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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26348

Senator CONROY (3:25 PM) —I rise to speak in the debate on the motion to take note of the answers by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Coonan, in question time today. I want every soccer fan in this country to read the answers that Senator Coonan gave in question time today. Soccer is included in the Olympics and is getting free-to-air coverage right now. When Senator Coonan was asked whether or not she would support putting the World Cup in 2010 back on the antisiphoning list—an event which this government has taken off the list—she was silent. We saw her exposed for the hypocrite that she is. She cried crocodile tears over the British Open golf being lost from free-to-air television. She should have been crying, but it has been proved today that they were crocodile tears. Like many Australians, I flicked over to watch the British Open golf on the last Sunday night to find a Clint Eastwood movie instead. What is going to happen in 2010? We are not going to get any World Cup soccer.

The minister will not be able to run and hide on this one. She has to decide whether or not she wants Australians to be able to watch the Socceroos in 2010 when we qualify for the World Cup. We need to make sure that we get the coverage that this sport desperately needs in this country. It is enormously popular. It has a massive youth following—people who cannot afford to put Foxtel on for the privilege of watching the Socceroos. It is not good enough. Let us think back to a year or so ago when the World Cup was held in Japan and South Korea. We finally had the World Cup held in our time zone. Hundreds of thousands of Australians were captivated by the romance of the World Cup. They wanted to watch Japan qualify for the next round. They wanted to watch South Korea storm into the semifinals. There was a huge buzz all over the country. They wanted to watch that opening match when Senegal knocked over the World Cup holders, France. That is why it is important to Australians: because it is a world game. For the minister and this government to allow it to be dumped from free-to-air television is a disgrace. There will be a campaign and an outcry over this. The government should understand that Australian soccer fans will not be treated as second-class citizens. They deserve better.

In between when the minister answered and when I came back into the chamber, I put this to the real test. This is the real test, and everybody in this chamber should be very worried about this. I was at Aussies, the little cafe here in Parliament House, and I was speaking to Dom—who makes all our cappuccinos and hot chocolates. I said, `Did you know they've dumped the 2010 World Cup off the antisiphoning list? You won't be able to see it on free-to-air TV.' He could not believe it. He will not be making cappuccinos and hot chocolates for any politician who will not put the World Cup back on free-to-air television. That is how passionately soccer fans feel about it. And he is dead right. That will be the sort of backlash we will see right across Australia from soccer fans if we do not get this fixed—if we do not get the government to back down, to stop listening to the corporate interests in this country and to put it back onto the antisiphoning list. The World Cup is the world game. The Socceroos are an Australian national team and Australians should be able to watch them on free-to-air television. The minister has washed her hands of this again.

The weekly roundup of the English Premier League on a Monday night was a fixture on the ABC for years—free to air. It has been a fixture for 10 years on SBS. What are we seeing now? We are seeing the minister duck and weave on this issue. She does not want to step in. She does not want to phone Foxtel or SBS, knock a few heads together and get this sorted out so that Australian soccer fans watching free-to-air television are not robbed. She was prepared to stand up after the golf tournament went to pay television and cry crocodile tears. It is not good enough this time. She knows in advance that there is a problem. Let us see some proactive behaviour from the minister, not more crocodile tears after the event. Put the World Cup in 2010 back on the antisiphoning list and let us see soccer on a Monday night on SBS like we should.

Question agreed to.