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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8067

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:01): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The Report on digital transmission and reception dated October 2012 is a document which any senator who has an interest in rural and regional Australia should really have a look at. It is tabled by the minister because the parliament requires that he table a document giving information on the action taken to identify and rectify transmission infrastructure that would otherwise prevent the transmission of free-to-air television broadcasting in standard definition television and local market areas and regions where transmission issues have been identified and how many households would be affected. The document does contain a lot of information. I regret that I and other colleagues in this chamber perhaps might not get to have a close enough look at this, because there are clearly a number of gaps in regional areas of Australia.

Recently, I did my annual western Queensland road trip—3,000 kilometres in seven days, speaking to people in remote areas who rarely see a politician on the ground, particularly one who travels along the sorts of roads which are anything but premium. In central Queensland in the Barcaldine Regional Council area there is a huge issue about the transmission of signals and what the government is requiring councils to do—and this issue is duplicated elsewhere, particularly in the south-west of Queensland. The couple of minutes I have available will not allow me to go into this fully but suffice it to say that there is a means of transmission called MPEG4, which I am told by those who know a lot more about this technically than I do is the right transmission facility to have, particularly in these remote areas. It is a new process and I am told by the Barcaldine Regional Council that if this were used in their area, it would give far better coverage and provide far more economical coverage for constituents in that relatively remote area. Yet the government is insisting that the Barcaldine Regional Council use an old technology called MPEG2, which is more expensive and does not provide the same sorts of services.

The Barcaldine council—and one would hope that the Labor Party might have taken some notice of that council, not that it is a council that is terribly enamoured to the Labor Party these days but it does have the historical name that the Labor Party should at least take notice of—and others in the south-west have been trying for months to get it through the head of our communications minister that what he is insisting upon is simply not the way to go. It is more expensive, it does not deliver the best service, and the councils are at their wit's end. They have indicated to the minister that the councils will assist with the councils' own money to provide some of the necessary infrastructure, but the minister's department has threatened the councils with prosecution, and I presume jail, if they use this MPEG4 process, which would work and they want to use, rather than the MPEG2 process which the government is insisting upon.

I wish the minister or someone from the Labor Party were here to explain why they are insisting upon this because I can tell the government that these people, and they are not a big voting bloc, are seriously inconvenienced and angry because of this situation. I seek leave to continue my remarks. (Time expired)

Leave granted; debate adjourned.