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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 60

Senator CHERRY (4:30 PM) —The Democrats will not be insisting on these amendments on this occasion either. I would note—and I think Senator Conroy should claim it as a personal victory—the campaigning on the issue of the World Cup soccer. We are very pleased that the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has given a commitment to include that in legislation. It is something which has been raised in this chamber on a number of occasions. We accept her statement that this will be included in the antisiphoning list and we look forward to that occurring. I am sure there will be a lot of soccer fans around Australia pleased with that.

With respect to the second set of amendments that deal with the concern that the antisiphoning list contains a flaw in that it allows non-licence holders to acquire rights and thereby get around the issue, I note the government’s argument that there are legal flaws in the argument put by free TV in that it is not possible for such rights to be utilised in terms of being broadcast on pay TV. I also note that the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee—even the majority report of that committee, signed off by government senators—called on the government to ensure that this matter remains under review and that the government monitor very carefully the operation of the antisiphoning list and whether this loophole does exist and does in fact operate in the way that the free TV operators say it does.

I hope that the minister takes on board that advice from the committee. It is very important, particularly given that, over the course of the next two years, the two biggest contracts in sport come up for review—that is, the AFL and the NRL. We would certainly hate to see the football fans around Australia suffer by having less football on their free-to-air television than they do now. I think the government needs to monitor this area very carefully. There is a lot of money in sport and a lot of interest there, and we do have to make sure that the antisiphoning list operates for the objectives that parliament set.