Communications Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 - Second Reading

I think this is my third go at finishing a contribution on this very important bill and, hopefully, I will see it through today. I will recap, because it was last week that the chamber last considered this bill.

This bill is a very sensible, reasonable and moderate change to the requirements or restrictions placed on SBS when they undertake commercial advertising. We are making an incredible change from allowing SBS to advertise five minutes an hour, for 120 minutes across the day, to being allowed 10 minutes per hour but still restricting this to 120 minutes per day.

Our proposal as a government is that SBS would not be allowed to advertise any more over a day only more within particular hours. There is the same amount over a day but a more concentrated and focused advertising task in particular hours. Why is that important? It is important because some hours of TV are better than others. Some hours of TV will provide SBS and broadcasters with an opportunity to raise more revenue than other hours. By making this change we allow SBS to make more efficient decisions on how they spread their advertising over the 24 hours in a day.

It is very important to remember and reflect that the commercial broadcasters are also restricted on how much advertising they can show, per day. This is by separate legislation. They are restricted to 350 minutes per day. We are maintaining the difference that SBS is not a commercial broadcaster and will advertise much less over a day than the commercial broadcasters, even after this change comes in. Commercial broadcasters have 350 minutes per day and SBS has only 120 minutes per day. The commercial broadcasters can advertise between 14 and 16 minutes per hour. If this bill goes through, SBS will have only 10 minutes per hour.

In my previous contributions I was critical of the Labor Party's stance on this bill, particularly their intransigence to cleaning up the mess they created. It is a very moderate change. It is only going to raise something like $28.5 million, from 2015-16, but it is still important. It is important to maintain SBS's services to allow them to continue to provide the product they do to all Australia. But the Labor Party opposed that, even though they put us in the position we are in. We have to find some efficiencies in savings, as any household would after borrowing $240 billion in six years. If you borrow $240 billion in six years you have to start cutting the cloth after those six years. The Labor Party did not want to do that.

I do give them credit for supporting the change to fuel indexation. That is another change we needed to make, a more substantial one, to get this country back on track. I just hope that rather than be inconsistent they could be consistent on these matters and be a partner in trying to get this country back on track. They could say: 'Okay, we agreed with fuel indexation; we agree that is something we have to face up to as a country and, if we do not, we will not have the money to pay for our roads in 10 or 20 years time.'

The Labor Party should likewise reconsider that if we do not make changes like this, now, how will we continue to fund SBS over the next 10 to 20 years? It is not as big a funding task as the billions of dollars we need for roads, but it still needs to be funded in some way, shape or form. They are not proposing more taxes. They are not proposing other funding streams for SBS, so how are they going to fund SBS's programs into the future? This is a reasonable change to take some pressure off the budget, to allow that funding to occur. I want to see SBS continue.

As I said in my earlier remarks, my mum is Italian. I grew up watching Italian news with her and her grandparents. I did not understand a word of it. But I understand the importance of this broadcasting channel in helping integrate our multicultural society and making people feel part of our community—part of Australia—when they arrive here.

We are very lucky to have something like the SBS. I cannot think of another example like SBS anywhere in the world, where a publicly funded broadcaster is dedicated to providing services to ethnic communities all across the country. The very fact that we are unique and we are able to fund this institution means that we must always be wary of making sure that we can continue to fund it, because, clearly, other countries have decided they cannot afford to fund something like this.

We have decided we should, and I agree with that decision, but it has to be funded responsibly. We need to allow them to manage their budget responsibly. This would be an extraordinarily simple change which builds on the decades of history that SBS have of partly funding their services from their own sourced revenue. They are systems that have been in place for decades and have been supported by both sides of politics. This is a very small and moderate change to those arrangements and they should be supported by this chamber.

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