Jun 19, 2012

APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 1) 2012-2013: Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Portfolio – Consideration in Detail

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (16:31):  Through the 2012-13 appropriation bills the government will provide the Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy portfolio with $6.7 billion to deliver its priorities. This includes $5.3 billion directly to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to deliver its priorities, of which $4.8 billion is an equity injection to the NBN Co in 2012-13. It also includes $1.2 billion for the ABC, $250.4 million to the SBS, $108 million to the Australian Communications and Media Authority and $50 million to the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency, TUSMA.

The government is providing over $385 million in new funding to the portfolio for a range of measures over the period 2011-12 to 2015-16. This includes $143.2 million over five years to assist free-to-air television broadcasters to relocate their digital television services where necessary, and to support the restack which will enable the digital dividend spectrum to be freed up to deliver next-generation communications. It also includes $158.1 million over five years to the SBS to ensure it remains a vibrant and dynamic broadcaster and continues to provide comprehensive and innovative television, radio and online services, including high-quality programming in their new media landscape.

This is something I am particularly proud of. SBS deliver vital services in our multicultural community and I think it is an important national asset which I know has enjoyed bipartisan support. I think this is a vital improvement—

Wyatt Roy interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE:  ‘Rubbish,’ says one of the coalition members opposite—the member for Longman.

Wyatt Roy:  I said, ‘We established it.’

Mr ALBANESE:  I try to be bipartisan, but sometimes you cannot help people. It is a vital improvement. The funding will also establish a free-to-air national Indigenous television channel in the second half of 2012, to be available through the full reach of SBS’s terrestrial network and on the Viewer Access Satellite Television Service.

It also provides $53.5 million over four years to the department and the ABC to assist free to air broadcasters to relocate part of their electronic news gathering functions to alternate radio frequency spectrum, to free up spectrum for next generation communications. The budget also includes a six-month extension of the 50 per cent rebate of the broadcast licence fee for the first half of 2012. This will enable the commercial free to air broadcasters to continue to produce and screen Australian content and allow time for the government to consider the recommendations made by the convergence review.

Importantly, the Budget provides for $20.1 billion in equity funding to the NBN Co. over the period 2012-13 to 2015-16. The government’s investment in the NBN will provide enormous economic and social benefits. The NBN will transform competition in the telecommunications market, delivering lower prices and better services. It will boost Australia’s productivity and generate significant employment. It will drive growth in our regions and overcome the tyranny of distance, including by transforming health and education services in regional Australia. Our funding, announced in the 2012-13 budget, for the department, the ABC, the SBS, the ACMA and TUSMA will encourage a vibrant, sustainable and internationally competitive digital economy in Australia. I commend the appropriation to the House.