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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 2288


Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory) (12:01): Labor has certainly offered support for elements of the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Television and Radio Licence Fees) Bill 2016, but there are some concerns, and we certainly saw that in the inquiry here in the Senate. I would like to speak from my own experience in the television industry and about some of the things that came up as I was reading through reports, in particular, by some of the people who gave submissions to the Senate inquiry: Southern Cross Austereo, Nine Entertainment, PRIME Media Group, WIN Television and News Corp Australia—just to name a few.

I want to firstly go to the NSW Farmers' Association and their comment about the media needs of the region and the concerns for those in the remote regions across Australia. It is a concern for people in the bush who rely so much on the mainstream elements of communications here in Australia. When we go home—I certainly know when I head home at night, or even here in the parliament—it is good to be able to just flick on the channel and flick through programs to have a look at what is going on in the world, what is going on around the country and what is going on overseas. Today we see the election in the United States—just about every news outlet is following that, so we are not short of that—but what is happening in Borroloola today? What is happening in Tea Tree today? What is happening at Ali Curung and Yuendumu? These are the regional questions that I ask. I certainly know that many people who want to understand what is happening in our own country ask that. We look at the importance of that kind of communication tool.

When I was growing up—not having television in the Gulf of Carpentaria and then getting it in the eighties—the first images I saw were quite negative images of Aboriginal people. These images stay in your mind of your world view. I may not have been able to see too far out of the gulf region, but I was being taught through images; I was influenced by images and news stories that I would see. At that time, of course, it was only the ABC that was broadcasted in the regions. And thank goodness for the ABC and our public broadcasters SBS and National Indigenous Television for being able to provide Australians with the incredible diversity that we need to see more of on our stations.

When we come together to discuss this bill—it is just really for you, Minister—we need to keep in mind the importance around diversity and that we need to hear from the Indigenous groups. We have got the CAAMA Radio up in Central Australia. We have certainly got Imparja. We have got the Indigenous Remote Communications Association, which has done an enormous amount of work around the importance of the remote media sector and how governments can support the sector.

The industry has identified the need for serious policy development work to be done in the Indigenous media sector. Policy in this area is really lagging behind, with no real update since the 1990s. In fact, the most major reform I can recall in that space was the BRACS program, the Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme. Again, so many communities did receive the ability to have media communications and to have radio stations, but in my community at Borroloola we did not receive it—we missed out. As a result of that I spent the next couple of years trying to establish community radio in the Gulf Country. I was able to set up, in 1996, the first radio station in the Gulf Country called B102.9 FM, 'The voice of the Gulf'. It had a short radius, probably about 50 kilometres, but it was a start. The local community could then start to hear language and they could start to hear the stories that were important locally.

Again, these are just things I would like to put on the table as part of your consideration going forward with this. Indigenous media is vital in supporting maintenance of culture, language, stories and it also provides important economic opportunities in communities. We need jobs in this country. We certainly need them across our regional areas and in Indigenous communities in particular.

Contemporary issues need to be incorporated into policy development, digital convergence, digital inclusion, organisational and industry inclusion and sustainability. These are very real issues for the Indigenous media sector. There is a growing divide between remote and urban organisations due to access to technology and digital services. Indigenous media organisations currently seem to be seen as vehicles for delivering government messages. Whether that is a good thing or a not so good thing, the important thing here is that people are being informed.

We talk about competition from offshore such as Facebook, Google and Netflix. I have had to spend years trying to communicate with gulf families and the other language groups across the Northern Territory in particular One thing I can certainly say is that with Facebook, for the first time, the people who once did not have a voice have a voice. Once they could not communicate. We communicated through radio in the early days. We did not have telephones straight off the bat. And now, with Facebook, I can receive messages straightaway here in Parliament House about something that is happening up in Arnhem Land or on the Tiwi Islands. I would urge the parliament to take into strong consideration the importance of diversity, the importance of black voices in the mainstream media/communication industry, the importance of making sure that we value diversity in this country, especially the first nations Australians, and the importance of making sure that any ongoing communications engagement always includes the Indigenous media.