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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 4329

Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (13:21): I will endeavour to be brief but I do want to take the opportunity to speak to the community radio aspect of this legislation. I'll put on the record that I have an interest in this issue, in the multiple different meanings of the word 'interest'. I still currently serve as a board member on a community radio station in Brisbane. Radio station 4ZZZ was actually the first community radio station in Queensland back in 1975. While there are many legacies of the Whitlam government that perhaps have greater recognition and resonance nationally, that is one small legacy of the Whitlam government—the establishment and issuing of that very first broadcasting licence—for which many people, to this very day, have great gratitude. It's an organisation I have previously served as chair of the board, so I do have a direct interest and I put that on the record.

The previous speaker noted the concerns of the CBAA about this, and I guess that's something that will just continue to unfold and be a matter of continuing discussions between the government and the CBAA. But in regard to the stated intent, it is worth putting on the record the measure in this bill relating to renewals of community radio broadcasting licences. It is something which, not surprisingly given what I have just said, I have had direct involvement in. It is good to see on the record the important role community radio services play in informing local communities and providing opportunities for community members to have their views heard. In my own experience, people hear of local community artistic, creative and political activities as well.

In my view, given the significant challenges that the commercial media sector faces at present, community radio, community broadcast and community media more broadly are actually going to become more important. As an adjunct to that, I would like to say it is doubly significant, important and relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander broadcasting. I had the opportunity to go to another ground-breaking community radio station again recently in Alice Springs, CAAMA Radio. It plays an important role, as did the National Indigenous Radio Service as it used to be called.

I take the opportunity to put it on the record and pay tribute to the late Tiga Bayles and the amazing work that he did, along with so many other people less recognised, in building that Indigenous radio service. It is so important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be able to hear their own stories and their own views, in their own languages in some cases. It is welcome to see an explicit recognition from this government about the crucial role that community radio plays, as it is often just dismissed as a bit of a thing on the side of no great consequence but it is actually central. It might not get the big ratings but it is central for that level and that issue with regard to local voices and local issues.

The stated intent of the component of the legislation that's before us is to encourage community radio broadcasters to provide greater coverage of local issues, and I can most certainly say that is something I very strongly support. Even if it has come about via a deal between the government and One Nation, and some other bad things happen as a consequence, this at least is a good thing—and I'll point to that good thing and acknowledge that good thing.

Greater coverage of local issues is something that has clearly been lost, quite drastically in some cases, over the last decade or so. If it were not for the ABC there would be no local coverage in many areas. To have that capacity for extra support for local participation and greater coverage of local issues is really important, and that includes in producing and hosting local production. I think there are some issues around the definitions of 'produced' and 'hosted' et cetera, but this is going to go through unamended, so that's just something that will continue to need to be explored. But at least the stated principle of encouraging that is something that is very much welcomed and certainly supported by the Greens.

The idea and the ideal of ensuring that there is more capacity to provide services and material of local significance is something that, I think, is to be welcomed—and, in the context of community radio, in particular, reinforces why this is a sector often undervalued that really should be given much more support and acknowledgement for the role that it plays. So, inasmuch as this legislation does that, it is something that is certainly welcomed.