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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1974

Mr DUFFY (Minister for Communications)(11.28) —Very quickly, I thank the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) for his contribution. As I said earlier, it again indicates the concern of honourable members representing remote rural areas about services in those areas. However, I would again like briefly to take up the matter about which the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Charles) have been engaged in some jousting; that is, the question of the concentration of media ownership. It is worth repeating that when the Government was in opposition, whilst it supported the broad thrust of the supplementary licence scheme as outlined by the then Government, we were concerned that it had the potential to exacerbate the concentration of media ownership in a number of areas. As part of that consideration the Government decided that the amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act should require the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, when considering applications for supplementary licences, to have due regard to the concentration of ownership and control of the media in the area concerned.

I want to finalise the matter on this point. That is only relevant where it is determined that an independent is viable. In that case, in determining between the existing licensee and the independent, one of the public interest factors that must be taken into account is the concentration of media ownership. I do not think that the amendments moved by the Opposition tonight indicate any real opposition. As I said earlier-this was also pointed out by the honourable member for Isaacs-in my view the public interest provisions in the Opposition's amendments probably in any event take that matter of concentration of media ownership into account. But we have decided that that issue should be put beyond doubt and, in fact, this legislation will put it beyond doubt.

I think it is worth nothing that we do not want a matter which has been allowed to exist for too long to be exacerbated. This is not something that surely we can be blamed for when we have regard to the fact that the Australian Labor Party has been in government for only for about four and a half years since television was introduced into Australia in 1956. Reference was made to the Tribunal's report and to some suggestions that the Tribunal made in relation to the breaking up of the control of the large media interests in Australia. If one has a good look at this matter, one can see that this situation was created mainly during the term of office of those opposite. We are saying in respect of this legislation that where there is a new type of licence-that is, a supplementary licence-and where an independent operator is viable, that situation should not be allowed to continue.

Question put:

That the amendments be agreed to.