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Wednesday, 13 May 1987
Page: 3085

Mr BEALE —My question is to the Minister for Communications. Does the Minister agree with his State colleague the Premier of Victoria, Mr Cain, who said this morning that a fourth television station in Melbourne would be-and I quote him-`terrific'.

Mr DUFFY —Following the emergence of the honourable member for Deakin, the Premier of Victoria is now added to the new experts in the area of communications. I have not seen a report of what the honourable member alleges, and I doubt whether the Premier of Victoria said that. If he did say it, I am very surprised and disappointed. It is only in the past few days that the Liberal party has come to any conclusion about this matter.

Mr Hawke —A tentative one.

Mr DUFFY —Yes, a tentative conclusion. The Liberal Party has suggested issuing a fourth commercial licence in Melbourne and Sydney within a period of about two years and then a further licence in other capital cities about 18 months or two years later. The Liberal Party now opposes the 75 per cent audience reach and, of course, that opposition is entirely different from the proposal put forward by the Opposition in late January when the Leader of the Opposition was saying that 75 per cent was acceptable although the cross-media rules had to be looked at before the Liberals came to a decision. That is probably one of the few sensible statements the Liberals have made. We did not expect them to adopt the cross-media rules until they had had a chance to examine the legislation. It is flattering to all of us on this side of the chamber that people of the enormous capacity of members of the Liberal Party, having examined the cross-media legislation, find no fault with it. They indicated last night that they do not oppose it. However, that is not shared by their learned colleagues in the National Party of Australia who have a concern about cross-media ownership because they do not see anything wrong with somebody owning newspapers, radio and television, particularly in regional areas and particularly when that person treats them favourably. They do not see anything wrong with that at all.

In relation to the specific matter raised by the honourable member for Deakin, one of the things that I cannot understand about those opposite is why they hate Australian productions and why they hate children. One of the things that struck me very starkly when I came into this place in October 1980, and then had the pleasure of coming back in 1983 as part of the Government led by the Prime Minister who is at the table here, and who will be here for as long as he wants to be, was the way that we had to put up with the sanctimonious psalm-singing nonsense that those opposite used to go on with, about how they stood for everything decent-for the family and all of that-while the terrible socialists over here were attempting to destroy all that sort of thing. I have always found that one of the most nauseating stances that those opposite take. It is very difficult to be able to pick out that one specific aspect, because there are a lot of them, but that is the one that is the worst. They try to say that we do not care about those standards, that they are standards that they have but that we do not have.

Let us just look at the proposal that was dreamt up in the mind of we do not know who in the Liberal Party. Suddenly, with no consultation or anything, those opposite plucked out of the air a policy to introduce another commercial station in Melbourne and Sydney, and ultimately in other capital cities. One thing that they had better start getting through their heads-they had better do it pretty quickly-is that one requirement, among many others, in this country is that 104 hours of Australian drama be produced per network. It is enormously important. The cost of it per network is about $50m and I can tell honourable members that not much of that is spent by regional television. Despite what those opposite say about the networks, they spend that money on Australian drama. Also, the vast majority of the money spent on the eight hours of children's television is spent by the networks.

Mr Ian Cameron —What about the SBS fellows?

Mr DUFFY —Madam Speaker, I will digress for a moment. For a long time I have wondered what the honourable member for Maranoa was on about. Years ago I recollect-the honourable member for Kooyong may not remember this because in those days he was probably able to grace the members enclosure at Flemington while the rest of us were, I confess, going down a lane in Carlton and having a starting price bet-that SP bookmakers had what they used to refer to as a cockatoo, who used to scream `police' when the police arrived at the opening to the lane. There were springs on the betting boards and when they were hit they used to go into neighbours' houses so that when the police arrived everyone was standing around having an afternoon conversation. Jake was the name of the bookmaker; I do not know the name of the cockatoo. I have often wondered why I have that memory. The fact is that that cockatoo could have been the honourable member for Maranoa. At that time he would have been a young man but the sounds that emanate from over there are very similar.

To return to the issue of the third station, what I am saying-I said it here last night-is that it may well be that, in looking at the question of television in this country, we need to look at some stage at what other television may be available. There may be community television at some stage in the sense of public access. There may be a need to look at that combined with something like the Channel 4 concept in the United Kingdom. But to be talking about a fourth commercial television station in our capital cities--

Mr Ian Cameron —What about giving us one out in cockies country?

Mr Duffy —There is he is again.

Mr Hawke —Police, police.

Mr DUFFY —As the Prime Minister has indicated, the police have arrived. I must say that, in relation to that proposal, people talk about the need for more of this and more of that in Australia. We have a population of about 16 million and we have three networks. The United States has 280,000 million people and three networks, and one attempting to get off the ground currently.

Mr Beale —There are 36 stations in Europe.

Mr DUFFY —If the honourable member wants to watch reruns of I Love Lucy night after night on some of the television stations, as happens in the United States, he would be better occupied to take a trip over there and learn a bit about the matters that he has been prattling on about over the last week or so. It would not do him any harm to look at the quality of that programming.

In closing, I must say that I am extremely disappointed-I say this with absolute seriousness-at the party opposite which has always stood for Australia, Queen, country and all that is good in this nation, and for children and for families. For two years this debate has gone on. For two years there was a public opportunity for those opposite to make their views known when an inquiry was set up through the method of a forward development unit within the Department of Communications. An enormous number of submissions were made to that inquiry, but from my recollection there was nothing from the Liberal Party. That report was published with options-not recommendations-for this Government to consider. The Liberal Party floundered around for two years and then all of a sudden it had the sharp light come to it and say: `Let's have another television station in Melbourne. Let's have one in Sydney and let's have one in the other capitals'. All I can say to those opposite is that if they want to destroy what we on this side of the House consider to be important in television in this country they can continue with that sort of nonsense. They will have no opportunity ever to implement it as policy but they can continue with it for as long as they like. I finish where I started: It is very difficult to understand what those opposite have against Australian producers, Australian actors and children.