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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26252

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (11:27 PM) —I thank the Labor Party for their support for the government's amendments. In negotiating the agreement the government successfully maintained the capacity to require Australia's content quotas for free-to-air television. It is true that the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended in its report that the government amend the Broadcasting Services Act to incorporate those elements of the Australian content requirements that are subject to the ratchet mechanism to ensure that they cannot be reduced in the future except through a deliberative decision of parliament. The government obviously reflected on this further and decided to accept that advice. The proposed amendments therefore amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to require the Australian Broadcasting Authority to maintain the current 55 per cent Australian content quota for television programs and the 80 per cent Australian content quota for advertising. Any reduction of those levels will therefore require a decision by the parliament.

The current levels have been in place since 1998. The government is committed to the current local content rules and is not considering any change to the existing levels. As I said, the amendment commits to legislation those parts of the Australian content standards subject to the ratchet mechanism. It also ensures that the 55 per cent and 80 per cent content quotas can never be reduced without parliament's agreement. All of the other protections that were not subject to the ratchet mechanism are otherwise protected, which I think is not in dispute.

Question agreed to.