Senate debates

Monday, 2 March 2015


Broadcasting and Other Legislation Amendment (Deregulation) Bill 2015; Second Reading

9:39 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I am assuming there are no other colleagues wishing to make a contribution at this point so I thank all colleagues for their contribution.

As you know, this bill seeks to make amendments to three pieces of legislation to remove unnecessary provisions and reduce the regulatory burden on the broadcasting industry. The bill does form part of the communications portfolios commitment of the Australia government's deregulation agenda and seeks to implement a number of measures identified in the portfolio, in the Deregulation Roadmap 2014, and addresses issues that have been raised through consultation with the broadcasting industry.

The bill repeals the redundant licensing and planning provisions that regulated the digital switch-over and restack processes; amends the ACMA's planning powers to implement a more streamlined process when planning broadcasting spectrum; improves administrative arrangements and provides greater flexibility for the free-to-air and subscription broadcasters in relation to their captioning obligations; extends the time frame for the existing statutory review of captioning requirements by one year, to 31 December 2016; removes the auditing requirements of the annual returns on program expenditure that subscription broadcasters and channel providers lodge with the ACMA and the new eligible drama expenditure scheme; it also addresses anomalies and the provisions relating to overlapping licence areas for media-diversity voices and commercial radio-licence areas and in the grandfathering arrangement relating to licence area population determinations; removes redundant obligations with the ACMA to review classification and time-zone safeguards; and makes consequential amendments to schedule 4 of the Broadcasting Services Act as a result of the Acts and Instruments (Framework Reform) Bill 2014.

The government does acknowledge the Senate committee's support for removing captioning annual reporting requirements on free-to-air broadcasters and remains committed to moving over time to a compliance model that does not require unnecessary reports. There has indeed been significant consultation undertaken on the proposed captioning amendments, including with Media Access Australia, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, the Human Rights Commission, Deafness Forum of Australia, Deaf Australia and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations. Clearly, the government has taken the feedback from those discussions into account and will consult further on the compliance framework, noting that all sides agree that the existing captioning reporting arrangements are overly complex and onerous.

I also note that the 18th report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights suggests that the proposed automatic exemption from captioning obligations, for new subscription television channels, may be incompatible with the right to equality and nondiscrimination. The government does take its international obligations very seriously. However, with respect to the committee's conclusion, we do not agree that what had been proposed is inconsistent with Australia's human rights obligations.

I think it is important for me to state in unambiguous terms that in no way, shape or form does this legislation alter, diminish or affect in any way the services provided for Australians with hearing impairments. There was, we know, some concern expressed in some quarters. The government did accept amendments in the other place. That was done very much in good faith. We did not believe, and still do not believe, that if our previous proposition had been progressed that it would have affected the services for people with hearing impairment. There is a review, and that review will be undertaken and there will be extensive consultation. But it is very important to underline that there is no diminution, and there was never any intention for diminution, for people who are hearing impaired.

I guess there are about six minutes before we conclude this particular piece of business. While there are things that I am tempted to say in relation to Senator Xenophon's amendment which he shall move, I might leave that and give the chamber the opportunity to conclude this piece of legislation tonight.


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