Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 11 May 2000
Page: 16319

Mr SECKER (3:30 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation representing the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Would the minister advise the House of the communication benefits to rural and regional Australia flowing from this budget? What new services will be available to the constituents in my electorate of Barker?

Mr McGAURAN (Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation) —I thank the honourable member for Barker for his question. He well knows the significance of the conversion in rural Australia to digital and datacaster broadcasting from analog. He also well knows what happened the last time there was such a technological revolution for people in country areas, from analog to digital. That was in the early 1990s when the Labor Party handed over to digital transmission broadcasting techniques and broadcasters without any transition arrangements, without any safety net for country people. It took this government with its CDMA initiatives to protect the interests of country people and ensure that they had access to the latest telephone technology and associated technologies.

Now we are doing it again in regard to digital television and datacasting services. We are providing up to $260 million for the regional equalisation plan, with an allocation of $22 million this year, which represents 50 per cent of the estimated costs of digital conversion for regional broadcasters. It is a partnership between regional broadcasters and the government. We also have a partnership with rural communities. We will ensure that community based self-help retransmission groups are able to obtain access to transmission sites at less than commercial rates. This is a $5 million matching of the $5 million funds from NTL, the new owner of the national transmission network. That will help smaller communities to establish and operate equipment to retransmit commercial and national television and radio services that they otherwise would not have access to.

At the same time we are injecting very significant funds into the public broadcasters ABC and SBS. ABC will receive an additional $36.5 million and SBS almost $30 million for digital equipment over and above previously announced funding. We have also given a commitment to fully fund the cost of digital television transmission and distribution. So it is a very substantial commitment to the ABC and SBS as they enter the digital era. You can see the contrast between the Labor Party when in government and the coalition parties when in government. We do not deprive country and regional viewers and users of the latest technology or of access to all the advantages it can bring.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.