ABC and SBS transmitter only. Given that the government has given a fee rebate of $250 million, why isn’t the government pushing the broadcasters to install digital transmitters on sites such as that? That is given, Minister, that you will be paying, as I understand it, around $400 per satellite service in subsidy, given the people who are there, that would far outweigh the cost of putting in a digital transmitter.

The second issue relates to the self-help services. Under the previous government’s television black spot program there were transmitters installed at Stroud, Booral, Forster, Elizabeth Beach, Smiths Lake and Nelson Bay. Taking the sites down in the Pacific Palms area, where the Smiths Lake transmitter and the Elizabeth Beach transmitter are, only one of those will be upgraded to digital—not the Elizabeth Beach one. Again, the subsidy that the government will be providing for digital satellite services will actually cost more than the $75,000 to $80,000 to install a digital translator. How do I know it will cost between $75,000 and $80,000 per translator? Because the very person who installed all these self-help transmitters has had the pricing done to put it in. This is the same person that worked on the digital self-help translator that was put in at Nelson Bay.

The other thing that the minister failed to address in the answers was the directional aspect of the transmitter put in at Nelson Bay on Gan Gan Hill. It was originally to be an analog service but, because of the point of convergence with the interference of a range of signals, that was not able to be achieved. So they had to put a digital service in there, which took an extra period of time. That was originally an omnidirectional transmitter. That has now been wound back to be a directional transmitter—so we have people without television services.

On the issue relating to satellite reception, for the life of me I cannot understand why people are now going to have to put a second satellite dish on their roof because the one that they may have there goes to Optus. Local government planning laws provide an exemption for a development application for one satellite dish. If you are going to put a second satellite dish on, then you will be required to submit a development application which will have to go through the normal scrutiny—and costs—involved. And of course internally you will have a second set top box, so there is another box inside. The government, with its failure to plan and failure to negotiate, did not see fit to actually work with people like Foxtel and AUSTAR to reduce the number of boxes and reduce the number of satellite dishes. The government has said that this will provide local television. But while receiving local news is one thing, receiving local advertising is an entirely different matter.

There are small businesses in local communities that invest in advertising on those regional broadcasters because they can get their message out to their local catchment area and encourage people to spend and invest in their local area. But I say this to the minister, in his failure to understand the requirements of a small regional community: if the ads are coming out of Sydney, Canberra or Melbourne for the major part of the day and people are seeing specials in Sydney or Melbourne when they are living out in Gloucester, Dungog, Vacy or Pacific Palms and receiving satellite transmission, it is taking income and opportunity, and therefore jobs, away from local areas. I accept that, with the general geography and topography of an area like mine, not all areas can be serviced by terrestrial means. But the areas that are currently being serviced by terrestrial means, including the self-help transmitters, should all be upgraded so that they can receive local programming and local ads, which will provide local opportunities. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. AR Bevis)—Under the notional allocation, we have four minutes left of the time allocated for this debate. Obviously the parliamentary secretary needs to get the call. I did indicate to the member for Mallee—and I thought some of his colleagues might have taken my hint—that they present me with a problem in standing, given the convention of allowing someone to speak who has not already had the call. I understand that the member for Mallee wants to make a brief contribution, so I am going to depart from the normal arrangements and give the call to the member for Mallee.