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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2851

Senator COLLINS (Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support) (6.23 p.m.) —I thank all honourable senators who have contributed to this debate in the positive way that they have. I thank Senator Harradine for the courtesy of giving prior notice of the question that he will ask in the committee stage. I can assure Senator Harradine that we have a response available for him today.

  I simply reaffirm on behalf of the Government the points that have been made by previous speakers. The Special Broadcasting Service Bill 1991 is an important piece of legislation, setting up under its own charter—with, it appears, the support of all—an organisation that is generally held in the community to provide a commendable example of excellence in broadcasting at a reasonable cost.

  I do not know what the current figure is for the national audience of the SBS—I think it is around 5 per cent—but I would certainly count myself within it. Unfortunately, I live in an area of the world where we do not get it at the moment. I have to say that, personally, in terms of what is available on SBS, I cannot wait until 1993 when we do have access to it. With regard to my interjection to Senator Harradine, I have to say on reflection that it is probably worse to get SBS badly than not to get it at all. Perhaps we are better off by not being teased by what is available—Senator Harradine cannot see it too clearly, so perhaps he is in a worse position than we are. I take the opportunity to say on behalf of the Government that I commend the SBS on the excellence of its broadcasting, its particular attention to matters of public affairs and the excellence of its sports coverage.

  In conclusion, we will be opposing the Opposition's amendment on setting up a community advisory committee, but only on the basis that we think we have come up with an improved proposal which I am confident that, on reflection, the Opposition will support. The concern we had about the Opposition's amendment is that it gave far too narrow an ambit to the work of the committee, which we have attempted to broaden to turn it into a meaningful, permanent committee that can advise. It is obviously not appropriate to canvass that any further in the second reading debate and we will do so at the committee stage. I commend that amendment to the Opposition for its support.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bill read a second time.