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Thursday, 10 March 2005
Page: 19

Senator LUDWIG (Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (10:53 AM) —It appears I am Senator Conroy today. I have not only moved his motions—

The CHAIRMAN —I would not put that on the record.

Senator LUDWIG —No, but I think I have. I can say I do not have the sartorial elegance of Senator Conroy, nor do I look like him. But, although I make light of it at the beginning, there is a serious debate in relation to this matter. Unfortunately other matters cropped up that Senator Conroy had to attend to. In this instance I think it is worth while to at least go back to the start, because the debate has been truncated—we left the debate yesterday. I have been following it. It is an issue that I have an interest in. In relation to broadcasting, one of my roles includes justice, customs, citizenship and multicultural affairs. The ethnic broadcaster is a terrific organisation and has been ensuring that broadcasting is out in the community and in touch.

This debate—and this was mentioned by Senator Conroy in the debate on the second reading—is about the antisiphoning regime. The intention of the antisiphoning regime is to limit the likelihood that events that have traditionally been shown on free-to-air television will migrate exclusively to pay TV. What we have said is that Labor believe that the ability of third parties, such as channel providers, to acquire events before the free-to-air networks have the opportunity to undermines the effectiveness of the regime.

We have moved amendments to try to—and I think they do—ensure that the antisiphoning regime captures related parties to pay TV licensees such as channel providers. Of course, related parties to a licensee will not be able to acquire the rights to listed events in circumstances where a licensee could not. To achieve this objective, the amendment draws on the concept of control, which is used elsewhere in the Broadcasting Act. In general terms, to achieve this object item (2) provides that a related party of licensee is defined as a person who is in a position to control the licensee or, alternatively, a person who is controlled by the licensee. These amendments address the loophole in the antisiphoning regime which, contrary to the original intent of the parliament, means that the free-to-air sector is not getting the first crack at acquiring the rights to listed events. On behalf of the Labor Party, I commend to the Senate the amendment at item (2).

It is also worth saying that this government should pick up the amendments. They have the ability to ensure that there is a proper and appropriate antisiphoning regime and that there are not loopholes that people will try to exploit that are not in the interests of the watchers, the consumers, of these products. Sometimes it is only through the course of events that you find these ways of getting around the legislation coming up. We have a unique opportunity to ensure that is now put to bed—that the government pick up on these amendments and ensure that they are adopted and that the antisiphoning regime is tough but reasonable.