Following the Community Broadcasting Conference last weekend, community radio also came in for mention this week in Federal Parliament.
Responding to a question from Senator Santoro, Communication Minister Helen Coonan sang the praises of community broadcasting, praised her government’s contribution to the sector and also took the chance to get in a swipe at shadow communications minister Conroy, who she suggested should do some work experience at 2GB:
Senator SANTORO — My question is to
the Minister for Communications, Information Technology
and the Arts. Will the minister please advise the
Senate of the government’s commitment to the community
broadcasting sector? Is the minister aware of
any alternative policies?
Senator COONAN — I thank Senator Santoro for
the question and also for his strong interest in communications.
As this side of the chamber would be aware,
the Australian government is a strong supporter of the
community broadcasting sector.
More than any previous
government, this government has demonstrated a
commitment to a healthy and vibrant community
broadcasting sector. We have done a great deal over the
past 8½ years to support the sector and make it more
sustainable, because the government acknowledges the
enormous number of volunteers who participate in
community broadcasting, the range of specialist needs
that it caters for, including ethnic, Indigenous and print
handicapped services, its delivery of training in broadcasting
skills and, of course, the very important reach it
has into rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.
Since the government has been in office it has significantly
increased funding above the levels provided
by previous governments. In addition, the government
recently reinforced its commitment to the sector by
promising to increase funding to it by $8.2 million over
four years, including a significant funding boost to establish
a broadcast training and development fund.
commitment from the government is in very stark contrast
to the ALP. Their former spokesman, Mr Lindsay
Tanner, talked about community broadcasting during
the recent election campaign but failed to come forward with any funding commitment at all. It was just
Labor rhetoric. It certainly has not improved since the
election. We have heard very little about the communications
portfolio from Labor’s new spokesman Senator
Conroy, and now we know why. Senator Conroy has
been far too busy prosecuting his jihad against his
leader to worry about community broadcasting. He
came out yesterday seeking a truce hoping to hang onto
his frontbench position. He was forced to make a humiliating,
indeed a grovelling, public apology for his
disloyalty to Mr Latham.
Senator Conroy now proposes
to devote himself to his shadow portfolio tasks.
That is welcome news, and it is not before time. Senator
Conroy has a great deal to learn about communications.
He certainly does not understand community
broadcasting or the broadcasting sector in general.
I recently heard Senator Conroy debating antisiphoning
issues on 2GB with Philip Clark and coming
off second-best in spectacular fashion. He was making
all sorts of ill-informed and populist comments on antisiphoning,
suggesting community broadcasters should
be bidding for major sporting events and being told by
Philip Clark to ‘stop banging his head against a wall’.
Philip Clark ended the interview with this comment, he
said, ‘Give me a break. You’re going to have to go and
spend some time in the industry. You should come up
here as a work experience person for a while. All
right?’ Senator Conroy said, ‘Thanks, Philip.’ Not a
bad idea really—coming for a bit of work experience.
If Senator Conroy wants to take Philip Clark up on his
generous offer, I am sure that many of us on this side
of the chamber would be very happy to give him a reference
so that he can take up the opportunity to do
some work experience—because he certainly will not
get a glowing reference from Mr Latham, who he has
described as Frankenstein’s monster. Let us hope that
Senator Conroy, when he has had an opportunity to
apologise, takes Philip Clark up on his offer and decides
to do some work experience and learn something