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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2862

Senator COLLINS (Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support) (8.58 p.m.) —The Government will not be accepting the Australian Democrats' stated position. I do not intend to go at any significant length into why that is so. I think you either accept this proposition or you do not. The reason I will not do that is that the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator McMullan), who is sitting next to me in the chamber, has threatened to kneecap me if I go on at tedious length or speak for longer than 60 seconds. I know that Senator Coulter would acknowledge that it is a matter for Parliament to amend from time to time the arrangements for both the ABC and the SBS, depending on Parliament's view of the community expectation at that time.

  The Government has no intention of extending the current provisions. The provisions—and I think the Opposition agrees—are sensible and reasonable and strike a middle course. We are maintaining a national broadcaster that is advertising free. That is the ABC. I do not see any need to extend that provision to every broadcast unit.

  As has already been said, the SBS does a more than commendable job in producing quality broadcasting at reasonable cost. I personally think that there has already been some demonstration of the value of sponsorship and advertising. For example, I have in mind the superb series on the American Civil War that was purchased by SBS recently, and that happened because of sponsorship from the groups mentioned at the beginning of the broadcast. I think that everyone will agree that the advertising that was used was totally unobtrusive. The message was there as to who was sponsoring the program and it did not intrude upon it.

  As Senator Alston said in his speech in the second reading debate, for these provisions to be restrictive to five minutes out of an hour only and for them to occur at the end of programs or in natural program breaks will be so unobtrusive on audiences as to be almost undetectable. That will provide SBS with a useful opportunity, as has already been demonstrated in the sponsorship provisions that already exist, in both purchasing additional programs from overseas but, more importantly, in increasing the number of productions in which the SBS itself engages. For that reason, the Government will not be accepting the Democrats' stated position.

    The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Giles)—Senator Alston, for the sake of procedural clarity, I think that it will be appropriate for you to move your amendment to clause 45.