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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3423

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services9.13) —I thank honourable senators for their contribution to the debate on the Broadcasting Amendment Bill 1986 and the Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1986. It is obvious that these Bills will be referred to a committee. It is obvious that there is nothing much that anyone on this side can do about it. I must say, though, that the eminent good sense of Senator Bjelke-Petersen tonight contrasted considerably with the nonsense that we heard from the speaker who preceded her. If Senator Vigor believes the sort of stuff that he goes on with, if he really believes the people of this community want a whole series of mickey mouse stations, if he believes they want a television system of the type which is found in Sweden or Norway, and, if he wants to turn Australians, like the French, into the greatest number of movie goers in the world because their television is so crook, that is the way to do it. We have a country of 16 million people. Basically, under this proposal, we could end up with three or four networks. If one has such a network and a guaranteed market, one can afford to produce the local drama and high quality drama that Senator Vigor wants. But if one has a whole lot of fiddly little television stations all over the country, offering no choice for the viewers, as Senator Bjelke-Petersen said, one will severely limit the amount of local content that one can produce.

In England there are 50 million people. It has four stations-BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4. That is all they have. The United States of America has a population of 260 million. It has three networks, basically. The United States does not have four networks. What on earth does Senator Vigor want to produce-a whole series of mickey mouse stations throughout the country all relying on the news on the local cattle markets and barnyard activities? If we did not want people to watch television, if our real aim was to get people away from watching television, we would follow Senator Vigor's advice.

We do not believe the Bills should go to the committee. The committee, I gather, will report on 28 February. All honourable senators will be away in January, so the committee will get a few weeks to look at the legislation and I will bet Senator Lewis now that there is no way that that committee will come back with a solution to the Geelong problem-and I think the honourable senator knows that, too-unless a local television station in Geelong is to compete with the Melbourne stations, or unless we put up a barrier so that no one in Geelong can watch television from Melbourne. We will see what happens. As I said, the Bill is going off to a committee. I hope all the Committee members have an enjoyable time in January and February looking at the legislation. One can almost predict what will happen. The Committee will come back and find out, as most people who are really interested in the area have found out, that this is the sensible way to approach the issue. I thank honourable senators for their contributions.

Amendment agreed to.

Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

Referral to Select Committee