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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 661

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (15:42): by leave—I present an explanatory memorandum and I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

This Bill is in direct response to the decision of the Board and management of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to cease its shortwave transmission radio service to international audiences and to the Northern Territory on 31 January 2017.

The purpose of this Bill is to require the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to restore its shortwave transmission services, following an announcement by the ABC in December 2016 that it would end its shortwave transmission service in the Northern Territory and to international audiences from 31 January 2017.

The ABC's shortwave transmission service is the only option for many people who live, work and travel through rural and remote areas, including in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. It is a vital service for emergency broadcasts, news and weather. Shortwave transmissions are reliable, long-range and are not interrupted by adverse weather conditions unlike FM radio.

The decision to cease the shortwave transmission service from the Northern Territory will mean ABC programs from Radio National and ABC local radio will no longer be available to those in vehicles and with portable radios from the remote parts of Australia referred to, including the top two thirds of South Australia. It will also significantly impact on our near neighbours in the region, where these broadcasts have been a reliable source of news and current affairs, including emergency information. Ceasing these broadcasts diminishes Australia's role in the region.

For instance, shortwave radio played a valuable role in providing information to communities during the civil disturbance that occurred in East Timor in the lead up to independence.

Truck drivers use the shortwave service on their regular trips from Adelaide to Darwin and back. Having no access prevents these drivers from having easy access to essential news, emergency announcements and weather information. Gary Williams, a long-haul truck driver based in Adelaide, who does about 40 trips to Darwin each year, is one of the thousands of people who relied on the ABC's shortwave service.

The cost cutting decision will save $1.9 million a year — a tiny fraction of the ABC's $1 billion plus annual budget.

The Bill will require the ABC to maintain its shortwave transmission services so that people in rural and remote areas in the Northern Territory and South Australia have access to a reliable radio service.

The Bill will also require the ABC to maintain three international shortwave transmission services for Papua New Guinea and parts of the Pacific so that people living in areas such as the Solomon Islands have access to reliable emergency broadcasting.

This is an important piece of legislation for those people who live, work and travel through rural and remote areas of Australia, and I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to support it.

Senator XENOPHON: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.