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representatives vote 2015-05-26#2

Edited by mackay staff

on 2016-12-15 21:55:18


  • Bills — Communications Legislation Amendment (Sbs Advertising Flexibility and Other Measures) Bill 2015; Second Reading
  • Communications Legislation Amendment (Sbs Advertising Flexibility and Other Measures) Bill 2015 - Second Reading - Agree to bill's main idea


  • <p class="speaker">Jason Clare</p>
  • <p>'No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.' Those now infamous words were almost the last thing that Tony Abbott said to Australians before they headed to the polls to cast their vote in the 2013 election. He said it on SBS <i>World News</i> the night before the election. It was his last and final offer, a solemn promise&#8212;you make me Prime Minister and I promise you this: 'No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.' That was the deal. The Prime Minister was asking the people of Australia to trust him, to take him at his word, and they did.</p>
  • <p>We now know what has happened since: more than $50 billion in cuts to health, $30 billion in cuts to education, cuts to the pension that have only been stopped because we stopped them in the Senate, changes to the GST in the last budget released a few weeks ago, and&#8212;surprise, surprise&#8212;cuts to the ABC and SBS&#8212;half billion dollars in cuts to the ABC and SBS. The people of Australia have learnt an important lesson&#8212;that is, you cannot trust what this Prime Minister says. He has now broken every single promise that he made in that interview on SBS <i>World News</i> the night before the election. This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to cover up one of those broken promises, the promise that there would be no cuts to the SBS.</p>
  • The majority agreed with the [bill](;query=Id:legislation/billhome/r5441)'s main idea, which means they can now discuss it in more detail. In parliamentary jargon, they voted to read it for a [second time](
  • ### Bill's main idea
  • The bill would give SBS more flexibility in terms of advertising by, for example, letting SBS air more advertising and sponsorship announcements in prime time viewing periods so long as it reduced advertising at other times in a 24 hour period.
  • According to the [bills digest](, the Government says that the changes would mean SBS would be less dependent on government funding. Though some public broadcaster advocates argue that increasing advertising like this may lead to less diversity on SBS as it puts the needs of advertisers before the needs of viewers.
  • Read more about what the bill does and the arguments for and against it in its [bills digest](
  • <p>Last year in the budget the Prime Minister cut the budget of SBS by $53.7 million. The purpose of the legislation we are now debating is to allow SBS to put more ads on TV when people are watching to try to make up for some of those cuts. It is legislation based on a lie. Its objective is to help make up and cover up a broken promise, plain and simple. There may be good reasons to support some of the measures that are in this bill, but, if parliament passes it, it will be complicit in this broken promise, and that is why the opposition will not support this bill.</p>
  • <p>The bill doubles the amount of advertising that SBS can broadcast between 6 pm and midnight every night. This will mean more ads during the shows that most people watch on SBS&#8212;more ads during SBS <i>World News</i>, more ads during <i>Insight</i>, more ads during <i>Dateline</i>, more ads during the football, more ads during the cycling and, in all likelihood, more programs designed to fit around ads rather than the other way around. Just like Channel 7, Channel 9 and Channel 10, between the hours of 6 pm and midnight SBS will be able to broadcast 10 minutes of ads and four minutes of promos per hour.</p>
  • <p>The opposition have consulted widely on this bill and we have paid close attention to the submissions and the evidence presented to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, which is inquiring into this legislation. The committee has received 27 submissions. Two of those submissions are confidential. Two of those submissions support this bill; they are from SBS and FECCA. You can tell by reading them that they reluctantly support this bill. All of the other submissions&#8212;in the order of more than 90 per cent of the submissions to this inquiry&#8212;oppose this bill. This is what Free TV, who represent the commercial broadcasters, said in their submission:</p>
  • <p class="italic">&#8230; the proposal to increase prime time advertising on the SBS equates to the introduction of a fourth commercial television broadcasting network by stealth.</p>
  • <p>This is what Save Our SBS said during the public hearings:</p>
  • <p class="italic">Despite a promise made the night before the 2013 election by Mr Abbott on SBS television directly to SBS audiences that there would be no cuts to SBS, the government has cut five per cent from SBS's budget over five years.</p>
  • <p>Even SBS, in their submission, admit that this is a cut, stating:</p>
  • <p class="italic">As a result of the Lewis Efficiency Study, Minister Turnbull announced further cuts to SBS&#8217;s funding in November 2014. Of the cuts, $25.2 million was based on back office efficiencies that SBS was already working towards. A further $28.5 million was predicated on successful legislative amendment to the SBS Act, which would provide SBS with additional advertising and sponsorship flexibility and allow SBS to deliver this portion of the funding cut via a modest annual revenue increase. The total funding cut of $53.7 million over five years from 2014-15 has already been reflected in SBS&#8217;s forward estimates.</p>
  • <p>The most important evidence to the committee though was not from broadcasters or from peak groups but from the people who watch SBS, the people who love the shows and do not want their favourite shows interrupted by more ads. Here is one example from Kym Ambrose, who said:</p>
  • <p class="italic">It will change the way SBS conducts itself and turn it into a commercial venture.</p>
  • <p class="italic">We need to support this station not destroy it.</p>
  • <p></p>
  • <p>Here is another from Peter Maurice Wilkinson. He said:</p>
  • <p class="italic">I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister declare just before the federal election, that, under his government there would be "No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or the SBS."</p>
  • <p class="italic">I am writing to request that you hold the government accountable to their promises.</p>
  • <p>Here is another Bridget Ikin:</p>
  • <p class="italic">To see SBS eventually broadcasting 14 minutes per hour of disruptive commercial breaks (i.e. ads plus promos) is totally unacceptable. It&#8217;s starting to look a lot like any commercial channel!</p>
  • <p>They are just a couple of quotes from a couple of the submissions to the committee, but there are 61,874 people like them&#8212;people who have signed this submission arguing that the parliament should oppose this legislation.</p>
  • <p>The only people who really support this bill are the government themselves. The only reason they are doing this is that they lied to the Australian people and now they are trying to cover it up by getting somebody else to replace the money that they have ripped out of SBS. In November last year Bill Shorten asked the Prime Minister a question about this at this dispatch box. I remember it, as if it were yesterday. I remember what the Prime Minister said. He said: 'It was not a broken promise.' He said: 'It was not a cut.' He said it was an 'efficiency dividend'. I thought I was in the theatre of the absurd for a moment. Here is a Prime Minister who promised no cuts to SBS and then the budget cuts $53.7 million out of SBS. Then when asked whether he was prepared to admit that that was a cut, he refused to admit that it was a cut and calls it an efficiency dividend.</p>
  • <p>The next day the Prime Minister's old friend, the Minister for Communications, was asked the same question on Sky TV. He did not give the same answer as the Prime Minister; he threw the Prime Minister under the bus. This is what he said when asked whether this was an efficiency dividend:</p>
  • <p class="italic">It is not an efficiency dividend... This is not an efficiency dividend.... Certainly there are cuts. He said no cuts to the ABC or SBS. There are cuts to the ABC or SBS.</p>
  • <p>Malcolm Turnbull, the Minister for Communications, told the truth, and it was a very different answer to what the Prime Minister had said the day before. I remember saying at the time that, if there is one thing that the Australian people hate more than politicians allowing, then that is politicians lying about lying. That is what the Prime Minister had done that day.</p>
  • <p>The next day I asked the Prime Minister who was right: was it he who said it was an efficiency dividend or was it the Minister of Communications who said that it was not an efficiency dividend. The answer that the Prime Minister gave was: 'Well, it is effectively an efficiency dividend.' He was asked the question again in February this year, and finally he was prepared to answer the question truthfully. He admitted that it was cut and he admitted that it was a broken promise. He told us a little bit more&#8212;he told is what he really thinks of these cuts. This is what he said in answer to a question on 12 February this year:</p>
  • <p class="italic">We have broken and, frankly, it is just as well that we did &#8230;</p>
  • <p>That is what the Prime Minister really thinks of SBS&#8212;an organisation set up by a former Liberal Prime Minister and one of the key ingredients in what makes Australia the most successful multicultural country in the world. Not only has the Prime Minister broken his promise, but he is proud of it. 'Thank God we did!' That was his answer to a question in this House in February this year. Now he wants to put more ads on television to help pay for it.</p>
  • <p>So how much would SBS make if this legislation were passed? Well, according to the government it is $28.5 million over four years, but, according to Free TV, that number is very different. They say it would be more like $147 million over four years. Both the government and Free TV have an interest in minimising or maximising that number. I take more seriously the number that is proposed by JP Morgan. Independent analysts at JP Morgan have looked at this as well, and their assessment is that the figure is somewhere between $88 million and $132 million over the forward estimates Whatever way you cut it, it is designed to cover up a cut. What is the impact, then, of this on SBS? Well, SBS has recently been in the news for a controversial TV program, <i>Struggle Street</i>, and members will know it well. It is a controversial television program that a lot of people watched.</p>
  • <p>The argument that many make in their submissions to the parliamentary inquiry is that legislation like this which increases the number of ads that can be broadcast in prime time on SBS will only encourage SBS to produce more content that pulls in ratings and pulls in advertising dollars&#8212;in other words to be more like a commercial television network. There is some evidence for that. The government's own efficiency review of the ABC and SBS admits that is a risk. At page 85 of that review it argues that:</p>
  • <p class="italic">&#8230; there will be greater pressure on SBS management to consider the trade-off of delivering on commercial expectations, against delivering those functions described in the SBS Charter.</p>
  • <p>Even the government's own efficiency review points to this as a concern. It is a real concern.</p>
  • <p>What about SBS viewers? The argument from the government and from the minister is that this will not mean more ads on SBS&#8212;SBS will still have a cap of 120 minutes a day for advertising. That may be right, but the fact is it will mean more ads when people are watching TV&#8212;more ads during prime time. Instead of ads being on in the middle of the night when most of us are asleep, those ads will be on when most of us are watching television between 6pm and midnight. The 61,000 people who signed this petition do not want more ads on TV when they are watching their favourite programs. I am pretty sure that most Australians do not want more ads on TV, either. And they also do not want their government to break their promises. The Prime Minister promised the night before the election 'no cuts to SBS. He should stick to that. It is as simple as that. The government should just do what they promised. They do not need to introduce and pass this legislation in order to fund SBS; all they need to do is keep their word. If the government seriously think that it is a good idea to cut the budget of SBS and to replace that funding by putting more ads on television during prime time, then they should take that to the next election, because the opposition will not help this Prime Minister to cover up another broken promise.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>