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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8813

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (11:57): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

Senator LUDLAM: I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The purpose of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (International Broadcasting Services) Bill is to keep the Australia Network in public hands by requiring the ABC to be the sole provider of Commonwealth funded international broadcasting services.

Keeping the Australia Network in public hands is consistent with Australia’s national interests, because the Australia Network shapes perceptions of Australia and its relationship with nations in the region and globally. Keeping the Australia Network in public hands is also consistent with the practice of every other country that provides international broadcasting services, including Britain’s BBC World Service, the Voice of America and Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

The ABC is independent of government but accountable to parliament and the public through statutory transparency obligations. The ABC regards its audience as citizens, not consumers and through the Australia Network extends that respect to neighbours in the region. The ABC has a statutory responsibility to provide independent news and has a proven record in this regard.

The national broadcaster is bound by its Charter to provide innovative, high standard programming that contribute to a sense of national identity, inform, educate, entertain and reflect Australian cultural diversity and promote the arts. The wealth of material generated from this foundation, informed by public editorial policies and subject to independent review mechanisms for complaints of serious cases of bias, lack of balance or unfair treatment, ensures a high standard that is projected to the region.

Commercial broadcasters do not share these qualities, responsibilities or statutory obligations.

Commercial broadcasters are driven by different imperatives are primarily accountable to shareholders to maximise profit. Commercial broadcasters are therefore more likely to put commercial interests before impartiality requirements, and this could have major significance in countries where commercial interests exist, such as China.

The ABC has proven itself to be a first class international broadcaster that is seen as independent from political and commercial influence. This Bill seeks to maintain that high standard, credibility and quality of service.

Senator LUDLAM: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.