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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5133


Senator PARER (11.22 a.m.) —The amendment in the Bill to the Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991 seeks to reimpose the blackout on television and radio advertising three days before an election campaign. When the Government introduced its ill-fated ban on political broadcasts and advertising, one of the consequences of that Bill was that it removed all the bans on advertising by reimposing a total advertising ban. I suppose one could call it yet another unintended consequence.

  The Political Broadcasts Bill was subject to a High Court challenge. The High Court struck down, or found invalid, the ban on political advertising. The Bill was opposed very strenuously by the Opposition because we took the view that it was an unprecedented attack on freedom of speech and freedom of political expression in Australia. As I indicated, the High Court struck down this attempt to attack freedom of speech. The Government has had to bring in legislation that reimposes the three-day blackout. As a matter of principle, the Opposition will oppose this amendment to the Special Broadcasting Service Act.

  I do not intend to go on. This issue was canvassed very strongly over the last 12 months and we have had the decision from the High Court. The question that should be asked of the Minister is: in view of the High Court decision, does he have an opinion that this amendment is valid? If so, could the chamber have a copy of that opinion? If not, should we be passing a Bill which could again be subject to a High Court challenge and which will yet again be found to be invalid?