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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1473

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (2:45 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Given the minister’s comments in relation to the changes to the antisiphoning regulations that all AFL blockbuster games will continue to remain on free-to-air networks, can the government explain whether a Carlton and Collingwood match would be screened on free-to-air TV even if both teams were positioned 15th and 16th on the ladder respectively?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) —I thank my fellow Collingwood supporter for that question. I will have to refer Senator Fielding to our president for his suggestion that our team could end up 15th or 16th in the foreseeable future. His membership rights may be revoked for that suggestion, but on his behalf I will plead with our president not to do that!

The negotiations that are taking place at the moment are complex. They involve three different parties: the rights holders in the AFL, the NRL and other sporting associations; the free-to-air networks; and the pay television sector. But let me be clear about this: those opposite would roll over as fast as they could to the News Ltd organisation—that is their position—but we are intent on ensuring those blockbuster games continue to remain on free-to-air television.

There is currently a formula of sorts that is applied by the AFL. It is a formula that ensures that all teams get some coverage on a Friday night, irrespective of their position on the ladder.

Senator Chris Evans —Unless they’re Western Australian.

Senator CONROY —So all teams get some exposure. We will have no sledging from the Dockers on this side of the chamber. I am looking forward to the match between the Fremantle Dockers and the new Giants from Western Sydney. In that purple versus orange clash, sunglasses will have to be issued!

On the serious point you are raising: there is currently a formula. It revolves around things like the six-day rest period that has been negotiated with the players association. AFL fixtures, as you would know, are set out a year in advance. (Time expired)

Senator FIELDING —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the rise in popularity of Twenty20 cricket, can the minister guarantee that those matches where Australia is playing Twenty20 cricket in the UK, in Australia or in the world cup will be protected by the government’s planned changes to the antisiphoning regulations?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) —Senator Fielding is now asking me to speculate on the final outcome. I can assure him that the issues he has raised are the central issues around cricket coverage in this country. We are giving active consideration to many of the points he has just raised. I am sure he understands that, because I will be taking these matters before my colleagues in the cabinet in the near future, I do not want to pre-empt the final outcome.

I assure him that issues around Twenty20 cricket are foremost in the discussions. We are giving considerable consideration to whether 50-over cricket will continue to survive in the long term and whether Twenty20 cricket is going to supplant it. We look forward to announcing the final results in the very near future.

Senator FIELDING —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister prepared to give an assurance to the Australian people that all Socceroo and World Cup games will be protected for the free-to-air networks beyond the 2014 FIFA World Cup?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) —The commitment we took to both the 2007 and 2010 elections was that Socceroo World Cup qualifiers would go back on the list after the current contract expires. I have said this on a number of occasions. It will come as no surprise that I anticipate that that will be part of the outcome, given that it was an election commitment in both 2007 and 2010. The negotiations I have been involved in with the Football Federation and the pay TV networks revolved around that very point. I believe we will deliver our election commitment.