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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 230

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (15:53): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

As politicians, we are constantly under scrutiny from the media, our political opponents, and our constituents. That is how it should be, because we are rightly held to a higher standard.

There are already specific protections in place through parliamentary privilege, which shields members of parliament against legal action relating to anything said in either chamber. This is vitally important, and it should be maintained and not abused.

But there are other protections in place to control the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings through the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. Established under the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, the committee's role is, in part, to determine conditions under which proceedings can be re-broadcast.

These conditions, which have not changed since 1994, specifically prohibit the re-broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings for the use of satire or ridicule.

This is, in itself, deserving of ridicule. It is both pompous and precious to expect to be above reproach, and it also demonstrates an unwillingness to own up to mistakes, gaffs or just plain stupidity.

The aim of this bill is to prevent the joint committee from making conditions preventing the re-broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings for satire or ridicule. The reasons behind this are more than just a belief that politicians should not be above reproach: it is also based on the fact that satire has become a valid source of news and information for many people.

Programs like The Chaser, Gruen Nation and The Project use humour, satire and even ridicule to examine political issues. But they do not have access to broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, which limits their activities.

In the United States, however, where no such limitation exists, host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, was named America's most trusted newsman in a 2009 online poll for Time magazine. This demonstrates the vital role satire can play in informing public debate, and highlights how obsolete Australia's rules in this area have become.

This bill does not impact on the joint committee's ability to create other conditions or enforce those that already exist in relation to context, fairness and accuracy. Broadcasters wishing to re-broadcast parliamentary proceedings for satire will still have to ensure these requirements are met, which will ensure this new access cannot be abused.

Quite frankly, it is time to lighten up and open our parliament to the sharp knives of satirists everywhere.

Senator XENOPHON: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.