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Monday, 30 August 1993
Page: 543

Senator McMULLAN (Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services) —Before I ask that government business notice of motion No. 2 standing in the name of Senator Ray be taken as formal, I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to the notice.

  Leave granted.

Senator McMULLAN —Agreement to this motion will enable Mr President to authorise the extension of the house monitoring service coverage of proceedings of the Senate and committees to persons or organisations outside Parliament House. The Senate will be aware that several organisations, mainly government departments, have sought to have access to television transmissions of proceedings of the Senate, the House of Representatives and parliamentary committees. The benefits to the parliament of such access would be greater awareness among executive departments of parliamentary proceedings and closer monitoring of current issues. Departments would be able to react more quickly to issues raised in the chambers or in committees, particularly the estimates committees.

  A similar motion is to be moved in the House of Representatives this week in relation to the transmission of proceedings of the House and its committees. Initially, it is intended that extension of the house monitoring service will be limited to selected government departments in the vicinity of Parliament House. Two channels, one for each house, will be transmitted by optical fibre cable to the client departments. When the Senate is not sitting, the Senate channel may be used to broadcast the public proceedings of a committee. Should more than one committee be sitting and wish to be broadcast on the extended service, it is proposed that the President should decide which committee is to be broadcast.

  Any costs incurred by the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff in providing the extended service will be covered by annual fees paid by the clients who will also meet the full costs of transmissions from Parliament House to their offices. Access to the service will be subject to clients agreeing to conditions governing receipt of the transmissions, including the payment of fees. The agreement will contain a caution about the recording and publishing of excerpts of proceedings, which at best would attract qualified privilege.