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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5137


Senator COLLINS (Minister for Transport and Communications) (11.43 a.m.) —by leave—I move:

(1)Clause 2, page 2, after subclause (5) insert the following subclause:

  "(5A) Sections 7C and 9AA commence on a day to be fixed by Proclamation.".

(2)Clause 2, page 2, after subclause (5), insert the following subclause:

  "(5B) Sections 23A, 24A, 24B, 37A, 37B and 37C are taken to have commenced immediately after the commencement of Part 4 of the Telecommunications Act 1991.".

(3)Clause 2, page 2, add at the end of the clause the following subclause:

  "(8) If the commencement of sections 7C and 9AA is not fixed by Proclamation published in the Gazette within the period of 6 months beginning on the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, those sections commence on the first day after the end of that period.".

(4)  After Part 2, page 2, insert the following new Part:

"PART 2A—AMENDMENTS OF THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS COMMISSION ACT 1983

Principal Act

  "5A. In this Part, `Principal Act' means the Australian National Railways Commission Act 1983().

Interpretation

  "5B. Section 3 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting the following definitions in subsection (1):

`"National Rail Corporation" means the company incorporated under the Corporations Law in the Australian Capital Territory as the National Rail Corporation Limited;

"National Rail Corporation Agreement" means the agreement approved by section 5 of the National Rail Corporation Agreement Act 1992;'.

General powers of Commission

  "5C. Section 6 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in subsection (1) "or of its duties" after "of its functions" (wherever occurring).

Insertion of new section

  "5D. After section 6 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted:

Commission must take action to facilitate National Rail Corporation Agreement etc.

  `6A.(1) The Commission must ensure that it, and its officers and employees:

  (a) take all reasonable action that will facilitate; and

  (b) refrain from taking any action that will impede;

the transfer to the National Rail Corporation of functions, and the transfer or leasing of, or the granting of access to, assets, in accordance with the National Rail Corporation Agreement.

  `(2) If the Minister is satisfied that the Commission has failed to comply with its obligations under subsection (1), the Minister may, in writing, request the Commission to take or refrain from taking specified action within a specified period and the Commission must comply with the request.'.".

(5)  After clause 7, page 3, insert the following clauses:

Subscription narrowcasting services

  "7A. Section 17 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in subparagraph (a)(iii) `or' after `period'.

Open narrowcasting services

  "7B. Section 18 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in subparagraph (a)(iii) `or' after `period'.".

(6)  After clause 7, page 3, insert the following new clause:

Development of codes of practice

  "7C. Section 123 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after subsection (3) the following subsection:

  `(3A) In developing codes of practice referred to in paragraph (2)(a), (b) or (c), industry groups representing commercial television broadcasting licensees and community television broadcasting licensees must ensure that:

  (a)for the purpose of classifying films—those codes apply the film classification system administered by the Office of Film and Literature Classification; and

  (b)those codes provide for methods of modifying films having particular classifications under that system so that:

      (i)the films are suitable to be broadcast; or

      (ii)the films are suitable to be broadcast at particular times; and

  (c)those codes require that films classified as "M" may be broadcast only:

      (i)between the hours of 8:30 pm on a day and 5 am on the following day; or

        (ii)between the hours of noon and 3 pm on any day that is a school day; and

  (d)films classified as "MA" may be broadcast only between the hours of 9 pm on a day and 5 am on the following day; and

  (e)those codes provide for the provision of advice to consumers on the reasons for films receiving a particular classification.'.".

(7)Clause 8, page 3, proposed paragraph 202(4)(b), line 19, after "would" insert "tend to".

(8)Clause 8, page 3, proposed subsection 202(5), lines 23 to 26, omit the subsection, substitute the following subsection:

  "`(5) For the purposes of this section, "journalist" means a person engaged in the profession or practice of reporting, photographing, editing, recording or making television or radio programs of a news, current affairs, information or documentary character.'.".

(9)After clause 8, page 3, insert the following clause:

Period of appointment of members and associate members

  "8A. Section 157 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after subsection (2) the following subsections:

  `(2A) For the purposes of subsection (2), if:

  (a)at a particular time, a person ceases to hold an office (`original office') of member (other than the office of Chairperson or Deputy Chairperson); and

  (b)immediately after that time, the person begins to hold the office of Chairperson, or the office of Deputy Chairperson, for a period which ends before, or at the same time as, the end of the period specified in the instrument of the person's appointment to the original office;

the person's appointment to the office of Chairperson or Deputy Chairperson, as the case may be, is taken not to be a re-appointment.

  `(2B) For the purposes of subsection (2), if:

  (a)at a particular time, a person ceases to hold the office of Deputy Chairperson; and

  (b)immediately after that time, the person begins to hold the office of Chairperson for a period which ends before, or at the same time as, the end of the period specified in the instrument of the person's appointment to the office of Deputy Chairperson;

the person's appointment to the office of Chairperson is taken not to be a re-appointment.'.".

(10)  After clause 9, page 3, insert the following clause:

Schedule 2

  "9AA. Schedule 2 to the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraphs 7(1)(g) and 9(1)(g) the following paragraph:

  `(ga)the licensee will not broadcast films that are classified as "R" unless the films have been modified as mentioned in paragraph 123(3A)(b);'.".

(12)After clause 19, page 6, insert the following clause:

Transmitter licence

  "19A. Section 24 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after subsection (1A) the following subsection:

  `(1B) Subsection (1A) does not prevent the Minister from granting a transmitter licence authorising operation of a radiocommunications transmitter for transmitting a broadcasting service if:

  (a)the licence authorises operation of the transmitter only within a part of the spectrum that constitutes capacity reserved under paragraph 31(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992; and

  (b)the broadcasting service in question is a broadcasting service of a kind for which the capacity has been so reserved.'.".

(14)  After clause 23, page 8, insert the following clause:

General functions—overall responsibilities of AUSTEL

  "23A. Section 36 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) and substituting the following paragraph:

  `(a)economic and technical regulation of the Australian telecommunications industry, including in particular:

    (i)the promotion of fair and efficient market conduct within the industry; and

    (ii)the implementation of the Commonwealth Government's industry policies relating to telecommunications (including policies relating to the development of an internationally competitive telecommunications industry); and'.".

(15)  After clause 24, page 8, insert the following clauses:

General governmental obligations of AUSTEL

  "24A. Section 48 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) `general'.

Minister may notify AUSTEL of policies of Commonwealth Government

  "24B. Section 49 of the Principal Act is amended:

  (a)by inserting after subsection (1) the following subsection:

  `(1A) The Minister may notify AUSTEL of policies of the Commonwealth Government, relating to the development of an internationally competitive customer equipment industry, that are to apply to the issue, variation or cancellation of permits for customer equipment under Division 6 of Part 12. This subsection does not, by implication, limit the operation of subsection (1).';

  (b)by omitting from subsection (3) `subsection (1)' and substituting `this section'.".

(16)  After clause 37, page 15, insert the following clauses:

Issue of permits

  "37A. Section 258 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of subsection (3) the following word and paragraph:

`; and (d)the issuing of the permit is not contrary to policies notified by the Minister under subsection 49(1A).'.

Variation of permits

  "37B. Section 260 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of subsection (3) the following word and paragraph:

`; and (c)the variation is not contrary to policies notified by the Minister under subsection 49(1A).'.

Cancellation of permits

  "37C. Section 263 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting subsection (1) and substituting the following subsection:

  `(1) AUSTEL may cancel a permit, by written notice given to the holder of the permit, if:

  (a)AUSTEL is satisfied that the holder of a permit has contravened the conditions of the permit; or

  (b)the cancellation is authorised by policies notified to AUSTEL under subsection 49(1A).'.".

(17)  After Part 8, page 16, insert the following Part:

"PART 8A—VALIDATION OF CERTAIN NOTIFICATIONS UNDER THE

TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT 1989

Validation of certain notifications under the Telecommunications Act 1989

  "39A.(1) The following are taken to have been valid notifications of policies under section 28 of the Telecommunications Act 1989:

  (a)the notification of policies by the Minister for Telecommunications and Aviation Support, dated 1 December 1989;

        (b)any notification of an amendment of the policies mentioned in paragraph (a);

  (c)any notification of an amended version of the policies mentioned in paragraph (a).

  "(2) AUSTEL is taken to have had all the powers necessary to give full effect to the notifications of policies referred to in subsection (1) in issuing, varying or cancelling permits under Division 4 of Part 5 of the Telecommunications Act 1989.".

(18)  After Part 9, page 16, add the following Part:

"PART 10—AMENDMENTS OF THE BROADCASTING SERVICES (TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS AND CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) ACT 1992

Principal Act

  "42. In this Part, `Principal Act' means the Broadcasting Services (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 1992.

Pending applications for grant of licences under the Broadcasting Act

  "43. Section 12 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after subsection (2) the following subsection:

  `(2A) Subsection (2) does not apply to an application if the application has not been referred to the Tribunal or to the ABA under paragraph 82A(4)(a) of the Broadcasting Act before the commencement of this subsection.'.

Application of provisions of the Broadcasting Act in relation to keeping accounts and unpaid licence fees

  "44. Section 22 of the Principal Act is amended:

  (a)by inserting after subsection (1) the following subsections:

  `(1A) The amendments made by sections 19 and 21 of the Broadcasting Amendment Act (No. 2) 1991 have effect for the purposes of the continued operation of sections 123 and 123A of the Broadcasting Act under subsection (1) of this section.

  `(1B) Section 20 of the Broadcasting Amendment Act (No. 2) 1991 has effect in relation to:

      (a)a commercial radio broadcasting licence referred to in paragraph 5(1)(a), (d) or (f); and

      (b)a commercial television broadcasting licence referred to in paragraph 5(1)(b) or (e);

  as if section 123 of the Broadcasting Act had not been repealed by section 28 of this Act.

      Note:  this subsection has the effect of applying to these licences the section (section 123AA) that section 20 of the Broadcasting Amendment Act (No. 2) 1991 sought to insert in the Broadcasting Act.';

  (b)by inserting in subsection (2) `, 123AA' after `123' (first occurring);

  (c)by inserting in subsection (2) `or (1B)' after `(1)' (first occurring)."

The majority of the amendments are minor technical matters. The substantive amendments relate to the new classification proposals. So these will be the only amendments that I will now address myself to for the sake of brevity.

  On 24 November I announced the Government's intention to apply a uniform classification scheme to films televised by commercial and community broadcasters and to provide for restrictions on M and MA classified material. The proposed amendments result from extensive discussions with the Australian Broadcasting Authority, the Office of Film and Literature Classification and industry groups on the most effective way of giving effect to the Government's intention. I would like to thank the officers of all those organisations for the intense amount of effort that has been put in to present what I think is an extremely reasonable and balanced proposal.

  The issues raised are not simple. It is probably a common failing of most politicians, because it is inherent in the process, that we are always looking for simple solutions to complex problems. The issues here are not simple. No matter what one tries to do, one will never satisfy everybody. One can only try to provide a reasonable result that will satisfy reasonable people.

  After two all-night sessions in a row, this morning I particularly feel like poor old Sisyphus who had to roll a rock up a hill for the whole of his life. I feel condemned to debate this for my entire parliamentary career, and here we are again. I emphasise that these are not simple issues. Broadcasters have accepted the need for programs displaying the stronger forms of violence, sex and crude language to be shown after 9 p.m. and the codes they are currently developing will so provide.

  The added factor in this debate was that it occurred at a time when the new Australian Broadcasting Authority had just been established and was operational and these codes were in the process of preparation. In fact, the main worry of the broadcasters was that they should retain the right to modify those programs further to ensure that they meet the stricter ideas of what should be shown on television.

  We are proposing that the codes of practice should allow for modification of films to ensure that they at least meet the OFLC classifications for the time slots shown, knowing that in many cases the versions of films shown as M or MA on television will have been modified to remove scenes which would be acceptable to the Censor under the classification for cinema display. That is the current procedure and the television industry has been observing it for years. There is a very tiny percentage indeed of feature films classified under the film classifications as R that are ever modified for television. Indeed, they have to be heavily modified. The majority of those modified feature films would come from the M classification.

  Coupled with improved consumer advice—which I am delighted to see in terms of the proposals which have come forward from the industry—the system will enable viewers, and particularly parents, to have a better idea of the content of films. They can be confident that films shown on television are at least within the OFLC guidelines for cinema display. I might also add that the research that has been done clearly shows that a very substantial number of people who watch television place high value on the assistance given to them by those classification symbols. One of the very positive things that has come out of this will be the enhanced regime that will be introduced by the broadcasters in that respect.

  The restrictions will be imposed by codes of practice which must be developed within the framework of the Broadcasting Services Act. This amendment ensures that these codes apply the OFLC guidelines. The current provisions of the Act ensure that codes must take into account community attitudes to the portrayal of violence, sexual conduct and nudity, use of drugs and offensive language. The code dealing with the suitability of programs for broadcasting, the protection of children or the classification of programs which did not make adequate provision for these issues would not be registered.

  I remind the chamber that under section 123 of the Act the ABA will only register a code if it is satisfied of three things: firstly, and most importantly, that the code `provides appropriate community safeguards for the matters covered by the code'; secondly, that the code is endorsed by a majority of the providers of broadcasting services in the relevant section of the industry, thus ensuring a commitment to the code by the broadcasters themselves—a very sensible provision—and, thirdly, that members of the public have had an adequate opportunity to comment on the code. This is no behind closed doors exercise, but a full, open and cooperative effort to protect important cultural values.

  Honourable senators may also be assured that the standards of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal on programming classification and timing will still apply under the Broadcasting Services (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act until replaced. If they are not replaced by a code, they will be replaced by an ABA standard under section 125 of the Broadcasting Services Act.

  The ABC and SBS are not subject to the Broadcasting Services Act but are required by their own Acts to develop codes and notify them to the Australian Broadcasting Authority. The ABC code has been approved by its board and notified to the ABA, and the SBS board will consider a draft code on 19 December. Those codes will apply the OFLC guidelines. The ABA can deal with complaints about breaches of the Act of the ABC or SBS code. If a national broadcaster fails to implement recommendations made by the ABA within 30 days, the ABA may report that fact to the Minister who is obliged to table the report within seven sitting days in both Houses of Parliament. No further legislative sanctions are necessary.

  I am convinced that these proposals will meet the legitimate concerns of senators while maintaining the flexibility essential to effective regulation of a diverse industry such as broadcasting. I must also say again that I have been pleased by the cooperative attitude of the broadcasters on this issue. The level of commitment they have displayed—perhaps reluctantly at certain times during this process; they certainly cooperated fully in attempting to work with the regulators to come up with what is now before the chamber—convinces me that we will have no problems in the actual broadcasting of M and MA material. I am particularly pleased to see the move taken in the split of the M classification into a far more sensible split and the enhanced provisions that will be made by the broadcasters to actually display for the benefit of the viewer far more detail about what will be contained in the program about to be shown.


The CHAIRMAN —Minister, just after you began speaking I received another Government amendment which is headed, `Additional and new clause to be moved on behalf of the Government'. It seems to fit into the original schedule of amendments.


Senator COLLINS —Mr Chairman, just to clarify things for the Committee in terms of getting all the amendments on the table—and I think this is Senator Alston's view as well as mine—I point out that Senator Alston also wants to move an amendment on the same matter. I propose to move the Government amendment as circulated in my name, except for proposed clause 7D, `Development of codes of practice'. Thus, that part of the original circulated amendment will be deleted and a Government amendment containing the remaining parts will be moved.


The CHAIRMAN —For the assistance of honourable senators, the circulated sheet headed `Additional new clause to be moved on behalf of the Government' will be amended by making singular the word `clauses' in the first line; deleting the following words from `Development' to `registration; and'; and substituting `7D' for `7E'. Are there any problems with that? I do not mean policy difficulties. I mean: are there any difficulties with understanding what the amendment will be?