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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26249

Senator CONROY (11:10 PM) —Under the FTA, Australia is able to maintain its existing 55 per cent local content quota on television programming and 80 per quota on television advertising. These provisions are subject to a ratchet provision. If they are lowered we are not able to increase them in the future. At present, local content standards are determined by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. While standards are amendable by parliament, a decision by the ABA to lower the quotas would, under the FTA, lock us into a lower regime.

Labor believe that the Australian public is entitled to an absolute guarantee that television local content quotas cannot be lowered without the consent of the parliament. Local content standards are too important to be left to the likes of David Flint. We are pleased that the government have now moved amendments which endorse Labor's position.

The Senate Select Committee on the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United States of America, established by Labor, gave the parliament the opportunity to examine this issue in detail. Importantly, it gave the Australian people the opportunity to have their say on the FTA. Labor senators on the committee recommended that Australia's local content standards be legislated. That was the basis for the Labor Party's decision to make our support for the FTA conditional upon this amendment to the broadcasting act.

The government's acceptance of this amendment is a great victory for Australian culture and will ensure that Australian faces and voices will continue to be seen and heard on television. This amendment allays community concern about any future reduction in local content standards by entrenching them in the broadcasting act. This is an important safeguard for the Australian community, and Labor will support the amendments. We have listened long and hard to the many submissions that were made during the Senate committee inquiry and to the expressions of concern about this area, and we believe that this is an appropriate mechanism to ensure that we protect Australian voices.

Senator Brown —Bunkum!